Before, during, and after: coping with deployments
Story by 1st. Jordyn Sadowski, Ohio National Public Affairs
Airmen from the 180th Fighter Wing in Swanton, Ohio and their Family members attend a recent Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event. The YRRP was established to identify and address the concerns facing Guard and Reserve members and their Families throughout the deployment cycle and helps educate about and facilitate resources available to Families. (Courtesy photos)
More than 25,000 Airmen and Soldiers from the Ohio National Guard have deployed since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Thousands of Ohio Army and Air Guard members have deployed numerous times, leaving not only their Families and friends behind, but also their civilian jobs to serve in combat zones, on humanitarian missions or provide theater security overseas.
When they return, after months of being deployed, they are faced with unique challenges and issues to figure out. Reintegration, defined by Merriam Webster, is the act of restoring something to unity. However, this is easier said than done for many Guard members. Tens of thousands of Family members, co-workers, and friends are directly impacted by the absence of their Soldier or Airman while deployed.
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program was established by Congress in 2008 to explicitly identify and address the concerns facing Guard and Reserve members and their Families throughout the deployment cycle.
YRRP events address the potential challenges Guard members may face at three vital stages in the deployment process; before, during and after. The events are for the Families of deploying Soldiers and Airmen as much as they are for the members. Because spouses are encouraged to attend, child care is provided at all YRRP events allowing parents the opportunity to fully engage.
“In my honest opinion, I felt that the last ‘during deployment’ session was most helpful. I have been through this many times but many wives have not. At the YRRP event, the honesty surrounding spousal expectations of deployment reunions was surprising for many,” said Paula Eisenhauer, spouse of Master Sgt. Terrence Eisenhauer, a vehicle maintenance specialist at the 180th Fighter Wing in Swanton, Ohio. “However, it opened up dialogue with many wives who felt they were alone with dealing with the array of different emotions about their spouses return, YRRP provides a safe place and the resources to understand what to expect.”
YRRP support specialists, government-contracted civilian employees, promote the well-being of both National Guard and Reserve military members and their Families by providing resources and information that address a variety of issues including health care, legal counseling, finances, education and even stress management.
“The most impactful part of the post-deployment event we attended was the small breakout groups where we discussed the book about “unpacking baggage” and communicating with our spouses,” said Master Sgt. Eisenhauer. “The group was very honest and kind to one another so I thought that was helpful, but it was really beneficial to talk in groups with members who are also going through the same stressors as we reintegrate in to our normal routines.”
The operational demands of the ever-changing battlefield and the reintegration process traditional Soldiers and Airmen face are not diminishing in the near future. The YRRP is critical to ensuring Ohio Guard members have the resources and tools to return to life successfully.
According to the 2016 Guard and Reserve Support Network Annual Report, in 2016 alone, 80,152 Guard and Reserve members and Families attended an YRRP event across the nation, with participation from the Army National Guard and Air National Guard accounting for 62 percent of total attendance. Forecasts for 2017 have that number increasing by almost 10,000 additional attendees.
“YRRP provides the foundation to establish a future timeline for each Soldier and Airman, it isn’t about just the here and now during these events,” said Therese Sadowski, Ohio YRRP support specialist and one of five specialists that serve the Ohio National Guard. “It is about addressing and preparing for the concerns of tomorrow and setting yourself and your Family up for success.”
At some point in each Guard member’s military career, he or she will come face-to-face with the stressors of preparing mentally, emotionally and financially to deploy but also reintegrating to life post deployment. Statistically, an Ohio Guard member can expect to face a significant deployment every couple of years. The resources and information provided at YRRP events offer Ohio Guard Families the tools to navigate the deployment cycle together and work towards successful reintegration, restoring unity to their life.
For Guard members or Families interested in discovering more about available resources, they can visit the YRRP website, www.yellowribbon.mil, or on social media at https://www.facebook.com/YellowRibbonReintegrationProgram/.