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Yellow Ribbon helps Airmen renegotiate life after deployment

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ruben Rios
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Welcome back! You crossed the pond, you served your country, and after a half-year away, you are finally back home. Life is still hectic, but in a much different way. Instead of waking up to an all-you-can-eat chow hall, you’re making breakfast for the kids, and instead of driving the Humvee, you’re sitting in traffic on the way to your civilian job.

Reintegrating back into a regular post-deployment routine is a jarring experience for Reserve Airmen, but the Air Force Reserve Command’s Yellow Ribbon Program is here to help.

The mission of the Yellow Ribbon Program is to connect Reserve Airmen and their loved ones with the resources to help them before, during and after deployments.

Wyman Winbush discussed post-deployment reintegration in a seminar at a Yellow Ribbon event in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 19. Winbush served more than 30 years as a U.S. Navy officer and more than 30 years in the corporate sector. 

He said that upon reintegration, Reserve Airmen can’t expect their lives to snap back to the way they were before their deployments. A successful reintegration requires Reserve Airmen to renegotiate a new normal. Particular attention must be paid to medical issues, employment issues and relationship issues.

Medical & Dental

Medical benefits may change when Airmen return from deployment. Those who want to continue receiving Tricare medical coverage must switch to Tricare Reserve Select, which requires out-of-pocket premiums and co-pays.

“Make sure if you’re going from active-duty deployment back to reserve status you have a seamless transition with regards to medical coverage,” Winbush said. “Medical is one of the fastest ways service members can end up in bankruptcy, just because they do not have insurance.”


When it comes to issues with employment, servicemembers are protected by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. In most cases, USERRA protects Reserve Airmen’ rights to be reemployed in their previous civilian job if they left the job to perform military service. More information on USERRA can be found on the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve website:

Family & Relationships

The final major aspect of renegotiating a new normal does not rely on policy or legislation. When it comes to readjusting to close personal relationships, communication is essential.

While the Airman was deployed, a spouse or partner will have developed new routines to handle day-to-day responsibilities, and upon return, Reserve Airmen must not assume they will immediately take back previous responsibilities.

“If a spouse has paying the bills down to a science, sometimes when a service member returns from deployment, the spouse may not be so eager to give it up,” said Winbush. “There may need to be a shifting of authority or perhaps just accepting a new normal.”

Returning from deployment can also mean the Airman’s off-duty schedule gets busier. While deployed, there is no taking a child to soccer practice, piano rehearsal or swimming class. Upon return, Reserve Airmen may be overwhelmed as they readjust to these demands.

“It’s an unreasonable expectation to do everything for everyone,” Winbush said. “Try minimizing for a start. Instead of five activities, pick one to focus on.”

Communication becomes key when deciding how to approach the new normal, and these approaches most be negotiated by the deployers and their family or partner.

Similarly, Reserve Airmen may have to negotiate with others who are outside their immediate family.

“When you talk about reintegration and balancing the new normal, it’s not just about husband and wife, it’s about everyone in your ecosystem,” said Winbush.

Winbush said that it is reasonable and appropriate for Airmen to say no to demands or requests that interfere with their post-deployment readjustment to life at home.

He said ‘no’ is a powerful word, yet some servicemembers are not sure how to use it when they should

“When a best friend or family member asks you to do something, and you have a conflicting interest, remind them you’re not just saying no to them, but you are saying yes to your dreams, your visions, and your aspirations.”