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ANG Yellow Ribbon modernized, involves family in deployment readiness

Fiscal year 20 marked the modernization of the Air National Guard’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, updating policies to be more accommodating for Airmen and their families. (U.S. Air National Guard photo illustration by Master Sgt. Jeremy Cornelius)

Fiscal year 20 marked the modernization of the Air National Guard’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, updating policies to be more accommodating for Airmen and their families. (U.S. Air National Guard photo illustration by Master Sgt. Jeremy Cornelius)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Fiscal year 20 marked the modernization of the Air National Guard’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, updating policies to be more accommodating for Airmen and their families.

“Service members are required to attend Yellow Ribbon events during pre-deployment and re-integration,” said Tech. Sgt. Artina O. Mills, the National Guard’s interim Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program manager. “Event workshops focus on deployment stressors like financial planning, childcare, healthcare entitlements and interpersonal communications.”

Previously, members were authorized to invite two designated individuals who would receive reimbursement for attending. However, limiting additional invitees for Guardsmen resulted in decreased participation from larger families, Mills said.

“A lot of times, only the member would go while the spouse would have to stay home with the kids,” Mills said. “This was a disservice to our military families. It’s important for everyone to hear about their resources and prepare for the cycles of deployment.”

Recently, the ANG published an updated policy stating that attending Yellow Ribbon is mandatory for first-time deployers only and these members may be authorized more than two designated individuals if they are: 1) the service member’s current spouse; 2) the service member’s current dependent child*.

This update not only encourages more family engagement, but also paves the way for reinventing Yellow Ribbon, Mills said.

“The last policy was really restrictive with travel and lodging reimbursement, so events were often held at member’s home units,” Mills said. “This local model gave members no incentive to bring their families on base for a day of briefings.”

Effective FY20, the ANG implemented the Yellow Ribbon regional model, now joining states by region to host large-scale Yellow Ribbon events.

“Members are now sent to events in different cities and they’re excited to go! Especially since their families are encouraged to come too,” Mills said.

The regional model’s larger audience also attracts more vendors, resulting in access to diverse resources otherwise not offered at the local level.

“It’s also important to remember that Yellow Ribbon happens right before leaving and upon returning home from deployment,” Mills said. “This is a critical time for military families to spend valuable time together and bond with other families also experiencing deployment.”

Placing family deployment readiness as a priority directly contributes to the service member’s success downrange.

“This updated Yellow Ribbon policy and regional model absolutely improves deployment readiness,” Mills said. “When our members know that their families are taken care of, they have one less thing to worry about and can focus on their duties while deployed.”


Footnotes:
* According to 37 U.S.C. §401, a service member’s current dependent child is defined as unmarried and:

a.is under 21 years of age; or

b. is incapable of self-support because of mental or physical incapacity and is in face dependent on the member for more than on-half of the child’s support; or

c. is under 23 years of age, is enrolled in a full-time course of study in an institution of higher education approved by the Secretary of Defense and is in fact dependent on the member for more than one-half of the child’s support.

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