The Mile High City may be thousands of miles away from the shores of Hawaii, but two Air Force Reserve leaders from the Aloha State made the Jan. 18-20 trip to the Rocky Mountains well worth it to attend their first Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event.
Starting its 11th year, Yellow Ribbon began in 2008 following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist reservists and National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles. Each year, the Air Force Reserve program trains more than 7,000 reservists and those closest to them in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more.
Six-time deployer and first-time Yellow Ribbon event attendee Col. Athanasia Shinas, the 624th Regional Support Group commander at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, found the event helpful to prepare Airmen and families for the challenges they face before, during and after a deployment.
“It’s interesting to see the feedback, especially about the communications skills they learn in Yellow Ribbon, and knowing, having deployed several times, how integral those communications skills are (during the deployment cycle),” Shinas said.
Chief Master Sgt. Danyell Stoutamire, the group’s command chief, noted the overall importance of having resources available to Airmen and their families during Yellow Ribbon.
“We just have to learn how to ask, and we have to make them readily available for all generations,” he said. “People learn differently; we need to focus on how to make those resources available for each category of learning.”
For the colonel, Yellow Ribbon re-emphasized the principle of seek first to understand found in the late Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
“Even as a leader, or nonetheless a deployer or a spouse, it is so essential to get past your own biases when you walk into any kind of situation where you need to communicate, nonetheless one over thousands of miles and time zones (during a deployment),” Shinas said.
She said she was reminded of another Covey principle as it relates to the Yellow Ribbon as she views the program as a force multiplier. She used the Covey analogy of an emotional bank account, in which people must make emotional deposits and investments into others before doing things that take away.
“Yellow Ribbon is one of those times where you make major deposits in your emotional bank account. You are directly given the tools to communicate and to improve your own life,” said Shinas. “We can ask them for (emotional) withdrawals when they deploy and step forward to make the mission happen. (With the Yellow Ribbon Program) we built that resiliency up in the Airman to make those emotional withdrawals.”
Due to their unit’s isolated location in Hawaii and Guam, some family members have a difficult time connecting with other spouses, and the Yellow Ribbon event provided them an opportunity to bond and ask questions.
“I think the spouses really enjoy the ties that they feel when they are here; they are feeling a little bit more closer to the Air Force Reserve and also feeling closer to the other members because they are getting answers to questions that they may have not thought to ask,” Stoutamire said.
Both the colonel and chief said they are grateful for the program and to those who put in all the work that goes into planning the events.