NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The Army Reserve’s 99th Regional Support Command hosted its first-ever joint Yellow Ribbon event Jan. 12-13 at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center here.
More than 500 soldiers and airmen from the Army Reserve and District of Columbia National Guard attended the two-day event with their families in order to learn about the many military-related benefits and opportunities available to them.
“Only point-zero-six percent of Americans eligible to serve (in the military) are currently serving, and you are part of that point-zero-six percent,” said Maj. Gen. William D. Razz Waff, commanding general of the 99th RSC, during the event’s opening ceremony. “These are all benefits that you get to use – take advantage of them.”
The event offered service members and their families a host of benefits and services, to include classes and workshops covering topics such as reintegration, resiliency, relationship building, suicide awareness, communication, anger management, finances, employment and resume writing, as well as information tables staffed by representatives from organizations such as Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the Veterans Administration, Military One Source, Hero2Hired Mobile Job Store, several colleges and universities, and companies looking to hire veterans.
“The Yellow Ribbon Program is a reintegration program,” explained April Millington, chief of the 99th RSC Yellow Ribbon Program. “The whole purpose is the reintegrate (service members) into their normal lives, to reintegrate them with their family members, as well as with their civilian jobs.”
“We will help them reconnect with the community, with their Reserve units and with their family members,” she continued, “and we try to ensure that we have subject-matter experts who will be able to assist each of the Soldiers and family members as well as address any questions or concerns they may have.”
The Yellow Ribbon Program is a Department of Defense-wide effort that has hosted more than 1.1 million Army Reserve and National Guard service members and families since January 2008. The program addresses service members’ and families’ concerns before, during and after deployments through a series of scheduled weekend events.
“As a Reservist, as a Guardsman, you not only fight the overseas wars, but you take care of folks at home,” said Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, adjutant general of the District of Columbia National Guard. “As a reserve force, we are really doing a lot for this nation.”
Although the 99th RSC has been hosting Yellow Ribbon events throughout the northeastern United States for several years, this marked the first time the command hosted a joint event for service members outside the Army Reserve.
“Since we’re working together, it’s good to have everyone communicate as one,” explained Master Sgt. Abigaile Taylor, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 99th RSC Yellow Ribbon Program. “By having this (joint event), we are able to communicate and see what each other is doing and understand each other a little bit more.”
As the 99th RSC continues its Yellow Ribbon events into the future, hosting additional joint weekends open to other military components and branches of service may bring added benefit to an already successful program.
“I do envision us doing more joint events, because we’ve opened up the portal and our POC conference every Tuesday to all forces to make sure everyone understands that the 99th RSC is here to support them,” said Taylor.
“I want to applaud the 99th for doing this and hope in the future we will have several other gatherings like this,” Schwartz concluded.