Yellow Ribbon attendee cites value of conference

I recently attended a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program conference held in Orlando, Fla., with my wife, DeAnne. This conference helped Airman who are deploying -- and their families – on how to manage life while the deployed member is gone.

Since I work in Air Force public affairs, I’d already attended two of these events, but was with the group of military people that makes the trip to support Yellow Ribbon. My wife is a Key Spouse at Westover, and she worked one too.

This time we were going as actual attendees.

The February Florida weather was far gentler and kinder than the harsh cold of New England. We soaked up the sun with palm trees looming over us, spent time at Orlando's impressive attractions, and most important, got a good look ahead at what we could expect while I'm scheduled to be deployed later this year.

For each Airman and his or her family, the Yellow Ribbon experience is what you make of it, and the Air Force is counting on that factor. The Air Force pays its Airman to go -- and covers the airline tickets and hotel and food costs for the two-day event. Yellow Ribbon events are massive in size and details. Typically, between 700 and 900 people pack the hotel and convention center. Just over 700 people attended our event.

Examples of common-sense planning are too numerous to mention, but one that stood out was a family communication plan. The facilitator was a superb public speaker, and his booming but reassuring voice carried a message of vitality and priority for my loved ones. I learned not only about how important that phone call or email is, I learned that planning how to properly communicate is equally as crucial.

I left this event reassured that the Air Force Reserve is working hard to take care of its people. Budget cuts, furloughs, and downsizing have clouded recent years of my career, which now spans 20 years. Yellow Ribbon was like a break in those clouds. The optimism from this program and its facilitators was as bright and warm as that ubiquitous Florida sunshine.

For Airmen and their families, I can only endorse this program. Yellow Ribbon reaches out to you and reminds you of your commitment to your country and to your family. The efforts of the people that work these events combine into an arm that reaches out from the heart of the Air Force. There were a lot of Westover Airmen in Florida. One of them was 1st Lt. Steven Marchegiani, Westover's Yellow Ribbon coordinator. He saw to filling out each of the spouses' travel vouchers. By hand. And he stuck around after the event ended and made sure that the Patriot Wing Airmen had all the information they needed to be paid.

Yellow Ribbon will be there for us following my deployment too. We plan on it. You should too.

Attend your pre- and post-deployment Yellow Ribbons. This account scratches the surface of the level of kindness and support from our United States Air Force to thousands of military families.

Go get it and be part of the experience.

EDITOR’S NOTE: MSgt. Biscoe is the superintendent of the 439th AW Public Affairs Office. His opinions are his own. Airmen wanting more information about Yellow Ribbon can view the AFRC video here: