Helping the show go on

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Noah J. Tancer
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Youngstown Air Reserve Station’s 910th Airlift Wing made a big showing at the Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Program’s first large-audience, in-person event since the outbreak of COVID-19 early in 2020.

From July 23-25, 2021, members of the 910th AW worked, supported or attended a Yellow Ribbon event, backdropped by America’s Sunshine State, Florida.

Starting off the event, 910th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Jeff Van Dootingh, the event’s senior leader, gave the opening remarks, welcoming deployers and their families to the event. 

“Welcome, it's great to be together again in person. It's awesome to see so many faces,” said Van Dootingh. “I’ve been a part of Yellow Ribbon as both leadership and as a deployer and they are just outstanding events. I still learn something new every single time I come to these events, so pick the breakouts you want. You may not be able to get to them all this time, but keep in mind if you didn’t get into one you have two other chances with your second or third event. So please take advantage of this weekend.”

The Yellow Ribbon Program began in 2008, following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist reservists and National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles. Deployers and supporting family members are eligible to attend one pre-deployment and two post-deployment Yellow Ribbon events.

Every one of the 13 units in the AFRC has a Yellow Ribbon representative. They are collectively responsible for organizing and working each event, rotating the liaison position to provide leadership and direction for each iteration. Behind the curtain of this event was Master Sgt. Skye Tancer, the 910th AW’s Yellow Ribbon representative. She was the information linchpin between Yellow Ribbon leadership, AFRC Leadership, hotel management, Department of Defense and civilian guest speakers, fellow Yellow Ribbon representatives and event attendees. She was ultimately responsible for resetting the stage after COVID and reworking the figurative props needed to provide Airmen and their families with the resources that will help them endure and thrive before, during and after deployment in a safe and social way.

Acting in two roles for this event as both the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator resource provider and AFRC’s iRest instructor was Shelly Trimble, the 910th AW’s SARC. The SARC office’s mission is to assist survivors of sexual assault and provide Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training. They are available 24/7 to all Airmen and their dependents. iRest is a simple, self-paced, body-centered meditation program offered in a group or individual setting which focuses on overall well-being, intended to reduce stress, improve interpersonal relationships, increase energy levels, support well-being and increase restful sleep.

In a supporting role, Diana Van Dootingh, Col. Van Dootingh’s wife and the 910th AW's lead key spouse, spoke to breakout groups on the duties, goals and promises the Key Spouse/Support Program makes to the loved ones of Airmen during deployments. She also spoke in Warrior Support Forums of ways family members can best support their deployers. Key Spouses contact the families of deployed members to offer help and guidance over any and all day-to-day issues from childcare to yard work. The program enhances readiness and establishes a sense of Air Force community through spouse-to-spouse networking, in turn significantly reducing mental stress for both the deployed Airmen and their dependents.

The program pulls its cast and audience from all across the command and country. Whether virtually on a screen or socially on stage, Yellow Ribbon will continue preparing and recuperating Airmen and their loved ones before, during and after deployments. It is one mission in support of all Air Force missions to include the 910th AW’s mission of “Combat ready NOW… for tomorrow's fight!”

Editor’s note:

Yellow Ribbon events are documented for public awareness by AFRC Public Affairs joint-unit teams. Filling one final role representing YARS was Staff Sgt. Noah Tancer, a 910th AW PA specialist, tasked as writer for the event’s news feature and this 910th AW highlight story.