By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellNovember 7, 2008
FORT JACKSON, S.C. - From Hawaii to New York, Soldiers and civilians representing nearly every major Army Reserve command traveled to the midlands of South Carolina to discuss, dissect and develop a reintegration process for the Reserve's most valuable asset - the American Soldier.
More than 100 Department of Army and Army Reserve personnel gathered at the 81st Regional Support Command's new headquarters here for an inaugural two-day Army Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshop.
The workshop equipped key leaders with information on recent progress and proposals for implementation of the new program.
"We are here to educate subordinate commands about this important program that affects not only our Soldiers but family members as well," said Lt. Col. Jay D. Jackson, Chief of Well Being for the Army Reserve.
According to Jackson, the Yellow Ribbon project officer for the Army Reserve, the military has placed a high level of importance on working with family members of deployed Soldiers.
"We must ensure our Reserve families are taken care of during the deployment cycle," Jackson said. "This workshop will ensure our commands are taking the right steps in the right direction to help all Reserve Soldiers and their loved ones."
Lt. Col. Jeff Schulz, the Yellow Ribbon program liaison officer for Army Reserve Office of Secretary of Defense, said the new reintegration process is important for everyone involved.
"We are here designing and implementing something very important," he told the large group. "We are setting up a program that no one has done before. If you are looking for a cookie-cutter answer, it is right here. This is the think tank to do it."
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 required the Army Reserve to establish the reintegration program for Soldiers deploying more than 90 days.
The program's central core is to prepare Soldiers, family members and employers for the scheduled mobilization; sustain families during the mobilization; and reintegrate Soldiers with their families, communities and employers upon their release from active duty.
The program gives timely information about available services and referrals, and provides a proactive outreach to help overcome the stressors of deployments.
Schulz said the main ingredient for success of this program is to involve local communities that Army Reserve families call home.
"We have a ton of resources at the local level that are eager and ready to help," Schulz said about private organizations and businesses across the country. "You would be amazed how many people say, 'I want to help.'"
Schulz said it has been an honor to have ongoing opportunities to work with the local communities that are eager to support their hometown heroes.
"We are working closely with outside organizations, including MilitaryOneSource, Military Family Life Consultants, Veterans Affairs Outreach, veterans' centers and the U.S. Public Health Service," Schulz said.
During the two days, leaders focused on education of the program, coordination between various staff elements, developing a program of instruction, streamlining contracting requirements and manning of scheduled Yellow Ribbon events.
Schulz said the Army Reserve will be up against new challenges over the next five years as the reintegration program matures.
"I love new challenges, and we are right in the middle of something great," he said. "We are designing a program for our Soldiers and their families who have served their country with honor."
Schulz said the Armed Forces have continually changed as the needs of service members change.