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NEWS | April 5, 2020

177 FW conducts virtual unit training assembly

By Staff Sgt. Cristina J. Allen 177th Fighter Wing

ATLANTIC CITY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.J. – The 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, is conducting a virtual Unit Training Assembly for many Airmen this weekend in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This innovative form of training is designed to avoid having unit members gathering in large groups and allows them to get the training they need to continue to accomplish the mission of homeland defense while safeguarding Airmen and the community during the coronavirus outbreak in New Jersey.

"To adhere to social distancing rules, Col. Bradford Everman, commander 177th Fighter Wing, has been authorized to approve alternate work schedules and teleworking, to include Unit Training Assemblies," said Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Kennedy, Assistant Adjutant General-Air New Jersey National Guard. "These procedures were put in place to protect our members, their families, and our communities, while still carrying out the mission. Out of these priorities and some very innovative thinking, its ideas like this virtual blackboard learning that are allowing our unit readiness levels to not suffer as a result of this COVID-19 outbreak."

By being able to telework, Airmen are focused on the mission and continuity of operations.

"Teleworking is a multifaceted approach of heeding the warnings, minimizing vulnerabilities, and cultivating a resilient, innovative, and agile culture while operating in a complex domain, Chief Master Sgt. William C. Perkins, the headquarters staff superintendent."

Airmen will telework from home through the Blackboard Learning Management System to accomplish academic and interactive training that will count toward their retirement points and receive pay for the drill weekend.

"The Blackboard Learning Management System's design bridges a breadth of offerings of quality tech-based tools with a tailored design for development." said Perkins. "Furthermore, Airmen want to serve and should be allowed to work. Some may be depending on this UTA paycheck."

Airmen will be able to accomplish virtual academic training, basic ancillary training and training identified explicitly by wing leadership within their respective areas, ensuring force readiness at all times.

"With our strategy of using a learning management system as a platform, the Airmen will be able to accomplish any academic training through the Advanced Distributive Learning System or Joint Knowledge Online," said Perkins. "With Blackboard's assessment and collaborative tools, Airmen will have the opportunity to take part in organic activities developed by leaders within the organization. This training will be unique to the Airmen's needs, as well as provide qualitative data on what the Airmen want in a tailored development program."

Teleworking through Blackboard allows Airmen to stay connected and communicate with their peers, base resources and leadership while maintaining physical, social distancing.

"Blackboard is a sound curating tool where Airmen can hear a message from their leadership, take a course in an array of contemporary topics, blog and collaborate, watch a church service, and receive the latest help available from the Family Support section," said Perkins. "A comforting message from the Family Support or Psychological Health may be what the Airmen need. Think about how this crisis has tested our resiliency. Providing the capacity to connect with the right people who will make the Airmen feel safe, valued, and not alone is paramount for readiness."

This virtual drill was constructed by Wing leadership and designed to keep the needs and safety of the Airmen in mind while still accomplishing the mission.

"The Airmen want a curation of resources at their fingertips from the convenience of their own home," said Perkins. "The platform provides the efficiency for Airmen to navigate to both offices with a click of their mouse. We have contemporary challenges that need to be met with contemporary approaches."



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