WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
Despite the challenges associated with facing an unprecedented global pandemic, the men and women of the 445th Airlift Wing continue pressing forward in support of the Air Force mission.
“I think one of the big things about this pandemic is being capable of fulfilling mission requirements regardless of the situation,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Oliver, electrical and environmental specialist, 445th Maintenance Squadron. “The wing has made sure that we are able to accomplish our goals and stay safe at the same time.”
In the three months between the March and July unit training assemblies, leadership and supervisors scrambled to develop meaningful ways to continue training and mission readiness, tempered with a non-negotiable standard for ensuring the safety and well-being of the force. It was a delicate balance, tailored to the unique functions of each squadron.
The medical squadrons, which are equipped to provide world-class medical care on a moment’s notice, did so. Other squadrons honed in on technical, in-depth training which could be completed more effectively in a distraction-free environment, rather than in-squadron during a typical UTA.
“I found that I was able to truly focus on the content of the training I was lacking, because I wasn’t worried about ringing phones, other meetings, or things like that,” said Maj. Latoya Siples, executive officer, 445th Operations Group. “It ended up being a great opportunity to catch up on some computer-based tasks I needed to do.”
The success of the virtual UTAs depended heavily on communication, organization, and information technology (IT) support. The 445th Force Support Squadron’s communications flight felt the pressure, and stepped up to the challenge.
“We had to figure out how to completely change our work environment very rapidly,” said Senior Airman Randel Tomina, knowledge manager. “From the beginning, we knew that if we weren’t able to effectively transition to telework, the entire wing would suffer.”
Many squadrons are also experiencing the strain of decreased staff capacity, due to social distancing restrictions. The workloads are the same, if not increased, yet there are less qualified Airmen to bear the load, said Master Sgt. Timothy Back, superintendent, knowledge and information management office.
“In a telework setting, all the computer issues we routinely encounter still occur, but now with added challenges,” Back said.
The July UTA featured the return to a new normal for most of the wing’s Reserve Citizen Airmen. Across the base, masked Airmen sanitized their work stations, completed morning temperature screenings, and kept their distance from one another, all while still fulfilling other pre-COVID obligations like Center for Disease Control and Prevention testing, hands-on training, and critical mission support functions.
“It’s a little hectic,” said Tech. Sgt. Cody Warner, aircraft structural maintenance craftsman, 445th MXS, fabrication flight. “There have been a lot of changes to how we interact, but we are used to wearing protective equipment and following safety procedures, so it’s almost second nature to us.”
Universally, each stage of this pandemic has brought new hurdles to navigate, demanding adaptability and resilience.
“We quickly implemented procedures to ensure we could complete the necessary web-based training when it was safest to avoid congregating, and now we’re establishing new procedures so that we can fully transition back to working in the office again,” Siples said.
The future is still a bit hazy, but it’s clear that the Airmen who comprise this wing are determined to do whatever it takes to maintain mission readiness, regardless of the circumstances.
“You still have to get the job done,” said Senior Airman Jordan Kletschka, aircraft structural maintenance apprentice, 445th MXS.