DENVER — The Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program has added a class aimed at couples to its weekend slate of deployment-related training options.
The Couples Enrichment Program is designed to help those who are married, engaged or dating delve into their relationships to better understand themselves and their partners in a more profound way so they can build and maintain healthy unions, said Chaplain (Maj.) Joshua Kim, the instructor.
He adapted the program from one aimed at civilians and taught the first version to 17 couples Jan. 30-31 at a Yellow Ribbon training weekend in Denver.
“It’s a privilege to have a couple tell you about who they are, what their challenges are and to look for ways to become stronger as a couple,” said Kim. “My favorite moment is always being invited into people’s lives.”
The chaplain is a member of the 459th Air Refueling Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and served the past two years as its fulltime wing representative for Yellow Ribbon, which promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before and after deployments.
Kim saw the need for couple’s training when the spouses of two 459th reservists committed suicide in 2015. Afterward, he said, he kept trying to figure out what he and the wing could do to help reservists and their families so such deaths never happened again.
“My initial thought was some type of marriage conference,” Kim said.
He reached out to his wing and higher headquarters, but was told there was no money to fund it.
By coincidence, he talked about Air Force suicides with Mary Hill, the Yellow Ribbon program manager, and told her about his vision for a couple’s conference. Hill asked him to develop some breakouts for couples to provide something new for those who had previously attended several Yellow Ribbon events.
Kim researched various programs for possible course material and ultimately tailored a program that the Air National Guard was already using to fit into the Yellow Ribbon agenda parameters. Seventeen couples attended his initial class.
“The material is definitely pertinent to what I believe everybody in the military is going through both pre- and post-deployment,” said Master Sgt. Eric Amidon of the 934th Airlift Wing, Minneapolis-St Paul Air Station, Minnesota. “I believe it could help strengthen relationships prior to leaving and also strengthen relationships after returning.”
Amidon’s wife, Lynn, liked that the material had an encouraging start.
“It was about looking at what’s right with you, instead of what’s wrong with you,” she said.
The Amidons appreciated Kim’s openness and ability to relate to everyone in class.
“He shares his own personal stories and his own personal experiences with you so it makes you go, ‘Oh yeah, he’s a regular guy talking to us,’” Lynn Amidon said. “Plus he kept it positive and geared in a growth direction.”
Kim was impressed with the willingness of participants to open up about their marriages to him and the other couples.
“I love teaching (it),” Kim exclaims. “I just explain the curriculum and the material pretty much teaches itself.”
The Couples Enrichment Program is aimed at pairs attending their second post-deployment Yellow Ribbon event. Kim sent them home with material to complete as a workbook and said he thinks couples who completed the course now have the tools to get their marriages where they want them to be.
“I couldn’t have asked for more for what I was trying to accomplish,” he said.
Kim said he hasn’t forgotten the Airmen and their families who motivated him to create the Couples Enrichment Program.
“Not only do deployers and their families need this program but young Airmen who aren’t deploying and their families need (it),” Kim said. “My long-term goal would be to find a way to get some type of relationship enhancement to every local base and every traditional reservist.”
The training will be a permanent class for Yellow Ribbon, which began in 2008 following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist reservists and National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles.
Each year, the Air Force Reserve program trains 7,000 reservists and loved ones in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more through a series of weekend conferences around the nation.