Yellow Ribbon Program enables resilience and reintegration

Woman standing in front of a building and a tree

908th Airlift Wing Yellow Ribbon coordinator, Tech. Sgt. Gabrielle Bates, provides wing members with vital information on the YR program along with the ins and outs of the program. (U.S. Air Force photo by 908th Airlift Wing Public Affairs)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

For more than a year now the 908th Airlift Wing has been preparing for the wing’s largest deployment in its history and quite possibly its last as a C-130 tactical airlift unit.

Members have had to train on such topics as weapons firing, self-aid buddy care, and extensive job skills. They also have to update paperwork and administrative items, along with preparing the things in their civilian lives outside of the military.

Every aspect of a member’s life can be affected by a deployment, and sometimes our members need help to get things inline and to have peace of mind so they can have a successful deployment accomplishing the mission.

That’s where Yellow Ribbon comes in.

“The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is a program established through the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 to assist National Guard and Reserve Members as they transition between their military and civilian roles,” explained Tech. Sgt. Gabrielle Bates, Yellow Ribbon coordinator for the 908th Airlift Wing. “The program is for the members, their support system, and leadership to be in a person-oriented atmosphere with subject matter specialists and topics related to Reservists deploying.”

The program was created and designed to help the members and their families through every aspect of a deployment.

“The goal of Yellow Ribbon is to minimize stress for service members and their families during all phases of deployment,” continued Bates. “The purpose of the YRRP is to inform, educate, assist, and honor the Airmen and their support systems.”

908th members and their families benefit from the program in many ways.

“While the program is not mandatory it is highly recommended for members to attend,” said Bates. “Each phase of a deployment cycle can have its own unique challenges. We give the member an opportunity to ask the questions, find the resources or referrals, network, and educate themselves on their benefits and entitlements all in one place.”

Yellow Ribbon has been around for more than a decade now, yet there are still many things most members don’t know about the program.

“One of the key aspects of the YRRP is connecting the member to resources and people they can relate to, network with, and learn from,” explained Bates. “At an event some of the key services that members are sometimes not aware of are the legal services and federal resume writing sessions provided. We recruit a JAG representative to brief the members and family on their legal rights during deployment as well as draw up legally binding wills and power of attorney. A current working will and power of attorney are essential documents to have during a deployment. A resume writing session shows you how a resume for a federal job differs from a civilian one and how to write it. This can be very important for members seeking employment opportunities when they return.”

Yellow Ribbon isn’t just for the service members, their families have the opportunity to gain vital knowledge as well.

“At an event family members are provided up-to-date, relevant information and resources that cover almost any aspect or concerns that a member’s support systems may encounter throughout the deployment cycle,” said Bates. “Some sessions offered are topics such as ‘Address your Stress,’ ‘iRest,’ and ‘Preparing for the Unexpected,’ that focus more on the support system and family at home preparing for the new normal while the member is away.”

The program is not just beneficial to the service member and their families, but to the 908th Airlift Wing and the rest of the Air Force as well.

“‘People first, Mission always’” these four words sum up the importance of Yellow Ribbon to service members and their families,” said Bates. “When Airmen and their families are taken care of they can give their best to the mission. YRRP provides the tools to families so Airmen can have peace of mind that their families are prepared for the rigors of deployment while they are away.”

So what exactly does a member get to do when they go to an event in the Yellow Ribbon program?

“At an event the service member gets to network with resource and subject matter experts, along with fellow service members across all areas of life phases and career backgrounds,” according to Bates. “They get to attend any session topic they are interested in throughout the weekend and learn or refresh themselves as they see fit. They also have the opportunity to interact with leadership in a relaxed informal environment and address the inquiries that may arise over the weekend.”

While not every single member of the 908th is currently eligible for the Yellow Ribbon program at the moment, many will be throughout the course of their time in the wing.

“Any Air Force Reservist who has been called to active duty in support of a deployment for 90-days or more during a 24- month period, resulting in 50% separation from their support systems is eligible to attend an event,” explains Bates. “Members can attend an event up to 120 days prior to their orders start date. Members cannot be on leave or in medcon status during an event.”

Arguably the best news for service members interested in participating in a Yellow Ribbon event would be the cost.

“All Services provided over an event weekend are paid for at no cost to the service members or their guests,” said Bates. “The member and their guests are in an orders status for the entire weekend. Member and guests are provided with a catered breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday. All hotel and airfare is provided for the member and guests as well. However, if the member chooses to drive to the event location they can be reimbursed for mileage if driving would be more cost effective than flying.”

If you are interested in the YRRP or have more questions about the program, contact Tech. Sgt. Gabrielle Bates and take advantage of this great program.