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New McConnell Yellow Ribbon coordinator ready to help Reservists

Capt. Jeremy White is the Yellow Ribbon Program Coordinator for the 931st Air Refueling Group, McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.  The Yellow Ribbon program is a Department of Defense-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.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Zach Anderson)

Capt. Jeremy White is the Yellow Ribbon Program Coordinator for the 931st Air Refueling Group, McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. The Yellow Ribbon program is a Department of Defense-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. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Zach Anderson)

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."

For more information on the 931st Air Refueling Group Yellow Ribbon Program, including information on eligibility and upcoming Yellow Ribbon Program dates and locations, contact Capt. Jeremy White at jeremy.white.23@us.af.mil