YRRP: The best thing deployers didn’t know they had

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Grace Thomson
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Deployments are stressful enough, and Airmen shouldn’t have to stress over how to handle financial, legal, or interpersonal matters while also preparing to go into a combat zone.


This is where the Yellow Ribbon Program comes in. Airmen are given the opportunity, both before and after deployment, to attend free events that help alleviate these issues and offer resources and advice.


“The Yellow Ribbon Program is important for the simple fact that it's making aware to everyone in attendance of all the resources that are available to them,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Bridge, Yellow Ribbon representative for the 911th Airlift Wing. “The resources are great because a lot of people show up that have been in the service for 15 or 16 years, and don't know some of the resources that are available.”


This program is not to be confused with the Veterans Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Schools. While both are Yellow Ribbon programs, they are part of different organizations. The VAs YRP offers military members reduced rates for colleges that are enrolled into the program and the Department of Defense’s YRP focuses on deployment readiness and reintegration into civilian life after a deployment for reserve and guard military members.


As the 911th AW’s representative for the Reserve and Guard YRP, Bridge’s priority is to help Airmen who are about to deploy understand what the DOD YRP program offers and facilitate signing up for the event.


Bridge said that the program’s main function is to “make sure people know what's available to them and put those resources to action.”


According to their website, Airmen “are eligible to attend one pre-deployment event and two post-deployment Yellow Ribbon Events if you received a call to Active Duty in support of a deployment for 90 days or more, which resulted in separation from your family for the majority of the deployment.”


Bridge said that “a person deploying is able to attend a Yellow Ribbon event as a pre-deployer up to 120 days before their deployment, but not earlier than that.”


These events offer many resources and experts to help Airmen with anything they need before or after a deployment. Some sessions offer benefits information, financial management, marriage enrichment, living as a single, and much more.


This is not just something for the Airmen to do alone; they are encouraged to bring their families as well.


“[They are] creating a memory with their significant others,” said Bridge. “There are a lot of the families that connect and all the kids are kind of going through the same thing in life.”


During the day, the children that are brought to the YRP event are in child care with their age group and there is a dedicated staff to look after them. This is to allow the parents peace of mind while attending the different deployment specific events while the children are entertained and safe.


The event spans three days usually over a weekend, starting on a Friday night and ending Sunday afternoon. Members will attend lectures, breakout sessions, and other informational events throughout the weekend, but they will also have time to explore the city as well.


Usually, these events happen in major cities such as San Antonio, Chicago, Phoenix, Costa Mesa, California and Orlando, Florida among many others.


“It's nice because you kind of get away with your family,” said Maj. Nicholas Hoth, executive officer with the 911th Airlift Wing. “The flight to the hotel is paid for, you attend these classes and you meet people from other bases, and you’re learning about how to handle debt, or marriage counseling or fit to fight.”


With the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the U.S. in spring of 2020, all in person events have been cancelled until 2021, though virtual events are starting to take their place.


“All of the people who were briefing the classes were synced in virtually from all around the nation with minor technical issues I was told, but for the most part it went off without a hitch,” said Bridge.


The goal is that once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control in-person events will come back with precautions put in place to safeguard Airmen and their families, said Bridge.


As the YRP representative, Bridge tries to reach out to eligible members when events become available.


“They usually populate links that for the next upcoming trip the Wednesday before UTA,” said Bridge.


The YRP has been helping pre and post deployment Airmen since 2008 and has been changing and upgrading the events ever since. Events are held year round to give as much opportunity to Airmen as possible.


“I attended it numerous times as a deployer, at least once, if not twice every deployment,” said Hoth. “I've always gotten stuff out of it.”