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Master Sgt. Mike Smith, National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. – 09.01.2009
The strength of the National Guard's Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program lays in its flexibility and an open door policy for all service branches and dependents, Guard officials recently told program managers at a national conference.
"That's an important part of the program, because it increases access to information for service members and their families," said Janet Salotti, the National Guard Bureau's chief of Yellow Ribbon Reintegration.
More than 250 Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program managers from all service components were at the National Guard Bureau's first Joint Yellow Ribbon Reintegration training workshop, which took place in St. Louis earlier this month. Trainees represented all states, territories and the District of Columbia.
"It was our first opportunity to attend a joint training event on Yellow Ribbon Reintegration," said Air Force Lt. Col. Anthony Lanuzo, the Air National Guard's program manager. "It's an avenue to organize it more and fine tune what we do."
As a joint group, their common interest was supporting servicemembers and their families.
Yellow Ribbon Reintegration's comprehensive support services and events pay no mind to what uniform a servicemember wears, Lanuzo said.
Yellow Ribbon Reintegration was launched in 2008 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008. Its legislation was championed by defense leaders and elected officials to help reservists and their families with the challenges they faced after many years of combat deployment.
"To date, [the Army Guard] conducted 985 events in fiscal year 2009, and serviced 53,317 Soldiers and 62,854 family members," said Army Sgt. Maj. Robert Brown, the program coordinator for the Army Guard. "And we still have many more to go."
Health, finances, stress, suicide, substance abuse, marriage, legal and financial practice are just a handful of issues that the program tackles by pairing service components in a joint program and hosting events that support service members, their spouses and dependents.
For the nation's Yellow Ribbon program managers that means there are many issues to manage and a lot of training to organize to keep events rolling. Oddly, their workshop helped them manage good workshops.
Brown spoke to the program managers about working together to provide a joint effort in Yellow Ribbon Reintegration.
He said the intent of the program is to achieve a similar level of service for geographically dispersed reservists that active duty service members receive, and it is working.
"Any program where you have more than 100,000 attendees in a year speaks to that," he said.
Lanuzo said a key part of the workshop, aside from its joint networking value, was the review and discussion of Yellow Ribbon Reintegration policies. "We thoroughly talked through them, and we discussed their key points," he said.
They also learned and navigated information online through the new Joint Services Support Portal, an online network. "That network is a one stop shop for the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program," he said.
The online source provides information on events held across the nation, by all services, and it allows program managers to request money for funding joint events.
"So a big effort was spent to get the Portal online and get everyone trained," he said. "I think the big part of Yellow Ribbon Reintegration is the funding, the resources and the additional manpower to take proper care of service members and their families."
Salotti said NGB plans to hold future workshops once a year.