By Sgt. 1st Class Alyn-Michael Macleod, 99th Regional Support Public AffairsFebruary 8, 2011
Atlantic City, N.J., Jan 30, 2011 - Approximately 200 Soldiers and 100 Family members descended on the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, N.J., to participate in the first Yellow Ribbon Reintegration event for the 99th Regional Support Command this year.
"Less than one percent of Americans are serving in the military -- a very small, elite group of people defending our nation and what we stand for," explained Col. Mikey Kloster, 99th RSC chief of staff and commander, 1st Mobilization Support Group, during the opening remarks of the event. "Today is all about a chance for you to reach out and get into these resources."
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, which the Secretary of Defense initiated in 2008, provides information, services, referral, and proactive outreach programs to Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen in the reserve component and their Families through all phases of the deployment cycle.
The program consists of seven events that take place at intervals before and after mobilization, which gives the Soldiers and Family member's information, counseling, skills and techniques for upcoming deployments and re-deployments.
Events 1 and 2 are for Soldiers and their Families at the onset of a deployment. These events assist everyone for the separation. Event 3 and 4 are for Family members only and are often used to see how the family is doing and to assist them in planning the Soldier's homecoming.
Events 5,6, and 7 of the program are two-day events that happen 30, 60, and 90 days, after the Soldier returns home and is released from active duty, and include information on current benefits and resources available to help overcome the stress and challenges of reintegration.
For Sgt. Samuel Johnson, who deployed with the 88th Military Police Company, this was his first experience as his family attended Event 5.
"The classes were very informative," Johnson said. "The best one for me was the Military One Source because of the resources they have for sleep issues."
Johnson is currently looking forward to Events 6 and 7 where he hopes that additional information will be available to him while he is still reintegrating.
The Soldier and Family members had access to 13 vendors during the event that included DoD Recovery Care Program, Family Programs Survivor Outreach Services, Army One Source, Healthnet MHN (Military & Family Life Consultant), Essential Knowledge (Education), Military & Family Life Consultant Personal Finance Consultant, Ashford University, Disabled American Veterans, Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces, Atlantic City Police, Military One Source, Defense & Veterans Brain Injury Center, 99th RSC Child Youth & School Services.
Even though all of the vendors are equally important, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center had unique information to give to the participants.
"One of the signature injuries of our current wars is brain injury, primarily concussion," explained Meldoee Hursey, regional education coordinator for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. "We want to make sure we are getting the word out there about what resources are available for our service members and their families."
Throughout the event, the busiest vendor tends to assist the service member and their family with employment assistance.
"The employment thing especially in today's economy is very tricky," said Stephanie Baracani who went to college while her husband was deployed and is currently a stay- at-home mom.
"The employment services that were offered were very helpful to me," Baracani said "It was nice they extended the offers to the spouses. I can get help with my resume and get help getting back into the job market."
Yellow Ribbon Events are family centered and encourage parents to bring their children. To allow parents to stay focused during classes, free child care is provided throughout the day.
"Helping and supporting our troops is one thing we love to do," said Shawn Lord from Skies the Limit Academy, who provided day care for the event.
The 99th Regional Support Command hosts Yellow Ribbon Reintegration events at various locations once a month. For more information please contact Ana Gomez, (609) 562-7708, or Master Sgt. Abigaile Taylor, (609) 562-7530
Editors Note - This article is the first in a six-part series that will be published throughout the year