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Lima Charlie: Yellow Ribbon keeps couples’ communication clear

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Andrew Park
  • 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Snail mail. Instant messenger. Pay phones. Skype. FaceTime.

Although communication methods have changed over the years for deployed service members, the need to talk with loved ones back at home has not.

At a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program held in Orlando, Florida, attendees and service providers agreed that a breakdown in communication is often one of the most difficult adjustments military families face during deployments.

“When I first deployed, it was back in 2006 and those were the days where it was two phone calls a week, 15 minutes tops,” said Yellow Ribbon attendee, Lt. Col. Regan Ramos, from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

These two phone calls were responsible for coordinating an entire week’s worth of responsibilities left to weigh on the shoulders of the loved one back at home.
Effective communication is one of many skills taught at Yellow Ribbon events held at a variety of locations around the U.S. each year, and aims to help attendees maintain the focus needed to build healthy relationships.

Chaplain (Maj.) Lawrence Blake, a resource provider from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, said deployments are often harder for family members left behind as they have to pull double duty during their loved one’s absence.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in work and deployment life in general, but it’s important to maintain a sharp focus on priorities, he said.

“Those people who are staying behind are your purpose for coming back, so keep them as your focus and inspiration,” Ramos said.

Chaplain (Maj.) George Jones, a resource provider at the event from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, said he coordinates the maintenance schedule with his mechanic before leaving on deployment so his wife only has to drop the car off with the mechanic in his absence and doesn’t have to worry about making decisions about vehicle maintenance.

“She’ll understand the fact that I’m gone and there are certain aspects I’m not going to be able to meet, but she’ll still be able to see that I’m still trying to meet those promises I made her when I first married her,” said Jones.
“Good communication is important in almost every encounter that we have, particularly when partners are separated for a long period of time as they are in a deployment,” said Blake. “Keeping up that communication is vital to maintaining a good relationship.”

Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their loved ones by connecting them with resources before and after deployments. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the program began following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist reservists and National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles. Each year, the Air Force Reserve program trains 7,000 reservists and those closest to them in education benefits, health care, retirement information, and effective communication skills needed to build lasting relationships.

“What they’re trying to do here (at Yellow Ribbon) is to really anticipate what people are going to go through and what people really need before they leave,” said Ramos.

He also said he anticipates problems before going on deployment and has learned to collect vital information and phone numbers in a “little black book” which he leaves behind for his wife so that she can easily find all the information she might need to fill in for him during his absence.
“Whatever situation that you’re in, the challenge is to really set up a good communication plan because especially when you might not have all the opportunities to communicate, you really value that time to communicate,” said Ramos.

Although there are many more advanced tools for calling back home now than those available for his first deployment, Ramos still credits having a communication plan as vital to navigating communication pitfalls while he’s away so that it’s smooth sailing when he returns.

“Don’t think that your problems in a relationship are going to go on vacation when you deploy. In fact, deployment can make those problems even worse,” he said. “So as much as possible, try to resolve as many problems as you can, focusing on the ones that will become more significant while you’re away.”