Yellow Ribbon Event helps welcome Airmen home

Jodi Stauber, Minnesota Air National Guard Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program Coordinator, organized a 60-day Reintegration event on Aug. 8 in Duluth, Minn. For members of the 148th Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron.

Jodi Stauber, Minnesota Air National Guard Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program Coordinator, organized a 60-day Reintegration event on Aug. 8 in Duluth, Minn. For members of the 148th Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron.

Col. Frank Stokes, Commander of the 148th Fighter Wing, speaks to members of the 148th Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron during a 60-day Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event on Aug. 8, 2010 in Duluth, Minn.

Col. Frank Stokes, Commander of the 148th Fighter Wing, speaks to members of the 148th Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron during a 60-day Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event on Aug. 8, 2010 in Duluth, Minn.

Dr. Mary Sullivan speaks with members of the 148th Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron on the importance of mental and physical health during a 60-day Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event in Duluth, Minn. On Aug. 8, 2010.

Dr. Mary Sullivan speaks with members of the 148th Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron on the importance of mental and physical health during a 60-day Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event in Duluth, Minn. On Aug. 8, 2010.

Major Audra A. Flanagan, 148th Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, provides information and resources to members of the 148th Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron during a 60-day Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event on Aug. 8, 2010 in Duluth, Minn.

Major Audra A. Flanagan, 148th Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, provides information and resources to members of the 148th Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron during a 60-day Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event on Aug. 8, 2010 in Duluth, Minn.

DULUTH, Minn. -- Members of the 148th Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron received some help adjusting to civilian life during a 60-day Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) event today. The event, held at Fitger's Hotel in Duluth, Minn., is designed to help the Airmen and their family members connect with military and community service partners following their recent deployment to Afghanistan. Members learn what benefits they are entitled to and what resources are available to help them readjust after life in a war zone.

"This program is so important," said Col. Frank Stokes, 148th Fighter Wing Commander. "It's important not only for yourselves but for your fellow Wingmen. To be able to look into each other eyes, see each other and recognize if someone is struggling, and be able to help them if they are. All these people are here to give you the resources to help you figure things out and get your lives back together."

The event, organized by Jodi Stauber, Minnesota Air National Guard Yellow Ribbon Program Coordinator and retired member of the 148th Fighter Wing, provides military members and families a support network of information and services available from county, state, federal and private outreach organizations upon their return home. The goal of these events is to reconnect Airmen and their families with each other and with service providers through workshops and self-paced stations.

"It's great to see and hear what benefits and programs are out there," said Tech. Sgt. Darren Dallum, 148th Fighter Wing Security Forces, "especially for the newer, traditional guardsmen. You don't always get all the information when you're only at drill once a month. So this really helps not only us who just got back, but we can take it and share it with other members who deployed last year or who are getting ready to deploy."

Experts from around the region presented various topics, to include: suicide prevention, individual counseling, healthy sleeping habits, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), domestic violence, plus much more. Information stations include: transition assistance, veterans centers, education, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), TRICARE, Military Family Life Consultants, Military One Source and many more.

"Deployments can really be a burden on military members and their families, from well before the deployment to long after," said Stauber. "It's my hope that a lot of the information they get here will help ease those burdens, so everyone is able to get back to enjoying life."

The Secretary of Defense initiated the YRRP in 2008 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act but it wasn't until this year and the addition of Stauber's position that members of the Minnesota Air National began taking part in organized events.

"Having been deployed, I know that coming home isn't as easy as I thought," said Stauber, who began working for the YRRP just months ago. "Through my own experience, I knew that I really wanted to be involved in the Reintegration process. It is so important for every member of the military, no matter what branch of service, to have all the tools necessary to really come home. For me, it's just been an honor to put together events like this for the people I know and love."

Reintegration events are typically held on weekends, 30, 60 and 90 days after the military member comes home. The events are usually held in non-military settings, like hotels or convention centers, and are paid for by the National Guard Bureau. Families are encouraged to come, but are not required to attend.