Story by SSgt Mary Andom on 03/19/2019Innovation, creativity and caring for Reserve Citizen Airmen and their families just are some words to describe initiatives of the 446th Airlift Wing Airman and Family Readiness (A&FR) office.
The A&FR team was recently notified it was selected as the 2018 Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Award winners. The prestigious award established in 2000, honors the top unit in each Reserve Component demonstrating outstanding family readiness.
Ms. Jill Marconi-Pyclik, A&FR director and her seven-member team included: Tech. Sgts. Heidi Hancock, Troy Gordon, Jeffrey Toevs, Andrew Mutch, Master Sgts. James Ward and Kathy Myhre. Along with 446th Mission Support Group Commander, Col. Ray Luevanos, the team, will be honored at a ceremony at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. on March 29.
During the award ceremony, the 446 AW Airman and Family Readiness team will receive a commemorative plaque and framed certificate from the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
This isn't the first time Ms. Marconi-Pyclik was recognized for her outstanding performance. In 2016, she led a winning team at the 434th Air Refueling Wing. Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana.
Achieving excellence wasn't without hard work for the team. The Rainier Wing was without an A&FRC director for nearly a year before Ms. Marconi-Pyclik was hired. There was little doubt when she hit the ground running hard!
Focusing on re-building the program, her team adapted to challenges and forged ahead with plans to energize A&FR.
"Every process had to be revamped," Marconi-Pyclik said. "I provided the guidance and continuity they needed as a director."
Early on she encouraged her Airmen to track every accomplishment.
For the award submission, Ms. Marconi-Pyclik wrote a package summarizing the year in review along with key accomplishments and initiatives from the unit. Winners were announced in February, which also was during winter weather havoc for the Pacific Northwest.
"We found out we received the award during one of the snow days. I opened an email by the wing vice commander congratulating us on the award," Ms. Marconi-Pyclik said. "I texted my team and they were shocked and excited."
Col. Tony P. Angello, 446th AW vice commander, received notification of the award via email by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness leadership and wrote in response he was not at all surprised Jill's team garnered the award.
"What an honor for Jill and her team," Angello said. "They are so dedicated to serving the families and Airmen of our wing. It's no wonder they are bringing home this prestigious award!"
Ms. Marconi-Pyclik is proud of her team and the accomplishments garnered in such a short period of time.
"In a year and a half, my team has overcome challenges by leaps and bounds," Ms. Marconi-Pyclik said.
A&FR team member Tech. Sgt. Heidi Hancock described how the program was energized, describing how Marconi-Pyclik was instrumental in redefining the mission of the A&FRC and ensuring the unit was in compliance to better serve Airmen and their families.
The A&FRC operates 13 programs ranging from briefings on the deployment process to providing Airmen with financial literacy and resources for pre-separation.
"She created a game plan to get the unit into shape," Hancock said. "She took away some programs that didn't fall under us and added programs we weren't doing."
One such unit accomplishment included the overhaul of the Transition Assistance Program (TAPs), a Department of Defense-mandated program assisting separating service members during their period of transition into civilian life.
Ms. Marconi-Pyclik along with other team members worked tirelessly to whip the program into shape. They completed an eight-step Continued Process Improvement problem-solving process addressing the shortfalls.
Determining that program completion rates were below standards, the team created a tracker and reached out to members who needed to attend the transition program.
"Getting TAPs back on track was a huge accomplishment," Hancock said. "We didn't know who was due."
They also took a hands-on approach and decided to increase networking with units with face-to-face interactions, resulting in people getting to know them and their mission. Units were also briefed on key programs such as pre-deployment and resources for their families.
"We are out there putting in work," Hancock said. "We tell the Airmen in the units, Hey, don't forget about us, stop by and see us when you deploy or when you separate.'"
As a result, the overall compliance of the program jumped from 20 percent to 85 percent. Pre-separation briefing completion rates soared to 93 percent.
Another key success included revamping the Key Spouse program by recruiting five spouses and providing a communication outlet for spouses of deployed troops.
Hancock said getting the information out there is vital.
"Our job is to tell Airmen how they can receive help, we are a resource for them," Hancock said. "I am proud to serve the Airmen and their families in our community."
Hancock said her desire to give back is rooted in her background as a social worker. As a Reserve Citizen Airman, Hancock uses her skills gained as a social worker directly in her unit. In her civilian career she provides care to the elderly, blind and disabled.
"I'm kind of like a social worker for the Air Force," Hancock said. "You need to have empathy for others and a willingness to help and provide the services to those who need it."