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Grissom Yellow Ribbon rep increases program participation

Second Lt. Stephanie Creel, 434th Air Refueling Wing Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program representative, interacts with children attending a Yellow Ribbon event in Orlando, Fla., March 28, 2015. The program’s purpose is to ensure support and outreach services are readily available to unit members, their families and communities throughout a deployment cycle. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Mark Orders-Woempner)

Second Lt. Stephanie Creel, 434th Air Refueling Wing Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program representative, interacts with children attending a Yellow Ribbon event in Orlando, Fla., March 28, 2015. The program’s purpose is to ensure support and outreach services are readily available to unit members, their families and communities throughout a deployment cycle. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Mark Orders-Woempner)

Second Lt. Stephanie Creel, 434th Air Refueling Wing Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program representative, explains how an Air Force travel voucher is completed to a program attendee during a Yellow Ribbon event in Orlando, Fla., March 28, 2015. The program is a result of a congressional directive in the 2007 Defense Appropriations Act that mandated reserve components provide additional deployment support and reintegration to reservists and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Mark Orders-Woempner)

Second Lt. Stephanie Creel, 434th Air Refueling Wing Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program representative, explains how an Air Force travel voucher is completed to a program attendee during a Yellow Ribbon event in Orlando, Fla., March 28, 2015. The program is a result of a congressional directive in the 2007 Defense Appropriations Act that mandated reserve components provide additional deployment support and reintegration to reservists and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Mark Orders-Woempner)

GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. -- For centuries yellow ribbons have been associated with returning of loved ones and messages of support and hope, and a new representative exemplifies that support and hope through Grissom's Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program.

Second Lt. Stephanie Creel recently stepped into her new role as 434th Air Refueling Wing YRRP representative with the goal of bringing awareness to the program to ensure eligible members are using the benefits it provides.

"This program is about taking care of our people," said Creel "It provides Airmen an opportunity to receive resources and training that are critical during their deployment cycle."

Since February, when Creel took on her new role, she has increased program participation by nearly 500 percent.

"Before I began, Grissom did not have a Yellow Ribbon representative," explained Creel. "We've been able to increase participation by streamlining the process and bringing awareness to the program." 

The program is a result of a congressional directive in the 2007 Defense Appropriations Act that mandated reserve components provide additional deployment support and reintegration to reservists and their families.

"Reservists and their families have unique needs and challenges during deployments," said Creel. "We have several reservists who live in adjacent states or even further, and this program provides them and their loved ones an opportunity to access necessary pre-deployment and post-deployment resources and services in one location."

The events are for service members who have deployed for more than 90 days but exclude deployments for training. Each member can take up to two adult guests. All Defense Eligibility Enrollment System children count as one guest, and the other guest can be spouse, significant other, parents, siblings, roommates or even friends. 

"The key is to ensure members have the support they need during all phases of deployment," explained Creel. "It's difficult in a reserve setting to only be around an individual once a month and still be able to recognize they are having trouble reintegrating.

"When we allow them to take family members, siblings or someone who sees them on a daily basis, they have a better understanding of how the member is dealing with their deployment," she added.

The program provides participants with resources and training in a variety of locations throughout the United States. Some of the services offered during the events include health care, education, employment, training opportunities, financial and legal benefits.

"The event locations are determined based on popularity and their ability to accommodate the needs for the program," added Creel. "We want to make things easier for the participants by keeping everything in one place so members have more time to spend with their loved ones."

Spending time with loved ones is one aspect of the program that is beneficial, said Senior Master Sgt. Eric Vance, 434th 74th Air Refueling Squadron superintendent of squadron aviation resource management, who recently attended an event in Washington, D.C. with his wife and three children.

"You are out there with family and that forces you to stay together as a family," said Vance. "The location of the event was completely removed from our daily routine and in a neutral environment; it allowed us to focus on the resources there and not worry about things going on at home."

"We went out together at night and ate dinner together as a family and really connected with one another," he added. "We really learned a lot."

Eligible members can attend up to three events. The first event can be attended prior to a scheduled deployment followed by two additional events after returning from an eligible deployment.

For more information on event dates click here or contact Creel at 765-688-2961.

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker in the Air Force Reserve Command. Airmen and aircraft from the 434th ARW routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission and U.S. strategic objectives.

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