Oregon's Reserve Warriors and Families attend Yellow Ribbon Symposium

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
  • 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Portland, Ore.--Over 200 military members and their families gathered at The Governor Hotel in downtown Portland, Ore. September 23-25 as part of the Oregon Air National Guard's Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program symposium.

The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is a federally-mandated program designed to serve members of the National Guard and Reserves, their families, friends and employers throughout the deployment cycle.

Col. Michael Stencel, Commander of the 142nd Fighter Wing, opened the Saturday morning gathering with some of his own reflections of his recent deployment. Stencel said he knows these classes are especially vital in helping first-time deploying members and their families for deployment.

"The Yellow Ribbon Program is such a value to helping our members and families find the resources they need before, during and after deployment," said Stencel.

The key note speaker for this event was Ryspodii "Sporty" King, a nationally renowned speaker and personal motivator. His address, "How to get an F in leadership", quickly got the audience to relax with engaging life stories, humor and small group discussions to focus on the "5 F's": Focus, Freedom, Fun, Friends and Faith. He touched on the fact that deployments are not easily understood by non-servicemembers.

"People don't care what you have lost or what you are going through... But they expect for you to always deliver," said King.

After the morning event, members broke into specialized focused groups on a variety of issues including mental health, family life, Airmen and Family Readiness, and Operation Military Kids. Terri Chapman, the 142nd Fighter Wing Director of Psychological Health came well prepared with a host of information and props for her breakout session.

"There are adjustments in coming home; learning to communicate better and confronting healthy ways to discover the gaps are the goal," said Chapman.

Chapman reiterated that words like 'Never and Always', called Global Complaints, can often bring up other complaints from the past that foster defensiveness and end up stalling these realms of healthy communication. Her football props that she tossed to those in the room made the session relaxing and entertaining, even as she joked at the expense of her favorite NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys.

"I am a pretty loyal fan, they there is a giant star on my car just to prove it, but like the Cowboys we often can play a good game in life too but lose in over-time as well," said Chapman.

Traumatic stress has become one of the defining injuries of many returning combat veterans. Veterans as well as their spouses struggle to both understand and recover from these 'hidden' injuries. One of the more interesting break-out classes involved the Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT), a self-administered acupuncture-derived technique that can begin to shift one's cognitive behavior perspective, sometimes as fast as even as just one session, according to workshop trainer Carla Austin.

Many members in attendance participated in the workshop and learned firsthand how to help reduce stress and learn new ways to enrich one's awareness and sense of harmony. Austin said TAT training is useful in helping reduce anxiety, fears and phobias, panic, post traumatic stress, and painful memories for many returning veterans.

"I first became aware of this technique a few years ago and have been demonstrating this since 2008 at Yellow Ribbon events," said Austin.

Trent Hansen, a 142nd Fighter Wing Airman, recently returned from a Middle East deployment and attended the event with his wife Kelly and their children. Halfway through his deployment Hansen said he returned home because of his mother's death, eventually returning back to his assignment overseas. Hansen credited programs like Yellow Ribbon and the Red Cross as being helpful while deployed.

"Our family became stronger but there was a great deal of support we had to help us all get through it," said Hansen.

The Yellow Ribbon Program is broken up into several parts. Phase I; Pre-deployment events are specifically designed to prepare the service member and their family for all aspects of being deployed; emotionally, organizationally, beneficially, financially, counseling services and other issues that might arise during deployment. Reunion previews and other events during the deployment also fall under this first phase.

Phase II; focuses on the 30, 60 and 90 periods once the servicemember has returned home. Many of the pre deployment issues are revisited in these follow up periods with a emphasis on reintegration at home and the work place. This is an especially important time for the member and family to address unique needs in physical and emotional health issues.

The three day event was coordinated by Amy Schmid, the reintegration manager for the Oregon Air National Guard. There were 32 support agencies present for the information fair with members from the 142nd and 173rd Fighter Wings, the Marine Corps Reserves and Army National Guard in attendance.

"Amy's hard work to put this [Yellow Ribbon] event together really showed with the speakers and participation for this event," said Stencel.