An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

As career nears end, senior NCO praises Yellow Ribbon

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Brenda H. Davis
  • 940th Wing Public Affairs

Speed and intensity, that’s how he was taught to approach every task he faced.

Although the lesson has served Master Sgt. Casey Balandran well during his military career, now he finds that focus turning more to his family as he contemplates retiring later this year.

“Sooner or later I knew I would need to dedicate more time to them,” he said. “It was mostly a matter of timing and finances.”

He spoke about the challenges of military service while he and his family attended an Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program on Jan. 24-25 in Orange County. It assists reservists and National Guard members to maintain resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles.

Balandran was an active-duty Marine for 4 years starting in 1995 before transferring to the Air Force Reserve.

“All my life I thought I would stay in the Marines,” said the father of two, “though as time went along I realized that my path wasn’t as conducive to a family life.”

He has had his share of time away from home, most recently returning from an overseas deployment last fall. In his job as an aeromedical technician he treats patients being transported by air. He is assigned to the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base and, as a civilian, he works for the Transportation Security Administration.

“This last deployment was a challenge more for my wife because it left her raising the kids without another parent,” said Balandran, “but it did help provide the financial support to pay for the medical expenses we had accumulated.”

His youngest child spent several months in the neonatal intensive care unit at birth. His son, now 5, has since been diagnosed with autism.

“It changed my role as a reservist,” he admitted.

He stepped back and reassessed the number of missions he could support to be home more often.

“Around that time I was acting superintendent, responsible for a number of people, while also working full time,” he said. “I wanted to do my part, but I just couldn’t devote my intensity in that area anymore.”

“During his first few years in the Air Force I struggled to adapt to his absences,” confessed Thi, Balandran’s wife of 20 years. “Back then we didn’t have programs like Yellow Ribbon.”

The Department of Defense began the program in 2008 following a congressional mandate.  The Reserve trains 7,000 deployers and family members each year in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more.

“Even though we had been to an event before this deployment, I’m still learning,” said the sergeant. “I leave with something new every time.”

The program promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before and after deployments. He recommends eligible members, especially young Airmen, take advantage of it.

 “Over time I have learned how to find these resources, however for an individual just starting out and going on their first deployment, a Yellow Ribbon event can make all the difference.”

The impact of that knowledge, he says, is far reaching. He thinks younger Airmen are more likely to stay in the service longer because programs like Yellow Ribbon make the resources accessible to the family as well as the service members.

After many years, Balandran is now looking forward to retiring from the Air Force and dedicating his focus to his pre-teen daughter and young son.

“It has been a long journey, but my children still need that guidance and attention. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be there for them now.”