News: BTH Yellow Ribbon event assists soldiers, families
Story by 1st Sgt. Michael Daigle
NORTH CONWAY, N.H. - Soldiers and airmen from the New Hampshire National Guard scheduled to deploy next month in support of the Beyond the Horizon mission to El Salvador traveled through wintry weather Feb. 9 to participate in a pre-deployment event.
The event, hosted by the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, provided two days of briefings for soldiers and their families participating in the BTH deployment, named "Joint Task Force Jaguar."
"The intent of the Yellow Ribbon program is to limit the amount of stress at home so that there is less stress for service members while deployed, this results in soldiers being better able to focus on the mission," said Maj. Eric Hogancamp, service member and family services director. "This all means that less people are injured and the mission is successful."
According to the JTF commander, who opened the event with a briefing on the importance of the mission and the role family’s play at home, the opportunity to gather before a deployment is critical to the success of the mission and also the success at home.
"It is absolutely important, and really a necessity, to have everyone together like this, especially for a unique mission like this," said Lt. Col. Ray Valas, Joint Task Force Jaguar commander. "When we have a family that is well prepared, well informed, better able to handle things at home, the soldiers are able to focus on the mission to the best of their potential."
For family members, many of whom have experienced yearlong deployments, the challenges are real, but the Yellow Ribbon Program assists greatly in preparing spouses and children.
"What we've learned from the past is that often people wait until it's too late to get information or seek help," said Jennifer Bennett, wife of Maj. Sean Bennett. "What this does is get people in a good environment to learn what's out there for families."
Eager at the opportunity, Valas is encouraged by the mission and the team collected to complete it.
"This is not a state partnership event, but it is an event with our state partner," said Valas. "We have an ongoing relationship with El Salvador. For New Hampshire to be able to lead this task force and lead 1,300 soldiers and airmen as they do a mission in our partner country, it's an important step forward in our program."
Beyond the Horizon is a U.S. Southern Command sponsored, U.S. Army South planned and led annual humanitarian and civic assistance exercise. The exercise provides construction and medical assistance to partner nations throughout the Central and South America and Caribbean region.
The exercise generally takes place in rural, underprivileged areas and is a major component of the U.S. military’s regional engagement efforts and it affords a unique opportunity to train U.S. service members alongside partner nation personnel, while providing needed services to communities throughout the region.