CHARLOTTE, N.C. --
For the first time Yellow Ribbon Support Specialists Phil Jonas, North Carolina Air National Guard and Brian Bohlman, South Carolina Air National Guard partnered together by holding a joint Yellow Ribbon event in Charlotte, N.C.
Over sixty guard members, who recently returned from a six month deployment, and their families attended this one day event. Airmen attending were from SCANG, 169th Security Forces Squadron, and NCANG, 145th Civil Engineer Squadron, 118th Air Support Operations Squadron, 245th Civil Engineer Flight and 156th Weather Flight. Also participating in the joint YR event were three soldiers from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
Attendees were able to participate in a variety of breakout sessions offered by the Yellow Ribbon Program team and other service providers on various topics affecting families. Health, finances, stress, suicide, substance abuse, marriage, legal and financial practices are just a handful of issues that the program tackles.
The Youth Extension Service program was made available especially for the children that attended the YR event. Y.E.S., is a national internship program engaging college students to intern by assisting the needs of the military staff. At the same time, it gives the students an opportunity to give back to their communities and country. This dedicated staff ensures that these young heroes have smiles on their faces and peace in their hearts as they learn coping skills and interact with other youths that have at least one thing in common, having a parent who is or will be deploying.
The Yellow Ribbon Program provides a real value in bringing people who are in all phases of the deployment cycle together to share experiences. Likewise it allows spouses whose partners are about to deploy to connect with spouses whose partners have already returned.
"We want our members and their families to walk away with a sense of well-being," said Jonas, and to let them know that they are not alone in this."
"There seems to be more of an upbeat feel to this event", stated Bruce Pickett, Command Chief Master Sergeant, Joint Forces Headquarters, North Carolina Air National Guard, "It may come partially from the fact that this is a "Post" YR event. This event was combined with both NC and SC guardsmen as well as joint with PA Army Guard. All attendees interacted well and developed an almost instant camaraderie. I observed several friendships developing between several service members and their families from the different states. Even though we are N.C. and S.C. we are still the Carolinians. I am very glad everyone is home safe and I look forward to all our deployed members being home for good."
In times of limited funding, "joint" events with other states and components will be essential to continuing this mandated program. Partnering with other ANG Units not only helps with funding but develops networking and relationships that will ultimately help our deplorers and their families.
"Joint events help identify best practices and allow units to share resources and support staff to pull off an excellent event." stated Bohlman, who has served as the Yellow Ribbon Support Specialist at the 169th Fighter Wing since June 2013, said, "Having Phil Jonas as my Yellow Ribbon wingman has been a tremendous help in getting me acclimated to the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program."
"In the end," Jonas said, "It's all about the people"