Reintegration events smooth transition for returning members, families

August 1, 2022 (Bloomington, Minn.) — More than six months after the Minnesota National Guard’s ‘Task Force 1-194,’ made up of members of the Brainerd-based 1st Combined Arms Battalion, of the 194th Armor Regiment returned from a deployment to the Middle East, service members are settling back into their lives.

“I missed my wife a lot,” said U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Bakeman, on the effects of the deployment. “Seeing my kids grow up, Luke was crawling when I left and when I got back, he was running around. There are no words.”

The active-duty spouse and father of two served as a staff officer throughout the deployment. While he was gone, the Bakeman family used various resources to balance the changes in their lives.

“My wife reached out to a counselor to learn different ways to approach deployments and techniques to occupy their time,” added Bakeman. “So, you don’t fall into those kinds of ruts.”

The battalion deployed in support of Operation Spartan Shield in March 2021 to serve as the United States Central Command Regional Response Force. During the deployment, the unit supported Operation Allies Refuge as forces evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan.

During their deployment, friendships between service members grew.

“Appreciate the people around you,” said Spc. Sebastian Campbell Gandia, a Minneapolis native. “And the times you’re having. You’re going to be closer with a lot of the people that you’re serving with than you will be with most people in general.”

After their return from overseas, service members and their families attended several reintegration events. The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program provides National Guard and Reserve members and their families with information, services, and resources throughout the deployment cycle.

“I think the unit and the Minnesota [National] Guard did an outstanding job,” said Bakeman. “We have all these resources available to really help with anything we need.”

The reintegration program assists service members at various stages after deployments. Upon returning home, the first ‘post one’ reintegration event is structured to provide crisis resources and resources for immediate needs. The later ‘post two’ event offers lifestyle and steady-state resources.

For the Bakemans, the most impactful classes involved how to interact with their children after the deployment. Advise was offered on how things can change, what to expect, and how to deal with those changes.

“I took the most out of the ones that are more centered on the family and the kids,” he said. “Leveraging those key assets that Guard and the Army can provide you, this is one of them. Yes, you’re doing a year’s worth of Army, stepping away from family and everything you have. However, being away, and being in uncomfortable situations, it’s the pivotal point in how we grow. So regardless of where you are in life, being gone for a year, with a different family, will change you and will allow you to grow, learn and adapt. And those are all things that you need in life.”

Staff Sgt. Mahsima Alkamooneh

Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs