Twenty-two Army Reserve Soldiers and their families from the 7th Mission Support Command facing upcoming future deployments had the chance to learn about the Army and Department of Defense support services, organizations and programs and to make contacts at a predeployment Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event held July 15 to 17 at the Westin Grand Hotel in Frankfurt.
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs and is designed to connect Reserve and National Guard Soldiers and families with resources throughout their deployment cycle, said 1st Lt. Sara Mathewson, United States Army Reserve Command, G1 from Fort Gillem in Forest Park, Georgia.
For Janine M. Harper, 7th MSC Family Programs director, the support of the USARC team from the United States was a big help.
“For our families here in Europe, it’s very difficult to transport them across seas to these local events, so we ask them come here and support our families by giving an event locally,” Harper said.
“It’s not just one flight; it could be multiple flights,” Harper said of the prohibitive costs that would be involved to bring the 7th MSC’s families to these events in the continental United States.
“Through that coordination and Lt. Mathewson being able to step up, she was able to bring that team to us,” Harper said.
Mathewson is one of a core team of experts from the USARC Mobile Training Team that organizes and hosts the YRRP seminars throughout the USARC area of responsibility, which includes the 7th MSC in Germany.
The events are organized to provide help to Soldiers and their families in three blocks: predeployment, deployment and post-deployment phases, Mathewson said.
“The predeployment event pretty much starts off the process,” Mathewson said.
The first YRRP meeting occurs about 90 days before the Soldier deploys.
“We give classes on how to address the stress (of deployment), how to set up the household,” Mathewson explained.
The during-deployment event invites the Soldiers’ family members to focus on the fact that returning Soldiers and their families may be affected by the deployment, she added.
Mathewson said that this event is primarily designed to give the military family the tools to increase personal communication and to predict when serious psychological issues may arise and strategies to cope. In extreme cases, there are even instructions on how to intervene to prevent suicide.
The two post-deployment seminars focus again on both the Soldiers and the family members. Those events will happen 90 and 180 days after the deployment, and in those seminars, the health of the Soldier and his or her relationship to the family are re-visited, Mathewson said.
“YRRP brings the Soldiers together with their families to help complete Army post-deployment assessment surveys and focus on substance abuse,” Mathewson said.
Mathewson explained that those health issues can typically arise after deployment and that the Army remains particularly focused on identifying and treating those issues proactively.
Harper explains that the needs of a Reserve Soldier’s family can be more complex due to the fact that Germany is a foreign country for many 7th MSC families. Many of the typical support systems family members have back home in the United States are not always available here.
“We’re trying to arrange for them to come back for a during-deployment (event),” Harper said of the families of deployed Soldiers.
Harper explains that her small team often gets tasked to help in some very extenuating circumstances for as many as 200 Soldiers from the 7th MSC currently being tracked by the Family Programs office.
“It could be anything, like (Soldiers or their family members) are in the hospital and they need help activating volunteers to be able to help support their family by bringing food and meals to their home,” Harper said.
For the Soldiers attending the event, the venue and the organization of the event was very much appreciated.
“Pretty much everything was good,” said Spc. Stephen G. Bowers, 793rd Movement Control Team.
This YRRP stressed the necessary information for deploying Soldiers and their families, in contrast to the more mechanically executed briefings.
Bowers said he was particularly interested to learn about his civilian employment rights after his deployment.
“It’s great help,” said Sgt. Claudia P. Martinez, 793rd MCT, who is also deploying with Bowers.
Martinez said that through the seminar, she was able to establish better contacts to the unit’s family readiness group.
Martinez explained that she could allay some fears she and her husband had about who would take care of their 16-year old daughter on those occasions when her husband, also an active-duty Soldier, would have to travel for his job during Martinez’s deployment.
“I learned (about) everything: education, jobs, finance,” Martinez said.