Deployers learn how to enrich their relationships at Yellow Ribbon event

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brady Penn
  • 349th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Reserve deployers and their loved ones learned relationship tools and strategies at a Yellow Ribbon Program event in Bellevue, Washington, May 28-29.

The Couples Enrichment Program focused on helping couples take a deeper look into important relationship dynamics that affect the health of a relationship.

“I get a lot of positive feedback every time I teach this course,” said Capt. Sarah Parris, a chaplain from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia. "When you learn to understand yourself better, you understand others better too, and that can improve all of your relationships."

A testament to the course's success was the number of return attendees. About 20 percent of the attendees had taken the same class at a previous Yellow Ribbon event.

The Yellow Ribbon Program’s mission is to host training events that connect Reserve Airmen and their loved ones with resources that will assist them before, during and after deployment.

Master Sgt. Christopher Blanco-Shustoff, from the 940th Air Refueling Wing, Beale Air Force Base, California, attended the event with his wife.

“As the Yellow Ribbon representative at Beale, I think it is important for me to attend all of the programs offered by Yellow Ribbon so I can better inform others.” Blanco-Shustoff said. “It is also helpful for my wife and I to keep adding tools to the toolbox of our marriage.”

Master Sgt. Paul Martinez, also from the 940th ARW, attended the course with his spouse, Master Sgt. Kimheak Ly.

“As a military couple, it is important for us to prioritize understanding and communication,” Martinez said. “Once you identify the places where you are different from your partner, you can approach them with more understanding and empathy.”

Throughout the course, attendees were encouraged to reflect on their partners strengths and address disagreements and challenges proactively.

“We’re different people when we leave for deployment versus when we come back,” said Chaplain Parris.

The course encourages couples to check in with one another consistently throughout deployments, whenever possible. According to Parris, this kind of communication can help couples grow together during deployment rather than drifting apart.

The course begins with each couple introducing their partner and sharing things that they appreciate about them.

“That part always has lots of laughs and sweet moments,” Parris said. “Sometimes we even get some tear-jerker moments. I encourage couples to practice intentional appreciation on their own time, and it often gets a dialogue going.”

Because both Ly and Martinez are service members with three young children, they said that self-assessment is even more important.

“We’ve been together for eight years but we still have things to learn about each other every day, and that takes work,” said Ly.

Several attendees said communication and empathy are the keys to a successful relationship during deployment. Understanding the differences between yourself, your partner and your children can allow you to avoid countless relationship challenges.

The Couples Enrichment Program, unlike most other Yellow Ribbon course offerings, was a multi-day course. Couples spent six sessions in total alongside other couples, learning new strategies to improve the stability of their domestic lives.

“I would recommend this course to anyone who is deploying and has a partner, even if they’re not married,” said Blanco-Shustoff. “Yellow Ribbon is such a great resource for our Airman and this course is no exception.”