Capital District National Guard Soldiers, Family Members Gather At Reintegration Event
As many as 500 members of the 27th Brigade Combat Team who live in the greater Capital District, including the North Country and stretching to Utica, their spouses, children, and leaders of the New York Army National Guard.
Up to 500 New York Army National Guard Soldiers, who spent most of 2008 in Afghanistan, their spouses and children, are expected to participate in the New York Army National Guard Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program on Saturday at the Sagamore Resort on Lake George. Members of the media are invited to attend and observe the event and speak with Soldiers, their families, and National Guard leaders
Saturday, Feb. 28. Welcoming remarks begin at 1 p.m. Media are welcome to visit with troops up to 3:30 p.m.
The Sagamore Resort Conference Center, 110 Sagamore Road, Bolton Landing, NY 12814Color Guard opening at 1 p.m., Opening remarks from Major General Joseph Taluto, the Adjutant General, Provider Forum - VA, American Legion, other agencies explaining benefits for the National Guard Soldiers and their families 2 to 3:30 p.m. COVERAGE OPPORTUNITIES: Interviews with New York Army National Guard Chaplain Lt. Col. Eric Olsen, other National Guard leaders, New York National Guard Family Program coordinators, Soldiers and family members.
The New York Army National Guard Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is an effort to help Soldiers and their families cope with the stress of returning to civilian life after deployment, while also helping Army National Guard units transition from their federal mobilization status back to state control.
Prior to 2008 the policy when Army National Guard units returned from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan was to give the Soldiers 90 days to themselves before they were required to begin coming to regular monthly National Guard weekend drills.
While the goal-giving Soldiers time to decompress and spend time with their families after a year or 18 months away-was laudable, the system had flaws. During that 90 day period, Soldiers might begin experiencing problems and they had no one to talk to about it. Family members also might be put under strain as a long-gone spouse suddenly returned home.
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program requires Soldiers to be present for paid assemblies at 30 and 60 days after their return from a combat zone, and invites families to attend as well. The sessions are held in a non-military environment to provide Soldiers and families a chance to share experiences and talk frankly with each other and counselors about their experiences.
In December more than 1,200 National Guard Soldiers of the Syracuse-based 27th Brigade Combat Team returned from ten-month deployments in Afghanistan, where they were responsible for training the Afghan Army and Police. This is the largest New York National Guard deployment since the 2004-2005 periods, and this will be the largest number of Soldiers and families to go through the Yellow Ribbon program
The New York National Guard already supported more than 700 Soldiers and family members at the reintegration session at the Rochester Civic Center on February 21. Another 600 Soldiers and family members will attend events at the Tarrytown Marriot on March 7.
"This is the largest unit reintegration we've conducted since we launched our Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program a year ago," said Major General Joseph Taluto, the Adjutant General and Commander of the New York National Guard. "We want to incorporate everything we've learned in running smaller units through the process and add new programs."
Part of the program will be mandatory counseling sessions for all of the returning soldiers in order to identify issues they may need help with, identify stressors of combat and the return home, and arrange for follow up care. The federal Department of Veterans Affairs is providing the counselors for these events.
The federal VA effort to provide counselors to talk to every returning Soldier for 10 to 15 minutes has been very successful since it was introduced in August of 2008. At a reintegration event held in January, 67 of 150 participating Soldiers identified a need for some assistance during these counseling sessions.
New to this round of reintegration events will be a "career fair" organized by the state Department of Labor. This event will be offered to the Soldiers and their families at the second round of reintegration meetings. Employers and trade unions will be on hand to talk to the veterans about potential jobs, and also offer advice on job search and resume writing.
Both the veterans counseling and the job fair will take place at the 60-day reintegration event in the National Guard's 90-day reintegration program. These events are set for late March and early April for the members of the 27th Brigade Combat Team.
"At the 60-day mark we've found that problems with stress, Soldiers relating to families, and alcohol abuse are starting to emerge and it is the right time to talk about these issues," Taluto said.
National Guard Soldiers are put back in touch with people who shared and understand their experience, at about the time the "honeymoon phase" of their homecoming starts fading. And with their families by their side, they hear about benefits and programs such as veterans' benefits, education and job opportunities and available support networks.
At two months, there are briefings on anger management, substance abuse, compulsive behaviors, financial management and other topics. Army studies have found that these issues occur at about those times. Again, spouses and families are invited along and the National Guard pays for the hotel for this session.
After 90 days, the Soldiers return to regular drilling status and report to their Armory for medical checks and additional briefings following a "Freedom Salute" ceremony at which they receive awards and public recognition for their service in combat.
The program is constantly changing as the National Guard learns more about how to help Soldiers come home from combat.
Page Last Modified: Jul 01, 2013