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Senior leaders salute Yellow Ribbon Program

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

ORLANDO, Fla. --

The Air Force Reserve’s top senior enlisted leader regrets not bringing his wife and daughter to Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program training before he deployed to Southwest Asia in 2013.

"I missed the boat,” Chief Master Sgt. Timothy White said Sept. 28 at a Yellow Ribbon event in Florida. “I fell into that category where I was too busy, and I did a lot of assuming. I assumed my wife, my family, knew things that they didn't know.”

Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their loved ones by connecting them with resources before and after deployments through a series of events held around the country.

It 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.

The Florida training weekend was the first Yellow Ribbon event White attended since he became the Reserve’s top enlisted Airman in April, though he’d been to others while serving as the command chief at both 4th Air Force and the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, March Air Reserve Base, California. He was among senior leaders in Orlando who said they encourage pre- and post-deployers who qualify for Yellow Ribbon to attend the training with those closest to them.

“I’ve been to several (Yellow Ribbon) events throughout my career,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Eason, command chief of the 914th Air Refueling Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, New York. “Even attending them in a leadership role, I go to the sessions and workshops and I am still learning and haven’t been disappointed yet. Airmen and their families are able to get a firsthand look at things they may face and are given tools to ensure they progress as resilient leaders.”

Col. Doug Stouffer, commander of the 927th Air Refueling Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, said resilience doesn’t end with one subject or topic.

“It is our job to not only offer the training for our Airmen to be good at their careers and stay proficient, (but we) also must ensure we are developing resilient leaders that will sustain and increase the capabilities we have today,” he said. “Yellow Ribbon…focuses on not only providing tools to our Airmen to ensure they are able to maintain that resiliency but also (to) their family.”

Yellow Ribbon participants attend a variety of breakout sessions to learn about different benefits and obtain information on tools to reinforce their resiliency.

“(And) more importantly they are able to meet and create relationships with other spouses and children who are going through a similar situation,” Eason said. “They are able to share experiences and this allows them to connect even while those military members are away.”

White brought his wife and daughter to post-deployment Yellow Ribbon training in 2014 after his return from Southwest Asia.

"It was amazing to see my daughter connect with other kids her age,” he said. “It was amazing to see my wife interact...and it gave us an opportunity to reconnect."

White said even those who have attended Yellow Ribbon multiple times should make the effort to participate to get updated information.

“Laws are constantly changing, benefits are constantly changing, your personal life situations are always changing,” he said. “There could be benefits that you or your family may be in need of that might be missed and lost if you are not aware of them. Some of the information you received from previous deployments or briefings could be outdated now.”