If you think Reserve Component deployments are a thing of the past, think again. While mobilizations have reduced since the height of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, there are still more than 24,000 Guard and Reserve Service members currently mobilized.
With continuing instability and conflict occurring around the world, as well as projected decreases in military spending, America’s reliance on the RC Force will continue to be emphasized in the coming years. This is why Heidi Boyd-Rice, the newly appointed Director of the Office for Reintegration Programs, has made a renewed commitment to expanding the tools and resources available to the National Guard and Reserve community.
“The past 15 years has been exhaustive on our troops, and it has also taken a toll on our employers, spouses, children, and communities alike,” said Boyd-Rice. “And that’s one of the primary reasons why we’re here and why our initiatives exist.”
Since 9/11, more than 918,000 activations have been supported by the National Guard and Reserve — many of these activations have been fulfilled by Service members who have deployed numerous times.
“When we talk about our national security, we’re simultaneously talking about the readiness of our RC Force in being able to deploy during times of crisis and emergency,” she said. “If Guardsman and Reservists aren’t prepared for deployment and don’t get the help they need when they return and reintegrate back into their civilian lives, then we face the degradation of our RC Force’s ability to respond in the future when we need them the most.”
“Deployments are tough on everyone,” she said. “It can be tough on the family, on the employer, and on the community.”
For Boyd-Rice, being in a state of readiness isn’t so much a philosophical view as much as it is a practical approach. It means building a supportive relationship with employers, addressing combat-related health issues before or as soon as they are discovered, being financially stable and secure, and maintaining strong family relationships during repeated deployments.
“We do this in a lot of ways,” she said. “We connect them with resources, bring organizations together to explain benefits and entitlements, and we directly help thousands of Service members and their families build resumes, connect with employers, and find jobs.”
Since 2008, ORP’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program and Hero2Hired have served more than 1.5 million National Guard and Reserve Service members and their families across the country.
“On top of our events, we have 56 Employment Coordinators, at least one in each state, that have directly assisted more than 25,000 Guardsmen and Reservists in finding employment,” she said.
“Our greatest asset is our people,” said Boyd-Rice. “They are not an expense, but rather, they are an investment in the security and well-being of our Nation.”
Heidi Boyd-Rice has worked in a variety of roles within the Federal Government for more than twenty years, including serving as principle advisor to the Director of Defense Human Resources Activity and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. She provided policy and program support for a number of DoD-wide policies, including countering trafficking in persons, Social Security number reduction, identity management, identification card issuance, and benefits and entitlements to military members and their families.
By Daniel Meshel, FEPP HQ