ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
“The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…”
The ancient Chinese warrior Sun Tzu was not talking about the Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program when he wrote those words in “The Art of War” 1,600 years ago, but the message still applies in Yellow Ribbon, which promotes the well-being of reservists and their loved ones by connecting them with resources before and after deployments.
Its success directly relates to the flow of supplies and equipment to and from training events around the nation, said Mary Hill, a retired Air Force Reserve colonel who manages Yellow Ribbon. Leading the logistics charge is a pair of reservists -- Senior Airman Kyle McCollum and Senior Master Sgt. Jackie Zawada -- who perform Yellow Ribbon duties at Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, but are assigned to the 94th Airlift Wing, Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. They make sure the correct amount of supplies arrives at the right event.
“There are usually between 12 and 20 Yellow Ribbon representatives from around the command at each event, and each of them expects to open a box and see what they need to do their job,” Hill said. “That is what makes the event successful: that they have everything they need when they need it.”
McCollum, the AFRC Yellow Ribbon logistics manager, is responsible for inventory and shipment of all Yellow Ribbon supplies and goods to and from events.
“We get shipments of donations and supplies constantly, and it’s my job to receive and inventory these supplies and keep our warehouse and storage room orderly and ready for the next event,” he said. “I pack all supplies for each event based off our event packing list, which varies depending on the number of attendees expected at the event. Attendance ranges from 350 to upwards of 1,000 people.”
Zawada, a Yellow Ribbon project manager, oversees the Yellow Ribbon logistics operation and all youth programs. She also ensures that all information technology equipment and supplies have been reordered and that all the equipment works properly. Robins Air Force Base is the primary staging area, but supplies are staged at a base in the West for events in that region.
“McCollum has to have oversight of all the equipment and has to know what they need for the next event,” Zawada said.
She said the mentor/protégé connection she shares with McCollum makes their work symbiotic.
“We have a working relationship where he knows what is expected. He knows I’m detail oriented, so he makes sure all his projects are done thoroughly,” Zawada said. “He is like an extension of me. He doesn’t need to be told twice; he has an attention to detail at a high capacity and gets it done every time. For a senior airman he works at an NCO level.”
McCollum and Zawada’s work has not gone unnoticed by Hill, the Yellow Ribbon program manager.
“We probably have 1,000 items, and each of those items goes through (their) hands,” she said. “They know how to send the right amount of supplies for the size of event we have going on.”
They are just two strong members of an overall great crew, she stressed.
“They are part of this team of people from all across the command that executes these events to perfection each month,” she said. “They all put on a happy face and are eager to take care of their fellow Airmen. They do a great job.”
Yellow Ribbon 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 those closest to them in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more at up to 18 events.
McCollum and Zawada agree that the work they put in leading up to a Yellow Ribbon event has a larger cause than just packing cases of supplies and equipment.
“It makes me feel great. I love what I do just knowing that I’m contributing to helping the Airmen and their families at these events,” McCollum said. “It’s important that they get this information at the event and are able to reconnect with their families. Although I’ve attended around 20 Yellow Ribbon events, it’s still very fulfilling.”
Zawada said the job gives her the “ultimate sense of satisfaction.”
“This is the best job ever. You know in the end you are part of an event that could help save a life, a marriage and or help raise the quality of life of an Airman and their family,” she said.