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Full-time student, part-time Airman prepares for transition with Yellow Ribbon

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Anna-Marie Wyant
  • 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
Being a full-time college student is a full-time job. Students sometimes feel stuck in a never-ending cycle of going to class, doing homework, studying and writing papers over and over again. For one student and Citizen Airman, that cycle is about to be disrupted for something completely different: a military deployment.

Airman 1st Class Donel Pascual, a full-time student at the University of Texas - San Antonio and Air Force reservist with the 26th Aerial Port Flight, 433rd Airlift Wing, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, will put his studies on hold to prepare for his first deployment. Pascual, who has been in the Reserve for three years, will be deploying to Kyrgyzstan in the spring.

"I'm excited," Pascual said. "I've been looking forward to it. I feel well-equipped and eager to do my part."

However, Pascual said this deployment does set him back a bit in his studies.

"It definitely threw a wrench in it," he said. "I was unable to sign up for spring semester. I definitely need to hit the ground running when I come back from my deployment to stay on track."

Deployments consist of three phases: pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment. Pascual, who is in the pre-deployment phase, decided to better prepare himself and his family for this next step by attending an Air Force Reserve Command Yellow Ribbon event Jan. 24-26 in Indian Wells. The program provides information, services, referral and proactive outreach programs to reservists and their families through all phases of deployment cycles.

Pascual brought his parents to the training so they could learn and bond together before he leaves. Pascual's father, retired Army Lt. Col. Madonel Pascual, and mother, Susie Pascual, said they were impressed with the Yellow Ribbon event and wished the program existed when Madonel served on active duty in the Army.

"This is a great program," Madonel said of Yellow Ribbon. "I've been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia, and I've never had anything like this."

The family agreed that the best information they received during the event pertained to education benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

"One of the main reasons I joined the military was for the educational benefits, and I joined the Reserve so I could stay in school full time," said Pascual, who needs to finish approximately a year's worth of full-time classes before earning a bachelor's degree.

Tech. Sgt. Heath Stark from the 931st Force Support Squadron, McConnell AFB, Kan., led the Post-9/11 GI Bill breakout session at the Yellow Ribbon event and said helping Airmen like Pascual learn about the benefits they have earned is the best part of his job.

"It feels good to provide a benefit for people that they can really use and will help them the rest of their lives," Stark said. "Finding a way to accomplish educational goals is a struggle for many people, so helping people navigate that process is very satisfying."

Transitioning from reading college text books to working in the passenger services terminal will be a major change from Pascual's daily student life, but after attending Yellow Ribbon, he said he and his parents feel more confident and informed as he prepares to enter the next deployment phase. Madonel and Susie said they greatly appreciated the information they received at Yellow Ribbon.

"We are amazed; the Air Force is great at getting the family members involved," Susie said. "Seeing the pre-deployment and post-deployment processes helps the family to improve their relationship during those times."

"Getting the family members involved in the deployment process--because it really is a process--of getting ready before, during and after the deployment, greatly helps us prepare together," Madonel added.

Although this deployment will force him to put his studies on hold, Pascual said he is proud to be an Air Force reservist and stands ready to serve his country. He said he was glad he decided to attend Yellow Ribbon prior to deploying, and he looks forward to coming back as a post-deployer with his parents after he returns.

"I would highly recommend those being deployed to take the opportunity to come to Yellow Ribbon," Pascual said.

Madonel and Susie expressed deep pride in their son's accomplishments in the classroom, the Reserve, and beyond.

"He has kept up his grades up, maintained a part-time job plus working in the Reserve," Madonel said. "As parents, we are very proud of him."