published Monday, January 9th, 2012

Soldiers and family members get course in deployment


by Naomi Jagoda

Soldiers heading to Jordan and their family members spent Sunday getting a crash course in what to expect ahead of deployment.

The 193 members of the 1/181st Field Artillery Battalion who are deploying to Jordan this year had their pre-mobilization Yellow Ribbon ceremony at the Sheraton Read House hotel in Chattanooga.

The soldiers learned about the benefits earned by serving on active duty and being a veteran, said Col. Patty Jones, director of the Tennessee National Guard J9, which deals with military and family readiness operations.

Groups that presented included TriCare, the health care program for military; Operation Homefront, which provides emergency financial and other assistance to families of service members and wounded service members; and Give Army Parents a Break, which provides 16 hours per month per child of free day care for families with a soldier deployed.

Lt. Col. Kevin Stewart, battalion commander for the Chattanooga-based 1/181st, said the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program allows families to learn how to deal with issues before problems -- such as financial issues or the stress of a mother dealing with children alone -- arise. About half of the soldiers there brought family members, he said.

"[Yellow Ribbon] is really family oriented as much as anything," Stewart said.

Though the program's success may not be obviously apparent, Stewart said he believes it is beneficial. When soldiers are deployed, they need to be focused on their mission and shouldn't be distracted by issues like paying bills, he added.

"I'm sure it's helped a lot," he said.

The troops will spend about nine months in Jordan training that country's army, Stewart said.

"This will actually be a fun one," Stewart said, because it's a training mission rather than a combat mission.

The remaining soldiers with the 313-member battalion will head for Kuwait at about the same time, Stewart said. A deployment ceremony will be held in late April.

Later, service members' families will have an event where they can learn how to prepare for their loved ones' return. There are also events after returning that discuss dealing with reintegration and changes to benefits, said Caitlin Hager, a civilian who works for Yellow Ribbon.

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