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Yellow Ribbon events foster communication among leaders, Airmen, families

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tiffany Lundberg
  • 302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

One benefit of Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon events is the opportunity for senior leaders, Reserve Airmen, and family members to interact with one another in a casual environment.

Nearly 400 reservists and other guests attended a Yellow Ribbon event in Bellevue, Washington, March 18-20, to connect with resources that can help them before, during and after a deployment.

Among the event’s 400 participants were 15 senior leaders who attended in order to engage in two-way communication with other guests and to observe the event to ensure the Yellow Ribbon Program is meeting the needs of deployers and their loved ones.

Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Rorick, 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado, has attended six Yellow Ribbon events as both a deployer and as a senior leader. He said Yellow Ribbon events provide a great forum for sharing experiences with Reserve Airmen and their families.

“It’s a very relaxed environment where people are more receptive to discussion, to express themselves and to ask questions, which really breaks down a lot of barriers to communication,” Rorick said.

The interactions between leadership and the attendees focused on experiences with preparing and coping with the phases of deployment. Additionally, they were essential to hearing what matters to the attendees and how to make Yellow Ribbon better.

“Here, leadership actually gets to hear what Airmen are talking about—what really matters to us,” said Tech. Sgt. Zachary Nicholas, 419th Force Support Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, who has attended two Yellow Ribbon events with his wife Taylor. “It’s really boots-on-the-ground talking face-to-face in a much more relaxed environment.”

Senior Master Sgt. Nate McReynolds attended his first event in 2020 and said the resources and relationships they made saved his family. Since then, he took on a full-time role as an event manager for the program, and said the events allow senior leaders to share their experience with junior-ranking Airmen.

“Now it is our job to go change other people’s lives,” he said. “Having the opportunity to give back is what is really important to me.”

Brig. Gen. Jennie Johnson, the Air Reserve Personnel Center commander at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, also attended the event.

“As a leader, what we care about the most is caring for our Airmen. If we can take care of them, then they get the mission done,” Johnson said. “One thing I wanted to get from Yellow Ribbon is the opportunity to see how we are taking care of the Airmen who are deploying, but more importantly, we also need to think about their families. We want to make sure they are a part of the equation as well and we are thinking about what they need as their Airman is deploying.”

In addition to interacting with Reserve Airmen and their loved ones, the senior leaders are assigned portions of the Yellow Ribbon agenda to evaluate. Each Yellow Ribbon event includes a meeting where senior leaders provide their observations and other feedback to the Yellow Ribbon leadership team to ensure the program continues to benefit deployers and their families.

The Yellow Ribbon Program is a congressionally mandated program established in 2008 under the National Defense Authorization Act, which called for information, events and activities for Reserve Component service members and their families, to facilitate access to services supporting their health and well-being throughout the deployment cycle.