Friday, May 10, 2013

USS Makin Island Safety Department, Safety Officer Receive Prestigious Awards

From USS Makin Island (LHD 8) Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) was named the recipient of the prestigious 2012 Vice Admiral Bulkeley Award for afloat safety, May 9.

The Bulkeley Award recognizes the afloat command that has contributed the most toward afloat safety awareness through the submission of hazard, near-mishap, and lessons-learned reports in addition to safety-related articles for publication.

Additionally, Lt. Harriet Johnson, the ship's safety officer, was awarded the 2012 Rear Admiral Buie Award which recognizes the individual who has contributed the most toward afloat safety awareness through the submission of hazard, near mishap, and lessons-learned reports in addition to safety-related articles for publication.

Rear Adm. Kenneth J. Norton, the commander of the Naval Safety Center, made the official announcement for both to the fleet via naval message traffic.

"Makin Island' commitment to safety reaches beyond the lifelines," Norton stated in the message. "Ship's authors have had articles published in the spring-summer and fall-winter editions of the afloat Navy's 'Sea Compass' magazine."

In the message, Norton recognized Makin Island's efforts to reduce drunk and distracted driving during the holiday season by staging a wrecked automobile at the end of the pier as a visual reminder to Sailors.

"As the ship's safety officer, Lt. Johnson was the driving force behind the ship's overwhelming success in safety," said Norton. "She created two 30-minute training, three skits and six posters as the cornerstone of a 14-faceted approach to advertise safety on board the ship."

Norton also recognized the ship's Health and Wellness Fair as a way to promote healthy lifestyle choices for the officers and crew.

This is the second major safety award for Makin Island. Earlier this year, the ship and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) were named the recipients of the 2012 Admiral Flatley Memorial Award for aviation safety aboard LHA/LHD class ships.

Makin Island, along with the embarked 11th MEU, spent the first half of 2012 underway on the ship's maiden deployment conducting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility. Later in the year, the ship supported routine training operations off the coast of Southern California and participated in "Fleet Week" activities in both San Diego and San Francisco.

Makin Island was the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the ship saved over $15 million in fuel costs and the Navy expects to see fuel cost savings of more than $250 million, over the course of the ship's lifecycle. Lessons learned during Makin Island's maiden deployment prove the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation and will positively influence future ship designs for several decades.

This initiative is one of many throughout the Navy and Marine Corps that will enable the Department of the Navy to achieve the Secretary of the Navy's energy goals to improve our energy security and efficiency afloat and ashore, increase our energy independence and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy.

The ship is currently undergoing a Phased Maintenance Availability (PMA) at Naval Base San Diego. During this ten month PMA period, Makin Island will receive numerous equipment upgrades, modernization, and general repairs. The PMA period will also help to ensure the ship will reach the full service life of at least 40 years.

Deployed Moms Prepare for Subdued Mother’s Day Observances

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2013 – Army Staff Sgt. Alisa Ballard will spend her very first Mother’s Day this weekend deployed thousands of miles away from her 11-month-old son, Christopher.

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Army Maj. Yolanda Poullard, deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, will spend her first Mother’s Day away from her 5-year-old daughter, Alahna. U.S. Army photo by Patricia Ryan

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Ballard is among thousands of military moms deployed around the world who will observe a subdued Mother’s Day on May 12, relying on technology, care packages and family photos to help bridge the miles between them and their children.

Ballard, an information systems analyst from Fort Hood, Texas, plans to Skype from NATO Camp Kaia in Kabul, Afghanistan, to her parents’ home in Woodbridge, Va. As she fusses over her own mother, for whom she has ordered both fresh flowers and a fruit arrangement, Ballard will dote over Christopher, who is living with his grandparents while both his parents serve in Afghanistan.

Ballard quickly established the ritual of regular Skype sessions and telephone calls to maintain a presence in her son’s life after she arrived in Afghanistan two weeks ago.

“He jumps and laughs and tries to grab the phone or computer,” she said, a low chuckle in her voice.

But Ballard is quick to admit that leaving her son behind for a year-long deployment, just as he is standing on his own and preparing to take his first steps, has been no laughing matter.

Ballard said she felt tremendous guilt for months before leaving -- not only toward Christopher, but also because she “felt like I was impeding” on her parents’ lives.

“There’s nothing I could ever do to repay them,” she said. “But as this has shown me, family is always there for you.”

Rather than letting herself think too much about spending her first Mother’s Day in a combat zone, Ballard said she’ll focus on her own mother and how grateful she is for that sense of family.

So when Ballard rises on Sunday, she’ll put in a typical workday, hit the gym once or twice and possibly do some online college work.

“In order for me to cope, it has to be just another day,” Ballard said. “I’m not there and he’s not here, so I have to put myself in a different frame of mind and treat it as any other day.”

Ballard’s stoicism is common among deployed mothers who are steeling themselves for what they acknowledge could be a tough day -- whether it’s their first Mother’s Day away from their children or another in a long line of missed birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sonja Parks, a medic assigned to the NATO Multinational Role 1 Satellite Clinic at Forward Operating Base Oqab in Afghanistan, said she’s planning to retreat to the dormitory room she shares with an Army captain at Kabul International Airport for a private family celebration via Facetime.
Parks will open the special package that’s still en route to Afghanistan while 9-year-old Sarah, 2-year-old Rachel and her husband, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Parks, watch from afar near Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

“My 2-year-old loves to see me open the boxes she sends me, and she’s so proud of herself about her colorings or any other things she has put in there,” Parks said. “I put them up on the wall or around the room. It’s a piece of them, with me all the time.”

The celebration will be far different from Mother’s Days at home, which for the Parks family typically begins with morning church services followed by a picnic at a nearby park.

“It’s always a very special day,” Parks said. “My husband cleans the whole house and the girls spoil me all day.”

Parks and thousands of other deployed mothers will have to break from family traditions this year. Several told American Forces Press Service they’re preparing themselves from what could be a tough day.

“It’s hard being away,” Parks said, pausing to control her emotions as her voice cracked over the phone. “You realize that you are not experiencing those things, and that you will never get that time -- those holidays or those days -- back.”

Parks said days like Mother’s Day remind her of all the sacrifices her children make for her military career.
But, like Ballard, Parks said she also knows that dwelling on what she and her family are missing only makes the separation more difficult.

“If you think like that, it makes the deployment even harder,” she said. “So you have to keep positive, focus on the mission here and remember that you will be home soon.”

Parks said she’s hopeful that the drawdown in Afghanistan will mean fewer and shorter deployments in the future. But because medics are in high demand for all kinds of missions around the world, she recognizes that the end of combat operations in Afghanistan doesn’t mean family separations will be over.

“‘Normal,’ for my family, is that either I or my husband is gone, and I don’t think that will change until were retire from the military,” she said.

Army Maj. Yolanda Poullard, deployed to Kabul as a member of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands program, also is preparing herself for her first Mother’s Day away from her 5-year-old daughter, Alahna.

Since arriving in Afghanistan in December, she’s already had a taste of what to expect. She spent an admittedly miserable Christmas holiday, still in transition and without the benefit of a permanent Afghanistan address so she could receive a holiday boost by mail. Less than a month later, Poullard missed out on Alahna’s fifth birthday.

“Being away is really, really rough,” Poullard said. So for Mother’s Day, she plans to keep herself busy, going to both morning and evening church services. A highlight, she said, will be Skyping or calling her mother, husband and daughter, all in central Louisiana.

She’ll also open the two cards that arrived from home, which she set aside to open on Mother’s Day. Not able to buy a card in Afghanistan, Pollard made her own to send to her mother, along with an Afghan scarf.
On special days -- or especially hard days -- in Afghanistan, Poullard said deployed troops rely on each other’s support. Being able to offer positive words of encourage to those who need it goes a long way to “let them know that you are in that same situation, and they are not alone,” she said.

But the best way to cope, she said, is to focus on what they are accomplishing in Afghanistan. Poullard said she gets a lot of personal gratification from her work with the reintegration program and supporting initiatives for Afghan women and children.

“The bottom line is that we have a job and a mission to do: to help provide peace for Afghanistan,” she said. “It’s a sacrifice we all volunteered to make, and in the end, we are helping to make this a better place.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recognized deployed mothers -- and all other mothers and grandmothers in the military family -- in a Mother’s Day message posted on the Defense Department’s website.

“To all the mothers of our men and women who selflessly serve our country, happy Mother’s Day,” Hagel said in his message. “To the many mothers serving in uniform around the world, we thank you for the sacrifices you make every day to keep all of our family safe back home. Your hard work and dedication to raising children while defending our nation is an inspiration to all of us.”

Hagel also recognized mothers with a spouse or child serving in uniform. Many of these mothers, he noted, juggle fulltime jobs while raising children and volunteering in their communities.

“These mothers perform heroically every day,” he said. “We are truly indebted to them for their service.”

SecAF, CSAF share confidence in nuclear enterprise

by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

5/10/2013 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Appearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to testify about the service's fiscal 2014 budget request, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III also addressed Congressional concerns over media reports about the findings of a recent missile wing inspection.

The 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., received an overall, passing "Satisfactory" rating during a Consolidated Unit Inspection by Air Force Global Strike Command, March 4 to13.

Twenty-two areas were inspected during the CUI, with the missile wing earning an "Outstanding" rating in one area, "Excellent" ratings in 14 areas, and "Satisfactory" ratings in six areas. One area was rated "Marginal."

Donley said the ICBM force, which maintains a high state of readiness as part of its mission, remains a safe, secure and reliable element of the nation's nuclear triad, and what was found represents the stronger inspection process the Air Force adopted as it reinvigorated the nuclear enterprise.

"We have made substantial progress in restoring the confidence, I think, of our entire [Department of Defense] and Congressional leadership in the Air Force's management of this important responsibility," Donley said. "It is a number one responsibility for our Air Force that we take very, very seriously."

As a result of the inspection and further review, unit leaders identified proficiency shortfalls compounded by an attitude of complacency among a small number of officers.
They sent a call-for-action email to missile crew members to re-emphasize the high standards expected in the nuclear mission area. It identified areas for improvement, outlined expectations, and reinforced pride and importance of the mission.

"I believe this is the kind of commander intervention that prevents the incidents that occurred in 2007," Welsh said. "They took very aggressive action early to make sure that there was no question in the minds of their crew force that marginal behavior or satisfactory-just-above-the-line was not acceptable."

The inspection also allowed the unit commanders to assess performance of the crew members to identify individuals that require more training. The 91st Operations Group identified 17 crew members who required more training--approximately five to six from each of the three missile squadrons.

Currently, the 17 officers identified are going through what Welsh described as a retraining program that should last roughly 60 days.

Welsh made it clear that he feels the marginal findings do not present a risk to the Air Force's nuclear mission, but are a result of identifying a potential problem before it has the ability to snowball -- the exact reason the Air Force has inspections. The service uses assessments and inspections as tools for commanders to assess people, processes and performance.

"I don't believe we have a nuclear surety risk at Minot Air Force Base," Welsh said. "I believe we have commanders who are taking very aggressive action to ensure that never occurs. And in that respect, this is a good thing."

Talking about the Airmen who perform the nuclear deterrence mission, Welsh reaffirmed his confidence in them.

"Their performance is really exceptional day-to-day ... it has to be. There is no other option," he said. "And I think our commitment is that we make sure we keep that motivation as they move up through the ranks, and make sure they understand that the Air Force recognizes it."

Sundown Town Duty Station

J. J. Zerr, USN, “was born in St. Peters, Missouri, and graduated from Duchesne High School. In 1959, he began a thirty-six year career in the Navy, during which he completed two tours on destroyers. After joining the aviation community, he flew 330 combat missions over Vietnam. Across his Navy career, he accumulated 1017 carrier landings. Following the service, he worked in the aerospace industry for eleven years.”  J. J. Zerr is the author of Sundown Town Duty Station and The Ensign Locker.

More information about J. J. Zerr.

Prince Harry Places Wreath at Tomb of the Unknowns

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2013 – Britain’s Prince Harry received a 21-gun salute this morning when his motorcade arrived at Arlington National Cemetery, where he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

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Britain's Prince Harry, left, and Army Sgt. 1st Class Tanner Welch, Sergeant of the Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on May 10, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks

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The young British royal, 28, also paid his respects to gravesites at Section 60 at the cemetery, where U.S. service members who died during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.

The prince was treated as a head of state at the cemetery. During the wreath-laying ceremony, he received a four-platoon cordon with full honors, said Army Maj. John Miller, a spokesman for the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).

The prince was dressed in the ceremonial uniform of the British Army in which he serves as a captain, and as the flag of the United Kingdom flew behind him, he approached the tomb, accompanied by Army Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, commander of the Military District of Washington.

Hundreds of school children and other spectators watched as Prince Harry placed the wreath at the tomb.
From the cemetery, Prince Harry traveled to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he visited wounded warriors.

Following two deployments to Afghanistan, Prince Harry has since focused on honoring the sacrifices and service of veterans, wounded warriors and their families.

G-Os on the Go

by Maj. Cathleen Snow
920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

5/10/2013 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Col. Jeffrey Macrander, 920th Rescue Wing commander, shared stories about piloting the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter with 23 general officers who toured the 920th RQW May 7 during their annual visit to Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.

The retired generals visit the base annually for wing updates, but this was the first time they were able to include a visit to the 920th on their agenda. The 45th Space Wing hosts them and they usually have a jam-packed schedule.

After a heavy deployment schedule, and a passing Operational Readiness Inspection, the GOs caught wind that their may be an opportunity to fit a visit in with the local Air Force Reserve Wing, so the visit with the Citizen Airmen of the 920th was added to their delight.

They enjoyed a combat-search-and-rescue mission briefing, along with two aircraft static displays on the flightline, the Pave Hawk helicopter, and the HC-130P/N King tanker. Both aircraft are used to carry out CSAR missions flown by the 920th RQW.

"We were honored and humbled to host the military's finest, and it was fun swapping war stories with them. I learned more from them than they did from me during their visit to the 920th," said Macrander who shared the latest combat stories of his Citizen Airmen during their many recent deployments saving lives.

Prince Harry Meets Wounded Warriors, Walter Reed Staff

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BETHESDA, Md., May 10, 2013 – The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center here has hosted celebrities, heads of state, sports stars, and today royalty, as Britain’s Prince Harry paid a visit to encourage wounded warriors and learn about the cutting-edge treatments being used to care for them.

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Britain's Prince Harry, center, talks with Army Staff Sgt. Tim Payne, right, and Navy Special Operator 2 Bo Reichenbach, left, wounded warriors undergoing treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., May 10, 2013. DOD photo by Donna Miles

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The prince, who visited Arlington National Cemetery earlier today, arrived at the bustling Bethesda hospital in his British Army camouflage uniform to hear about the technologies being used to treat wounded warriors, particularly amputees.

A British Army captain who has deployed twice to Afghanistan, Harry mingled easily among the wounded warriors in the hospital here, talking with several individually to ask about their injuries, their treatment and their prognosis for leaving the hospital and moving on with their lives.

Visiting the computer-aided rehabilitative environment lab, Harry cheered on Army Spc. Corey Garmon during his first session on a large, round contraption that looks like a cross between a treadmill and carnival tilt-a-roll.

The prince leaned on a bar surrounding the device as Garmon, who lost both legs to an improved-explosive-device blast in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in July 2012, walked along a rolling stone path through a forest -- all virtual and projected onto a giant screen in the darkened room.

“We’ve got nothing like this back in the U.K.,” he told Garmon, who received his prostheses in November.
But Navy Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks, the Walter Reed commander who accompanied Harry throughout his visit, said much of the discussion focused on ways the American and British militaries share medical expertise and how they might collaborate closer in treating wounded warriors.

In fact, one of the devices the staff demonstrated to Harry, -- a mechanical hand -- is manufactured in the United Kingdom, Stocks noted.

“He was very interested in our technology and how we can work together in the future,” the admiral said. “But the thing he was the most interested in was meeting with the warriors and the families. He has deployed himself, so he feels that bond, and that was obvious.”

Harry visited the hospital’s Military Advanced Training Center, where dozens of wounded warriors were undergoing their rehabilitative regimens under the watchful eyes of their caregivers.

The prince walked through the room, shook hands with the patients, posed for photos when asked to, and spoke with them quietly, individually, about their wounds and recovery. He laughed with them, occasionally grimaced when they described their injuries, and became, as one soldier said, “just like one of the guys.”
Army Staff Sgt. Tim Payne, a 30-year-old 10th Mountain Division soldier who lost both legs during a dismounted patrol in Kandahar in Afghanistan in July 2011, praised the treatment he is receiving.

“The care they have given us here is fantastic,” Payne said he told the prince. “You really can’t beat it, anywhere.”

An avid swimmer who does much of his rehabilitation in Walter Reed’s pool, Payne said he also told Harry he hopes one day to swim the English Channel.

“He said I’m crazy,” Payne laughed. “But overall, he seems like a really nice guy and I think it’s really nice that he took the time to come visit us.”

Special Operator 2 Bo Reichenbach, a Navy SEAL who was medically retired after losing both legs above the knee to an IED in Afghanistan’s Oruzgan province in July 2012, said he was impressed that the prince was so interested in hearing his story.

“He seemed like the kind of guy who would really like to spend more time talking with us,” Reichenbach said of the prince. “He was really interested in being here with us and talking about our health care. And we told him that we all want to be here, because for us, this is the best place.”

Back the darkened computer-aided rehabilitative environment lab, Harry watched as Garmon negotiated his platform as it sped up, slowed down and occasionally tilted to simulate rolling hills. To add to the challenge, Garmon was instructed to use his arms to bat away sinister-looking virtual birds that headed toward him from the screen.

“One hundred, huh?” Harry challenged him, giving the thumbs up as Dr. Chuck Scoville, head of the department of rehabilitation, explained the lab’s function and the scoring system used to measure patient progress.

Harry laughed and yelled out a few “heys” as Garmon swatted at the “birds,” then congratulated him for tallying a 72-percent hit rate during the session.

Garmon told Harry he’s receiving “awesome” care at Walter Reed that helps him heal both physically and mentally.

“Once you leave here, you are good to go,” he told the prince.

Stocks said he wishes more people could have the chance to experience what Prince Harry saw today at Walter Reed.

What makes it so special, he said, are the medical caregivers who connect with families from the day they arrive until the day they leave, the families who stand by their loved ones and the wounded warriors themselves.

“The people here are amazing,” Stocks said.

“I believe it would be a wonderful opportunity for everyone in America to spend a day or two on this campus,” he said, “and see the spirit of these families and the spirit of these warriors” and their determination to move forward in their lives, whether in the military or as full members of society.

“It is truly amazing, and not one that I have spoken to has any regrets,” Stocks said. “They are so proud to have served their country.”

C-5M undergoes 'super' upgrade at Edwards

by Jet Fabara
412th Test Wing Public Affairs

5/8/2013 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- In 2006, the C-5 Galaxy underwent a "super" upgrade to further strengthen the airframe's worldwide airlift capabilities. Test teams here and at Dover Air Force Base, Del., are showing why the recent software upgrade to the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory -- now known as the C-5M Super Galaxy -- is no small task.

With initial modifications being tested at Dover AFB, the aircraft has been ferried back to Edwards AFB where the remaining flight test sorties are being accomplished during May.

"The C-5M Super Galaxy Block 3.5.2 software upgrade is intended to correct 72 deficiency reports that were documented during previous C-5M test programs," said Joel Williams, 775th Test Squadron C-5 lead engineer at the 418th Flight Test Squadron.

"The results of the 418 FLTS testing of 3.5.2 will help support a fielding decision by the program office at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio," added Maj. Zackary Schaffer, 418 FLTS C-5 test pilot. "Additionally, data from this testing will be used by the Development System Manager at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patt to generate a program assessment summary to verify the C-5M retains the navigational performance and surveillance capabilities necessary for future airspace requirements."

According to the C-5M test team, the systems affected by this software upgrade included the automatic flight control system, auto throttle, display services, embedded diagnostic system and flight management system.

"As part of the Traffic Collision and Avoidance System testing, we had to develop test techniques to safely generate collision warnings in-flight," Schaffer said. "With the help of pilots at the 445th Flight Test Squadron and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, we were able to develop procedures using a T-38 Talon to generate all of the appropriate warnings while ensuring safe separation of aircraft throughout the test."

Initially, the aircraft was modified with test instrumentation and software at Dover AFB, which required all of the checkouts, Quality Assurance inspections and initial ground and flight testing to be conducted off-site.

"Thanks to the excellent coordination between Edwards Special Instrumentation team, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, and the 436th Maintenance Group, all the modifications were completed ahead of schedule with the airplane fully mission capable," said Schaffer. "With help from the 436th Operations Group, we were able to schedule all of the range support necessary for our testing."

Once the final portion of software upgrade testing is completed, Williams said the DR corrections will help bring many improvements to the C-5M platform including a new vertical guidance mode, new glideslope capture capabilities, identify friend or foe mode S enhanced surveillance, and updated traffic collision and avoidance logic.

The C-5 Development System Manager, AFLCMC/WLS at Wright-Patterson AFB, will use the result of testing to support airworthiness certification of the software update. The testing results will also support certification of readiness for operational testing that will be conducted by the Air Mobility Command Test and Evaluation Squadron.

C-5M Block 3.5.2 software upgrade testing is projected to be completed by the end of May 2013. The Air Force plans to upgrade 52 Galaxies to "super" status by the end of 2016.

New McConnell Yellow Ribbon coordinator ready to help Reservists

by Capt. Zach Anderson
931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs

5/8/2013 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Sitting in his new office, Capt. Jeremy White had to smile at the irony of it all.

"I've been deployed eight times so far in my career," said White, a navigator assigned to the 931st Air Refueling Group here. "I would have absolutely loved to have had a program like this to help me and my family through some of the pre and post deployment issues we faced. It would have made a very big difference."

White is now serving in a special duty assignment as the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program coordinator for the 931st. According to the Yellow Ribbon Program website, the program is a DoD-wide effort to promote the well-being of National Guard and Reserve members, their families and communities, by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. It's White's new job to help schedule soon-to-deploy or recently deployed members of the group to attend Yellow Ribbon events.

He's been on the job for just over a month now, and while he wasn't able to attend an event as a participant before or after his past deployments, he has been able to attend two so far in his new role as Yellow Ribbon coordinator.

"Being there firsthand and seeing how the programs are conducted, you really see just how much incredibly helpful information and services are available and offered," said White. "I have really learned a lot myself simply from the opportunity to be on hand during the programs."

According to the Air Force Reserve Command Yellow Ribbon website, through the program Reserve Airmen and their family members are equipped with essential resources prior to departure, a level of stability and support while deployed, and successful reintegration techniques after the deployment cycle ends.

The events are open to members who are scheduled to or have served for 90 days on active duty in support of a deployment and were separated from their family, accumulated over a 12-month period. Members can attend a pre-deployment event up to 120 days prior to the deployment, and can attend a post-deployment event up to 180 days after their return. Members can attend as a single individual or can bring immediate family members or even a best friend. Single Airmen can attend as well, and can bring up to two guests of their choice.

Yellow Ribbon events are typically held at resort locations, such as Orlando, Fla. or Costa Mesa, Calif. White said the idea behind that is to provide the Airman and his or her family with a relaxing environment, away from the stressors of normal life.

"It's a way to take the family out of their typical routine so they can be relaxed and not worry about typical home life pressures. It lets them really focus on the reintegration process, on staying strong as a family, and on making use of the resources that are available," said White.

While attending the events, military members are on orders, however, they are not required to be in uniform; the attire for the events is business casual. Additionally, the cost of travel, lodging and meals is covered by the Department of Defense.

White is quick to point out, however, that these events are much more than just some type of a three-day vacation.

"It's not some kind of time share where you listen to some briefings and then go have a vacation," he said. "The events are highly structured and are put together with a single focus: To take care of our Airmen and our families. The entire point of the Yellow Ribbon program is to prepare families for deployment as well as to help them deal with reintegration issues."

White can speak from his own personal experience on the issues families can face following a deployment.

"You may have been deployed, and you get home and at first it seems like everything is fine," he said. "But then after a month or two, the honeymoon wears off and you realize that you really need some help with the reintegration process. That's where these events come in--they are geared toward each scenario a family will encounter through the deployment cycle. The aim is to keep families together and help them deal with the issues that come up."

White is now gearing up for his third event, to be held in Daytona Beach, Fla., June 21-23. And while he's still new to the job, he said he's already finding the role to be very rewarding.

"I really enjoy the positive responses from all of the families following these events," he said. "Everyone who attends an event leaves it with something gained."