Yellow Ribbon program streamlines reintegration

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Emily Alley
  • 190th ARW Public Affairs
"Welcome!" announced Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, as he greeted warriors to the first joint Yellow Ribbon event in Kansas. "And welcome home!"

The room was filled with Soldiers, Airmen and their families who were reintegrating after various deployments. Bunting is familiar with the mobilization process- in 28 years of marriage, he claims to have only spent five years at home with his wife, Barbara.

"I think that number is closer to three years," she added.

Mrs. Bunting appreciates that families are included in events such as Yellow Ribbon. The program did not exist a few years ago, but now works to streamline the mobilization process. Presenters speak about chaplains, psychological health, finance, veterans' benefits and much more. One reintegration program, which only exists in Kansas, is an optional 30 days of duty after deployment designed for those who lack job opportunities when they return. This information may be familiar to some deployers, but not necessarily to families.

Senior Airman Sharilyn Mathews, from 190th ARW Security Forces, was a military spouse before joining the unit. She was unaware of the Tricare benefits she was eligible for and would have preferred to be more informed. She and her husband will be attending a Yellow Ribbon event for her upcoming deployment.

"I hope everyone walks away from this training with more tools," said Barbara Bunting. "Knowing other people who feel how you feel, if nothing else they'll have a number to call."

Yellow Ribbon events are mandatory for deployers from any branch, who are deployed for 90 cumulative days or more in a calendar year. Although Air Force deployments are structured differently from the Army, the training is still essential. When possible, it is combined to not only make it more efficient, but also because joint training is more consistent with mobilization.

"We were deployed to a joint environment so it makes sense to reintegrate into a joint environment," said Major Joe Dessenberger, commander of the 184th Security Forces Squadron that returned from Saudi Arabia in late November.

One of Berger's deployers was Staff Sgt. Matthew Sutherland, who appreciated having the information from the briefings. Although the event consumed one of his first weekends home, he thought presentations, such as those of the chaplain, were valuable.

"It's taxing," said Sutherland. "It cuts into my personal time, but they tell you these things for a reason."

Sutherland also enjoyed the size of the event and said it made the homecoming feel more official. As a single Airman, he faces unique challenges in deployment. Even the most supportive group of friends may not entirely understand adjustment.

"We've gotten better at taking care of our people," said Bunting. "Take advantage of all the programs we have to offer."