WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
When faced with the dilemma of being unable to connect in-person for their April unit training assembly, the 71st Intelligence Squadron was forced to adapt to these challenging times while still maintaining mission readiness … they held a virtual UTA.
71 IS leadership quickly brainstormed ways in which they could still complete the mission in non-traditional fashions. They ultimately decided on holding their very first mass “virtual UTA,” connecting with wingmen from Ohio to California, incorporating the primary objectives of connecting with colleagues and demonstrating care for people.
The commander and full-time Air Reserve Technicians, who serve as the foundation of the squadron, had become increasingly concerned on a number of fronts. With the shelter in place restrictions, they worried that some of their Airmen may be struggling financially, experiencing isolation and that there could be challenges in maintaining the squadron’s high readiness standards. The idea to leverage IT tools to make this event happen demonstrated the team’s commitment to the published schedule and their promise to care for each other even in difficult times.
In order to quickly turn-around a valuable agenda, the team demonstrated unprecedented collaboration gathering feedback not only from within the squadron and 655th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Wing but also by reaching out to other Reservists via social media to crowd source the most impactful ideas. The final product was a meaningful mix of engagements which included morning info sessions on COVID-19, professional development focusing on enhancing EPR writing skills, and innovation brainstorming sessions balanced with afternoons set aside for completing performance reports, travel vouchers, and non-FOUO readiness requirements that members could work on at their homes. There was even a virtual PT session where members sent in “selfies” at the conclusion of their workout. Woven in between these engagements was community sharing of what was happening in service-members’ neighborhoods and how colleagues could help those in need. Tips were provided on resources that could be used for homeschooling and the latest hiring opportunities were shared for those who were seeking employment and/or had been furloughed.
Several best practices were noted during the course of the UTA. Lt. Col. Heidi Nelson, 71st IS commander, remarked about two of her reservists that made the UTA a success and why it was a success.
“One of the key drivers that made this successful was the work done by Master Sgt. Price and Master Sgt. Guzowski who worked with the attendees beforehand to ensure everyone was able to install the software and felt comfortable with the technology that would be used for both days. “They also prioritized OPSEC during the group sessions by appointing an IT focal point to monitor the joining attendees and an OPSEC monitor who briefed the team on the rules of engagement for discussions and also was tasked with intervening if anything crossed into FOUO topics,” Nelson said.
After joining their Saturday session, Col. Ricardo “Crash” Baker, 655th ISR Group commander said, “I was impressed by the initiative displayed by the 71st IS in taking on the logistical and technological challenge of executing the wing’s first squadron-wide virtual UTA. From digging into the regulations to see what was possible to ensuring good OPSEC and accountability and a robust and comprehensive schedule of briefings and tasks throughout the weekend, the 71st leadership team truly excelled, Baker said.
Baker went on to say, “I participated for only one hour as a part of the COVID-19 Q&A, but was blown away by the rigorous attention to detail that clearly went into this block of instruction and the wide ranging detailed information that came out. My hat goes off to Lt. Col. Nelson and her team for their hard work, determination, and innovation paving the way for the wing to maintain readiness, cohesiveness, and camaraderie during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The two-day session concluded with an After Action Review, led by Master Sgt. Finefrock, where the gift of feedback has paved a clear path for an even more engaging UTA in the near future.
“This opportunity to truly connect with our squadron could not have been done without the dedication of every member,” Nelson said. “Truly a job well done by all!”