JOE FOSS FIELD, S.D. --
The 114th Fighter Wing continues training with the help of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several squadrons started implementing virtual Unit Training Assemblies this month in order to protect the health and safety of Airmen. This new way of training will also allow the 114th Fighter Wing to continue to own its missions while enforcing current Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention force health protection measures.
Lt. Col. Karl Palmberg, 114th Operations Support Squadron commander, and Maj. Ariel Keating, 114th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, led the Wing’s effort by researching existing guidance, and creating a framework for virtual training to be conducted across the wing.
“We wanted to make sure that shop supervisors are able to track the training and assignments that they give to their Airmen. We also wanted to make sure there was a way for supervisors to make sure Airmen finished the training they were assigned,” said Palmberg.
Keating and Palmberg also gave examples of tools supervisors could utilize to accomplish this training.
“The goal is to carry out the training, but we wanted individualized training for every shop. We gave supervisors examples of what they can do, but ultimately gave them the creativity to individualize the training,” said Palmberg.
One squadron that conducted virtual training was the 114th Security Forces Squadron, which held their monthly Unit Training Assembly on schedule. However, it involved plenty of planning and the utilization of technology to provide effective training to Airmen in this new, restricted environment.
“It was a long and busy week getting it all setup, making sure everything was easy to access, and making sure we followed all the guidelines that were provided,” said Tech. Sgt. Jared Mengenhausen, 114th Security Forces training manager.
The technology available today made this training possible. Teleconference and cloud based storage apps were vital to the security forces virtual training.
“We utilized cloud based storage apps to centralize all our training material and any important info we wanted to push out to our troops. Our troops could also submit any training worksheets that they completed, so we could verify that the training was being accomplished,” said Mengenhausen.
Mengenhausen, along with squadron leadership, planned and identified materials that Airmen could train on from home. They were able to accomplish this by looking through their Airmen’s training records to determine what training was due, and then selected tasks that could easily be accomplished on the computer, and in the safety of their home.
The 114th Security Forces Squadron also recognized the importance of keeping Airmen connected during this time of social distancing, so they incorporated training that could be done as a group.
“We still wanted to utilize the leader-led style of training, so we tried to pick tasks and topics that would engage our troops in group discussion led by the squad leader, and tasks that would still have a beneficial value to the training while doing it virtually,” said Mengenhausen.
The 114th Fighter Wing continues to support overseas contingency operations, defend homeland airspace, and provide support to civil authorities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Mengenhausen emphasized the need for Airmen to remain sharp at their skills in order to maintain the Wing’s overall readiness.
“There are a lot of perishable skills and things are constantly changing. If you don’t continue to train, your troops will lose those skills, and you will spend more time re-training those skills instead of building on them,” said Mengenhausen.