Supporting our deployed forces

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. David Speicher
  • 175th Wing Public Affairs
Before, during and after a deployment, the military is looking out for the well-being of its members. The Airmen and Family Readiness and Yellow Ribbon Reintegration programs, as well as the Wing Director of Psychological Health support the readiness of the Airmen in the Maryland Air National Guard.

Jeanne Benden, Airman and Family Readiness manager, sees her position as a focal point for our members. "The families need to know regardless of what the issue is: [they need to know] they have one person to get them the subject matter expert."

Before a deployment she educates the Guardsmen and their families. "I make sure they are getting the benefits that are part of their deployment. I make sure they and their families are aware of the benefits," said Benden.

During the deployment Benden and a team of volunteers keep the families informed. Families are brought together for events that include pizza and ice cream socials. These events facilitate help between families that are going through similar situations.

Instead of the family member sorting through several contacts the family readiness office is a one stop shop for help. "If they have one number to call I take it from there and tell them what to do," said Benden.

The family readiness program reaches out to family members in advance of the end of the deployment. She lets them know what to expect and what to look for.

Upon return, Benden briefs Airmen about benefits from the Veterans Administration, TRICARE health insurance, and additional resources that are available for any problems or issues. The returning member is reminded of the benefits that were discussed before they left.

Another resource that is available is the legislatively mandated Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program that provides information, services, referrals and proactive outreach programs to service members of the National Guard and their families through all phases of the deployment cycle.

The 175th Wing's Yellow Ribbon coordinator Rebecca S. Price said, "Our members that are deploying 90 days or more are required to attend an event."

She stated the weekend event is typically 30-60 days before the scheduled deployment. Our members are encouraged to bring along a guest. The guest should be someone who will be supporting the member, whether that is a spouse, family member or significant other.

The event covers issues members may encounter during and after their deployment.

Thirty days after returning, the Airmen are required to attend a two day event. They are again encouraged to bring a family member or significant other who supported the person who deployed. "We involved the family members because they are the ones who often recognize the issues," said Price.

Following this event and 60 days after returning, they must attend an overnight event. The event provides workshops for reintegration, and provides an assessment of the member's mental and physical well-being.

Following the 60 day event, a 90 day event is held for members only. It is a day focused on post health reassessment at a Veterans Administration facility.

An additional support element is Susan Deal, LCSW-C, Wing Director of Psychological Health. She supports the readiness of the MDANG through the promotion of psychological health and resilience. 

Deal consults with commanders regarding the psychological health of their members and units. As a member of the team of helping professionals, she supports and/or provides consultation to resiliency efforts, suicide prevention, traumatic stress response, and other programs supporting positive and mission-focused emotional wellbeing.

"Deployments are tough on everybody and to make sure our folks are concentrating on their mission they need to know that their families and their wingmen are being taken care of back home," said Deal.

She meets with Air Guard members to provide a clinical interview and referral to local mental health providers and other resources to address any issues hindering a member's maximum well-being.

"My job is to make sure that their mental health before they leave and after they return is ready to accomplish the mission that is ahead of them. Whether that is going into war or coming home from war," said Deal.

The 175th Wing has a team of highly trained professionals that support our community before, during and after the wing's deployments. To learn more about these programs contact the program offices:

Airman and Family Readiness Program: Jeanne Benden 410-918-6768
175th Wing Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program: Rebecca S. Price 410-918-6749
Wing Director of Psychological Health: Susan Deal  410-918-6558