Military commanders, in accordance with new policies in place to limit the spread of Covid19, were given broad authority to assign members to alternate places of duty and authorize members to perform duties remotely, if possible, on March 13, 2020. Additionally, Reserve components were simultaneously given broad discretion to reschedule, cancel or determine other ways to complete training requirements. Airmen preparing to leave for Professional Military Education, or recruits shipping to Basic Military Training, and Technical School have had to adjust and be flexible. According to Senior Master Sgt. Sharon Fowler, 145th Airlift Wing Force Development superintendent, "Professional Military Education in residence is cancelled for the rest of the Fiscal Year." However, there is now the option to do Professional Military Education virtually. "For virtual Professional Military Education members will be on orders during the course and are expected to be present in class at least 6 hours per day," she adds. For members enrolled in Enlisted Professional Military Education Distance Learning courses, the Barnes Center automatically granted them extensions to avoid having the members individually request extensions, or re-enrollments. Additionally, Air University granted current Career Development Courses enrollments a 90-day extension. Senior Master Sgt. Fowler continues to do testing every week, but with some changes. "It is one at a time and by appointment only," she confirms. The 145th Airlift Wing Student Flight, which is in place for new Air Force National Guard and Reserve recruits to get acclimated to the Air Force while earning drill pay before leaving for Basic Military Training has also had to shift due to Covid19. Master Sgt. Angela Bynum, 145th Airlift Wing Student Flight non-commissioned officer in charge says, "At this time we are complying with the base rules, so Student Flight will drill only those Airmen who are leaving for Basic Military Training and need to out-process prior to shipping out." Besides the usual concerns about completing Basic Military Training, there is also worry about training during a pandemic. "On top of their own fears about Basic Military Training, they fear staying safe and healthy," Master Sgt. Bynum explains. Senior Master Sgt. Fowler states the challenge has been ensuring that everyone is informed of what is going on. "It's a challenge to send anyone anywhere for fear we missed one of the many changes from each and every base. They all have different requirements," states Senior Master Sgt. Fowler, "Formal schools is an ever-changing animal. Basic Military Training and technical schools have changed several times, quarantine requirements have changed weekly, sometimes daily. Reporting instructions have changed." Senior Master Sgt Fowler reflects on carrying out the training mission during the pandemic. "Telework for some, not all, members and functions is possible, at least some of the work week," she states while adding a realistic overview, "It has taught us to be more patient. We are resilient and can adjust."
Story by Staff Sgt. Sonia Clark