News: RSCs conduct first joint Yellow Ribbon event
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Joel Quebec
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In a historic endeavor, the 81st and 88th Regional Support Commands conducted the first joint Yellow Ribbon Reintegration event in Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 9-11.
The event, held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, had more than 1,200 participants in all six YRRP phases and was one of the largest events to date. The attendees took up more than 30 percent of the venue’s rooms.
“This is what I see happening as the wave of the future,” said Brig. Gen. Alton Berry, deputy commander of the 88th RSC. “This is a crawl stage, and we need to build from this.”
Both the YRRP directors, Jeff Vaughan of the 81st and Bryan Taylor of the 88th, agreed that in the coming years it will be necessary to combine efforts in order to maximize funds and resources.
“With the overall force drawdown, it’s not going to be practical for us to do 200-person events,” said Taylor. “The benefit to doing a large-scale event like this is the economy of force.”
When the event is larger, more service providers and community partners can reach more soldiers and family members. Both the customer and the provider gets more “bang for the buck.”
“It’s probably not going to be a choice in the future,” Vaughan added. “We’ll have to exercise those assets to scale, to save money for the government and still provide the service members and their families with the appropriate resources.”
Coordination for the event began months ago with multiple conference calls, emails and developing products that were less RSC-centric and more sanitized so it was not only an 81st or 88th event but a unified Army Reserve presentation to the eye of the customer.
Behind the scenes, there were significant challenges that arose with two RSCs doing the same thing, in the same place, for the same purpose but with some different methodologies.
Vaughan said that each RSC came away with things from the other to incorporate into their program.
For registration and attendee tracking, the 81st uses an internet portal called Event Plus and this was the first time the 88th had been exposed to it.
The 81st will model their children’s program after the 88th whose robust children’s activities are post-deployment related and more educationally beneficial.
One of the highlights of the weekend was a USO performance by country singer Ayla Brown, a top 16 finalist during American Idol fifth season, who was happy to sing for and interact with the soldiers and their families.
“I love giving back to the troops,” she said, and although she lives in Nashville, she doesn’t spend a lot of time in town. “It’s so good that some of the bigger events I have [in Nashville] are the ones like this, where I get to give back to the troops.”
Brown’s father is a colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Corps in the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
All things considered, it was agreed that the event went very well.
“For the execution of an event this size,” said Taylor, “merging two Army Reserve Regional Support Command staffs that have never worked together, overall we have to say it was a success.”
“As we got down into the staff sections,” Taylor said, “we get caught into that pride of ownership, which is a hurdle we have to clear better next time ensuring that this is a one team effort even though it’s from two RSCs. We have to pull the one team, one fight concept together to make this better.”
Taylor spends time during meals with attendees and that’s where he gets his best feedback from soldiers and family members. This weekend, he received mostly very positive responses even though from the customer’s view the registration process did not seem as well organized as possible, which will be focused on to get ironed out for future events.
According to Taylor, the individual sessions were well-received by the participants and one could not tell whether it was an 88th or 81st facilitator.
“When you get great responses from attendees, you just got to go home feeling good about it,” Taylor said.
“We would definitely do it again,” Vaughan said. “Especially with the 88th, now that we kind of know each other better.”
Taylor compared the collaboration to a theater production in that often, only the actors know when they miss a line or a cue, but the audience thinks the play was fantastic.