MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay at home order in effect, the Airmen of the 931 Maintenance Group at McConnell AFB did what they do best, adapt and overcome. Although they were unable to physically bring all their Airmen in, that did not equate to a cancelled Unit Training Assembly (UTA), but an opportunity to conduct their first virtual UTA.
“Our intention with our May UTA was to connect with one another, while providing opportunities for training, development, and readiness.” Said Col. Robert Thompson, 931 Maintenance Group (MXG) Commander. “Prioritizing health and safety of our Airmen, our Section and Flight leaders across the group did an outstanding job building and tailoring training plans, both for those who participated physically and those who participated virtually. Their efforts and the flexibility of our Airmen paved the way for success.”
The unit was able to review examples of virtual UTAs performed by other bases, and held a couple of MXG wide meetings to discuss how to execute here at McConnell. The biggest challenge faced was the fact aircraft maintenance jobs cannot be done via telework; and a large portion of the maintenance troops don’t regularly use laptops or Common Access Card (CAC) readers. The Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) Section Chiefs didn’t let this hold them back, they developed a robust 2-day agenda that could be accomplished completely on a civilian smartphone, with no .mil requirements. The UTA started off with a FaceBook Live townhall held by the MXG Commander and MXG Chief, Col Thompson and Chief MSgt Peel. During the UTA, the material consisted of everything from aircraft familiarization as the unit transitions to the KC-46, to midterm Feedback preparation, to a few resiliency focused topics.
“We wanted to make the time as high-quality and worthwhile as possible without making it over-complicated or burdensome.” Said Senior Master Sgt. Trevor Derenthal, AMXS Section Chief. “We’re glad we were given the flexibility to develop the UTA and cater it to our maintenance audience, and also glad to have been given the opportunity to continue mission goals and personnel development even during this difficult time.”
In addition to mission requirements, another reason to hold this V-UTA was to provide the Airmen flexibility and a pay/participation opportunity for those with financial concerns.
“Readiness is incredibly important in the Air Force Reserve Command, but so is taking care of your people.” Said Maj. Mike Molloy, 931 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) Commander.
Overall there was a lot of positive feedback from the Airmen.
“It was great being able to do CBT’s and staying informed at the squadron and group level on what was happening.” Said Senior Master Sgt. Armando Allison, AMXS Assistant Production Superintendent.
“I was able to learn more about resources available to me through Military One Source and learn about KC-46 systems through multiple PowerPoints.” Said Senior Airman Alexis Williams, Avionics Systems Journeyman.
“I feel like the virtual UTA was a great alternative to an in-person UTA being that we were in the middle of a global pandemic. This allowed our members to not have to travel and do our part in slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
Molloy had some parting words for his troops at the conclusion of the UTA. “These are challenging times for everyone, and there will likely be lasting changes that will define a “new normal.” The team is here for you and we look forward to defining that future together.”