Putting technology to the test, Airmen complete virtual UTA

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jami Lancette
  • 434th ARW Public Affairs

Readiness, resiliency and the ability to adapt during a time of crisis are just a few characteristics that the men and women of the 434th Air Refueling Wing embody during tough times.

To help keep Grissom Airmen safe, healthy and mission-ready, the 434th ARW held a virtual unit training assembly May 2-3.

“We want to maintain connections and let our members know we care about them all while keeping Airmen mission ready,” said Chief Master Sgt. Wes Marion, 434th ARW command chief. “Particularly in a time where we are physically distant, people may tend to feel isolated.”

To overcome the obstacles of keeping Airmen current from home, yet enable valuable training opportunities, leadership rolled up their sleeves and got a little creative.

“One of the things we knew while we planned a virtual UTA is that one size doesn’t fit all,” said Marion. “Airmen may or may not have computer access to a lot of our online training so we tailored individual readiness items via video links for Airmen to complete.

“Once those readiness items were completed, we also provided forms for Airmen to work on their professional and personal development such as enlisted performance reports and officer performance reviews reports added Marion.

Keeping safety and the well-being of Airmen in mind while making sure mission readiness was available to all, the 434th Force Support Squadron implemented an innovative approach in welcoming new Airmen to the wing. 

“We created videos of our leadership and other briefers as if the newcomers meeting were in person,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Weaver, 434th FSS NCOIC of force management.  “It took about two weeks to get everything made and ready.” 

To ensure accountability and program completion, Weaver required a virtual report time and was able to track progress in real time.   

“In order to track their attendance, they had to send an email Saturday morning stating that they opened the drive,” said Weaver. “From there I was able to track their progress and see what videos and presentations had been opened and completed.”

Leaders all around base got creative and tailored their training to make a virtual UTA be one that not only continued readiness but also helped Airmen in areas hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the big things that we offered is financial readiness classes,” said Stacey Pennington, 434th ARW Airmen and Family readiness director. “We offered six different briefings during four different virtual office hours.

“We knew this was important because this is one of the areas Airmen are being affected by the pandemic the most; their employment, and that in-turn affects their finances,” added Pennington.

The virtual UTA isn’t the only time that Airmen are able to use the many resources Pennington’s office has to offer.

“During our virtual UTA we took care of Airmen and gave them opportunities to connect with leaders and connect with each other,” she said. “We want Airmen to know we are open for business and are here to help them not just during a virtual UTA but every day.”

To make all of this come to fruition, it took the ingenuity and resourcefulness of a village.

“We had a lot of help from our team on base as well as help and information from other bases while planning this virtual UTA,” said Marion. “Without them it wouldn’t have been possible.

“Leadership wants Airmen to know that the wing is still here, our members are important to us and we want to maintain that connection during this difficult time,” said Marion. 

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. Men and Women from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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