Story by TSgt Benjamin Mota on 06/02/2019Having supported nearly every major contingency since Operation Desert Storm, the 434th Air Refueling Wing at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind. is no stranger to deployments, but a recent opportunity allowed members of the unit to provide support in another way.
Eighteen Airmen and civilians from the Hoosier Wing supported an Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event April 20-22 in Chicago to provide a variety of resources.
"At Grissom, people are always looking for ways to help others, so I'm not at all shocked to see the large number of Grissom personnel here supporting the event," said Chief Master Sgt. Wes Marion, 434th ARW command chief.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018, Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their loved ones by connecting them with resources before and after deployments.
With nearly 600 attendees at the event, security played a role ensuring members could focus on resources provided. Leading that role, Grissom's 434th Security Forces Squadron sent out a short-notice request receiving more than enough volunteers to support.
"We have some of our best trained people in the unit here from a variety of law enforcement backgrounds," said Master Sgt. Bill Mezel, 434th SFS operations superintendent, who was in charge of security for the event. "I couldn't have asked for a better team."
Yellow Ribbon began following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist Reserve and Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles.
"Due to the proximity of Grissom to Chicago, the base was the most cost-effective way of providing resources to Citizen Airmen and their families," said Senior Master Sgt. Eric Vance, the wing's Yellow Ribbon program manager.
Each year, the Air Force Reserve program trains 7,000 reservists and those closest to them with resources such as education benefits, health care, retirement information and more.
In addition to the role of security, Grissom was able to fill resource providers for education and training, financial management, mental health, Airmen and Family Readiness and public affairs.
"When it came to supporting the program, they knew [Grissom] would help out because we've filled short-notice requests on several occasions," said Vance. "We have several people who are trained and qualified to provide resources because they have volunteered in the past; this is the first time we have had so many from Grissom all at the same event."
"This really is a great program," said Marion, who recalled the difficulties of returning from deployments before such program existed. "When I first deployed, you had to track down information you didn't know was available and hope you received all the resources you needed."
Attending in a leadership role, Marion learned about the program by speaking to deployers and resource providers and attending a variety of break-out sessions offered.
"To see all the people from Grissom here, I've had the chance to hear some of the members brief and they did a phenomenal job," he said. "It just makes me all the more proud to be the command chief and a fellow reservist in such a great organization."