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Top chaplain addresses Reserve deployers

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Frank Casciotta
  • 482nd Fighter Wing
On a twist of jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 hit song, the Air Force chief of chaplains told reservists and their loved ones, “Don’t worry, be hopey,” during a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program training event here Saturday.

“You know they say that 92 percent of what we worry about makes no difference in our lives, because the things we worry about most are things we can’t control anyway,” Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Dondi E. Costin told an audience of nearly 450 adult participants at a weekend event aimed at pre- and post-deployment reservists and those closest to them.

“That additional 8 percent is what we can control, so be disciplined and be diligent with the other 8 percent,” said Costin. “Don’t waste your energy on the 92 percent. Because if you’re worried, you diminish the strength you have to deal with the 8 percent you can do something about.”

Yellow Ribbon was designed to assist reservists and National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles.

“I want you to think for a moment about what resiliency really is, because it’s simple,” said Costin, the senior pastor for more than half a million active-duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian forces. “I like to think of it as the old Timex (wristwatch) commercial, ‘A Timex can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.’ That’s what resiliency is.”

Costin is a member of the special staff of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, establishing guidance and providing advice on all matters pertaining to the religious and moral welfare of Air Force personnel.

He is responsible for establishing effective programs to meet the religious needs of Airmen and their loved ones. One such person is Sarah Thorpe, a former North Carolina National Guard member who attended the event with her husband, Staff Sgt. Steve Thorpe, a civil engineer with the 567th Red Horse Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, who is preparing for an upcoming deployment, his first. Sarah Thorpe recalled her frustration with the lack of support programs and resources following her 2005 deployment to Iraq.

“It was the first deployment for my unit, so everything was new to everyone,” she said. “We struggled. It was difficult, I didn’t know the resources, and I didn’t know how to contact the resources because I’m suddenly back to my regular life.”

The Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Program began in 2008 following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to facilitate this type of post-deployment transition experience.

“Now that they finally have the Yellow Ribbon Program, I am getting the information as a spouse and my husband is getting the information so we can work together as a team,” said Thorpe. “I’m hopeful because now I know what to expect, because I have the resources and because I can be in control of the situation at home when his mission is overseas."

The program promotes the well-being of reservists and their loved ones by connecting them with resources before and after deployments. Each year, the Air Force Reserve program trains 7,000 reservists and those closest to them in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more. The South Carolina event was the first Reserve one attended by Costin, who has been the service’s top chaplain for a year.

“You’ve got other people around you who can help you. You don’t have to go through whatever this is by yourself,” said Costin. “That’s what your squadron is there for. That’s what your flight is therefore. That’s what your base community and your family and your neighborhood is there for – to help you.”