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Pa. Guard's yellow ribbon ties military families to resources, readiness

Wil Acosta, A former Marine who now represents US Family Health Plan, assists a 111th Attack Wing member during a pre-deployment Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event held in Carbon County, Pa. Jan. 7, 2017. Information booths were set up to assist program attendees in becoming aware of the resources available to them and their dependents. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Wil Acosta, A former Marine who now represents US Family Health Plan, assists a 111th Attack Wing member during a pre-deployment Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event held in Carbon County, Pa. Jan. 7, 2017. Information booths were set up to assist program attendees in becoming aware of the resources available to them and their dependents. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Pa. -- Last weekend in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) hosted 111th Attack Wing members and dependents to an information-packed event, readying them for this year's deployments.

YRRP is a Department of Defense (DoD) effort to help reserve service members and their families connect with resources before, during and after deployments. Events are held at key stages - or phases -- in the deployment cycle: pre-deployment, during deployment, demobilization and post-deployment.

While rigid subjects like medical benefits, financial planning and retirement choices were addressed, the weekend also featured more subjective topics. Sessions concerning stress management, communication skills and mental health skills were scattered throughout the rigorous schedule.

"The goal of the Yellow Ribbon [Reintegration] Program is to ensure readiness and resiliency for the military member and their family throughout the entire deployment," said event speaker Kristen Lowe, the Liberty USO representative located here. "We do that by supplying information that isn't always well known, which is why it's so important that the dependents are here. We want them to know that they have resources available to them while their loved one is away."

This year, the Liberty USO -- which serves Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey -- is concentrating their efforts to ensure military dependents understand that they are eligible for USO support.

In fact, the during-deployment phase was created strictly for dependents. It aids in reinforcing the value of available resources, as well as identifying areas in which dependents might be struggling. If difficulties are identified, the Airman & Family Readiness Center (A&FRC) follows up appropriately. Offices like the A&FRC here recognize that deployment readiness is as necessary for the families as it is for the military member.

"When we bring [dependents] in for Yellow Ribbon during the deployments, we really get to see what their struggles are," said Anna Richar, Horsham Air Guard Station's Airman & Family Readiness Center program manager. "When people are in front of you, they let you know more about what's going on with them than when we make the monthly morale calls - it's an important part of the program."

This readiness program is considered part of what helps the National Guard meet the nation's challenges at home and abroad.

According to Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program Chief Janet Salotti on their official website, the program's vision is to, "Provide quality joint deployment support and reintegration services to all service members, and their families effectively, efficiently, and as close to their homes as possible, ensuring they are informed, and self sufficient, thus enabling them to sustain the rigors associated with deployment or mobilization."

This vision falls in line with the National Guard's priorities of emphasizing programs that promote mental health and resiliency. So as the Guard continues to embrace a culture of sustained readiness, the YRRP will continue to play a role in a Guard deployments.

"The important thing to keep in mind about these programs is that this is a part of ensuring the well-being of our military and their families," said Richar. "It's a lot of information, and that can be overwhelming; but in the end, it's about preparing our military families for success at home and while they are serving their country."