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Advisory Board

Captain Ernst, U.S. National Guard

Bronze Star Medal recipient, Mindi M Ernst, has over 15 years of combined service, commissioned and enlisted. She currently serves as State Family Program Director and Logistics Officer/S4, 232 CSSB, IL ARNG.

Captain Ernst was active for one tour of duty in Iraq from 2006 to 2007. In addition to being awarded the Bronze Star, Mindi earned other noted decorations including The Army Achievement Medal with three oak leaf clusters, The Reserve Component Achievement Medal and The National Defense Service Medal.

Mindi earned a bachelors degree from Southern Illinois University, and currently resides in Illinois.

Colonel (retired) Walt Mikols

Born in Cleveland Ohio and raised in the suburb of Parma. Graduated from Benedictine High School in 1961 and the University of Dayton in 1965. Participated in the ROTC program while in College and was Commissioned a second lieutenant of Infantry. While on active duty was assigned to a variety of command and staff positions in the United States and overseas. Commanded an Aviation unit in Vietnam in 1968. Last assignment was Inspector General, US Army Criminal Investigations Command, Falls Church, VA. Retired a colonel in October, 1991 after over 26 years of service. Military education includes: the Command and General Staff College and the Army War College. Civilian education includes: B.S. Education from Univ. of Dayton and M.S. and PH.D. Education from Bowling Green State Univ.

After retiring from the US Army was employed by the American Red Cross national headquarter and served as Manager and later Director of Disaster Services Preparedness Directorate, and Senior Director Training Development and Delivery Department. Developed the Clara Barton Center of Domestic Preparedness, and the Disaster Services Leadership College. Provided leadership on a number of domestic Disaster Relief operations beginning with Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and culminating with Hurricane Katrina IN 2005. Directed the Red Cross relief operation on site after the terrorist attack at the Pentagon.

Retired from Red Cross and consulted with the following organizations: Allied Defense Group, Armed Forces Services Corporation (AFSC), and Cyalume Technologies. Much of the consulting was centered on developing training systems and marketing opportunities. At AFSC developed the training to support the Soldier’s Benefits Services project, a web-based call/response center. Volunteers with the American Red Cross and Loudon Country Day School.

Deanna Cole

Deanna Cole was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and became an active duty Navy spouse in 1988. Ms Cole has volunteered in Navy Family support groups as well as installation activiites during several Navy deployments. Her husband and family transistioned out of the Navy and into the National Guard in 1998. Deanna has volunteered with Operation Purple Camps for kids dealing with deployment and Operation Legacy Camps for the fallen hero families.

Additionally, Ms Cole has volunteered as a Family Readiness Group (FRG) Vice President, FRG Leader with two Army National Guard Units through two deployments, and volunteered on state and national levels. Deanna was the interviewer for the National Military Family Association’s (NMFA) Cycle of Deployment Survey in 2005.

Deanna has several certifications: Army Family Team Building (AFTB) Master Trainer, AFTB Program Manager, AFTB Army Volunteer Corp Coodinator, Army Community Service Facilitator/Instructor/Briefer Master Trained, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families for Military Families Instructor, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Soldiers Instructor, Covey’s POWER Resiliency Instructor, ScreamFree Marriage/Parenting Instructor and National Volunteer Administrator (CVA). Ms Cole has earned a BA in Organizational Management.

Deanna Cole’s experience volunteering for 23 plus years has led her to work experiences as a state and national volunteer manager, trainer, and mentor.

Mary Bell

Mary Bell has been in information and referral employment for 22 years beginning with work in elder care and now with the Air National Guard in Portland, Oregon. She currently takes care of the 1,000 guard families for the 142nd Fighter Wing, providing information and resources for whatever needs the families incur, especially for those experiencing a deployment. She jokes that her title, Airman & Family Readiness Program Manager, entitles her to ‘get paid by the letter’.

Cultivating community partners/resources and keeping them current to provide the best possible information is her challenge every day. Only one-third of her charges are full time Air National Guard families with the other two-thirds families whose guard member has a civilian job and who come once a month to train at the base. Her office also supports all other branches of service for those who drop into her office. Mary explains that her job is a labor of love since she was an Air Force brat herself and her father retired from active duty 37 years before she came to work at the same base which is now Air National Guard.

The 142nd Fighter Wing flies F-15 fighter jets guarding the western skies from southern Alaska to northern California. Her families live primarily in two states (OR & WA) and are not always located close to the base, creating issues with information sharing. She relies on social media, printed materials and snail mail at times to get the word out.

Mary has one son and is a caregiver for her mother.


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