It can be hard to take in everything that the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program has to offer in just one training weekend. For many deploying Reserve Citizen Airmen and their loved ones, the solution is coming back again and again.
“I’d been on five deployments before I ever went to a Yellow Ribbon event,” said Tech Sgt. Jairus McCain, a 302nd Logistics Readiness Squadron supply technician at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. “I thought ‘I don’t need that, I already know everything about deploying.’”
McCain, his wife Kimberlin and their two children participated in their third Yellow Ribbon training weekend April 26-28 in Chicago. After finally giving it a try, discovered that the program was more than he imagined, he said.
“I only came for my family, but I ended up learning a lot, too, and I didn’t expect that,” he said. “I felt like my wife and I both got a lot out of the financial classes, and our kids love being here as well.”
Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before and after deployments.
Marking its 11th year in 2019, Yellow Ribbon 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.
“Your first time, there’s some required classes and that’s almost all you have time for,” McCain said. “When we came again, we had even more options available.”
Attending multiple events greatly enhances a reservist’s ability to get the full benefit of Yellow Ribbon, said Mary Hill, program manager for Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon.
“By congressional mandate, there are certain things we have to address every time,” she said. “Veteran’s Affairs, Tricare and the benefits that deployed reservists are eligible for are the things we cover at each event.”
After completing those, attendees are free to choose which classes they would like to attend.
“The Four Lenses class is probably our most popular one,” Hill said. “People get to learn how to better communicate with others, and they get to learn a little about themselves that they might not have known before.”
In Chicago, McCain and his wife participated in the Couples Enrichment Program, an all-day course designed to better equip partners to deal with the stress that a deployment can put on their relationship.
For McCain, he said, coming to Yellow Ribbon post-deployment may have helped him even more than it did beforehand.
“Whenever I get home from a deployment, I just want to get right back into things and have everything be like I never left,” he said. “When you’re gone that long, things are going to be different, especially when you’ve got really young kids because they grow a lot while you’re gone.”
McCain and his wife have both greatly benefited from the classes about reintegration, they said.
“It’s something you’ve got to take slow, and ease back into it,” he said. “This has really helped me learn how to do that.”
McCain strongly recommended that any reservist who is deploying or returning from a deployment give the program a chance.
“When I was active duty, there was nothing like this available to us. When I joined the Reserve and came to my first Yellow Ribbon event, I thought ‘Wow, this is really amazing.’ I think this is the best program the Reserve has to offer. I’d recommend this to anyone because it’s no hassle. Yellow Ribbon handles just about everything as far as arrangements, and it’s absolutely worth it.”
(Editors note: Tech. Sgt. Samantha Mathison of the 507th Air Refueling Wing, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, contributed to this article)