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Minnesota National Guard
Soldiers find Respite, Resources at Family Prep Academy

The Minnesota National Guard is taking no chances with the well-being of its Soldiers and families over long deployments With news that the 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) will be leaving in May for another deployment overseas, the Guard is setting aside a day of training to bring Soldiers and their loved ones together for a day to relax and learn about what the Guard can offer during the separation

On Jan 22-23, the Guard hosted a Family Prep Academy, a training program within the nationally recognized Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign which is given credit for improving the quality of life for Soldiers and families throughout the deployment cycle

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The Family Prep Academy is designed to provide support in the period before the deployment, said Staff Sgt Mark Jancze, the Operations NCO for the Deployment Cycle Support Team based in Cottage Grove

“It puts reality to the fact that their husband or wife is leaving, on their way out the door,” said Jancze

When the 1st BCT mobilized for Iraq in 2005, there was very little structure in place to support the families of Soldiers for what would be almost 22 months away from home Minnesota National Guard leadership knew this had to change

The Family Prep Academy is a “really good idea,” said 1st Lt Seth Miletich, an officer with C Troop of 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry Unit commanders put out information about Beyond the Yellow Ribbon events as often as possible, said Miletich, who attended the event with his wife Bethany

“It’s something we push a lot—you better be telling your loved ones about this,” he said

Miletich recently attended a six-month captain’s course which he also feels has prepared him, his wife Bethany, and their two young daughters for what lies ahead Even though childcare is provided at Yellow Ribbon events, the couple left their two young daughters with a sitter so that they could focus better on what the program had to offer

Sgt Mike Ramponi and his wife Jennifer brought their young children to the event with them Mike admits that the first unit deployment – which stretched almost two years – really took its toll on his wife Jennifer and their daughter Sage and son Lucca But with resources offered from the Family Prep Academy, the couple feels better about this upcoming deployment

They are getting information to us, said Jennifer, “where before, we didn’t have any information at all”

The Minnesota National Guard, in partnership with the Minneapolis VA Healthcare System, is also rolling out a survey called RINGS – Readiness and Resilience in National Guard Soldiers – which will collect information on the needs of military families, the challenges of Soldiers before, during and after deployments, and how to enhance resources for Soldiers and families For more information, visit wwwBeyondTheYellowRibbonorg

By 1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs
25-JAN-2011

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