Fun, friends and learning at the 446th Airlift Wing's Family Day

By Gail Wood on July 15, 2014

It was a day for having fun, meeting new friends and finding help.

That's the focus of the 446th Airlift Wing's annual Family Day symposium and picnic. With an emphasis on fun, it was a mix of kid's games, a tasty barbeque lunch and a morning of hearing about support programs for families.

"It's one of our ways to say thank you," Lt. Col. Anna Sullivan said. "These families put up with so much."

About 3,200 people, from parents to grandparents to kids, took part in the day for reservists at Heritage Hill on McChord Field, July 12.

There were three pieces to the event. In the morning, there was a spouse flight around Mount Rainier in a C-17. Then there was the education piece in the morning that worked as a conduit, connecting families with helpful programs from health care to counseling to employment.

The free picnic, which was catered by Dickey's Barbecue, and games, which included a bouncy castle, paper airplane throw, ball toss through a hoop, jewelry making, putt-putt golf, ping pong and volleyball, put the fun into the event.

"This is also a good way for all the families to get together," Sullivan said.

There was information on programs that covered airmen and family readiness, military family counseling, fitness and employer support for those in the Reserves. There were symposiums on 13 different programs, which included Air Force Aid Society, Hero 2 Hire and the Wingman Tool Kit.

Another program was Yellow Ribbon, a congressional mandate that has a mission to tell reservists about employment and connect them with potential employers. It's for pre- and post-deployment. To attract families to Yellow Ribbon, an expense-paid trip to Disney World for the reservist's family is offered.

"It's bait," Sullivan said.

The objective is to find employment for the reservists.

"If they work here, they stay here, and we don't have to get other people, that helps keep everyone happy," Sullivan said. "We want them to be happy and employed. Lots of the programs are good to our people."

Representatives from these different programs gave presentations to show the resources available to them.

The day was also about reservists getting a chance to bring their family to the picnic and introduce them to co-workers.

"Typically, we're coming out one weekend a month or coming out on our annual tour," Sgt. Minnette Mason said. "What we do each year is set up an event that is family friendly."

It was mission accomplished. The food and games, which was coupled with a beautiful sunny 90-degree summer day, was certainly crowd-pleasing.

"Today is about the families of our reservists," Mason said. "It gives the airmen a chance to come together and get to know the families. They're the ones who allow us to do our job."

Michelle and Daniel Faust stood in a long line with their children waiting to get a hearty barbeque lunch.

"It's fun, but the lines are a little long," said Daniel, a reservist in the 446th Airlift Wing.

The lines were about 300 people deep. Michelle was among the 40 spouses who took the airplane ride in a C-17 around Rainier in the morning.

"It was a wonderful day," Michelle said. "It's a fun, fun day. It gives you a chance to connect with the other families."