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New Yellow Ribbon course focuses on single Reserve Citizen Airmen

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Juliet Louden
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Reserve Command’s Yellow Ribbon Program launched a new course to better address single Reserve Citizen Airmen, whose deployment challenges are often much different than those of service members in long-term relationships.

The Singles Enrichment program, developed by the Reserve Chaplain Corps, kicked off at a Yellow Ribbon event in Costa Mesa, California, Jan. 29-30. The new program aims to improve overall readiness by focusing on the physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects of being a single Airman. Yellow Ribbon events provide access to resources to help Reserve Citizen Airmen and their loved ones before, during and after deployment.

Two Reserve Citizen Airmen in attendance at the Costa Mesa event said they signed up for the new program because it is more applicable to their current situations than the Yellow Ribbon classes they had attended in the past, which were more geared toward families.

“My first Yellow Ribbon event, I was only 22,” said Staff Sgt. Jeron Fyfield from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. “I could see how many of the classes could be useful to others, but not for me.”

Master Sgt. Ilona Bowden, from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, said she was excited to see a class that was new, different and relatable.

“I appreciated connecting with people who were in the same situation and were here by themselves,” she said.
The program is comprised of multiple breakout sessions devoted to self-awareness, mindful choices, healthy relationships and emotional skills. The aim of these sessions is to prepare participants to succeed at work, in their personal relationships and in the community.

“I loved the class and the focus on self-development,” Bowden said. “It is what I was looking for in previous classes at Yellow Ribbon.”

Each Yellow Ribbon event has six breakout sessions. While the majority of attendees can select from various course options for each session, the Airmen in the Singles Enrichment Program are locked into a five-session cohort with the same classmates and chaplain team in each session. This format allows single Airmen to build personal connections over the course of the event.

“This program provides an opportunity to create a community among the participants,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Joshua Kim, Yellow Ribbon’s senior chaplain. “It gives them a place to network, connect and establish friendships that can last their entire military career.”

The program’s format also aims to address the isolation many single adults have experienced since the pandemic began in early 2020.

“Isolation is one of the main markers of suicidal ideation,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Steven Nguyen, one of the program’s facilitators. “The pandemic has caused people to separate to be safe, but could also be used as an excuse for an Airman to just be alone, which we don’t want to see happen. If we can get both the Airmen and their support groups into the Singles Enrichment Program, we can mitigate isolation.”

The cohort format was a selling point for some of the participants.

“The main reason I took the class was because I was going to be with the same people all weekend. That sold me,” said Fyfield, who admitted that a previous Yellow Ribbon events, he was able to develop relationships at the small-talk level only.

Spending so much time together in the participation-based classroom environment allowed the participants to bond quickly.

“As each class went on, the comfort level increased, and I was able to open up more,” Bowden said. “There was a definite vulnerability factor involved – a true sense of togetherness and inclusion.”

One indicator of the program’s initial success is that many of the participants gathered after the event had concluded for the day.

“A bunch of us went to the mall and dinner after class,” Fyfield said. “If I had not met them, I would have been in my hotel room watching Netflix all night.”

The Reserve chaplains who developed the Singles Enrichment Program hope it becomes a benchmark to help Airmen throughout the Air Force Reserve.

“We are extremely excited about this Yellow Ribbon program that meets the needs of single Citizen Airmen and their families,” Kim said. “Traditional Reserve wings do not have the resources to create their own programs to help single Airmen, and this program’s core ideas would be a great tool to help Airmen at their home station.”

Both Bowden and Fyfield said they would spread the word to other single Reserve Citizen Airmen that the Yellow Ribbon Program is taking steps to better meet their needs.

“I hope the efforts of providing a weekend-long class for singles will break that stereotype, and more single Airmen will attend a Yellow Ribbon,” Bowden said.

Brig. Gen. Anne Gunter was at the Costa Mesa event to speak about resiliency. As the director of Air Force Reserve Personnel at Air Force headquarters, she has a vested interest to ensure Yellow Ribbon is providing course offerings that help all Reserve Citizen Airmen. When she had a spare moment, she took time to observe the Singles Enrichment Program.

“This was something needed in Yellow Ribbon for a long time.” She said. “I thought this class was fantastic and energizing.”

Kim said he wants all Reserve Citizen Airmen to know that at every Yellow Ribbon event, there will be an inclusive community dedicated to the specific aspects of being single.

“We want you to know you are cared for and loved,” he said. “There is a place for you and all your singleness.”