By Staff Sgt. Ryan Smith
Military leaders of all service branches continue to balance keeping their Soldiers and Airmen combat ready and keeping the safety of their personnel at the forefront of all decisions regarding training activities.
“First and foremost is the safety of the Wing members,” said Col. Jason Knobbe, commander, 184th Wing. “Without them we cannot execute the missions of the Wing.”
The month of March in the U. S. proved to be an extremely trying time as COVID-19 established a foothold and leaders around the nation had to quickly react.
Per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that can cause mild to severe illness.
To slow the spread of the virus, the nation witnessed several states adopt a “shelter-in-place” concept and all non-essential functions came to a halt.
The Kansas Air National Guard’s 184th Wing, McConnell AFB, has been forced to make some of these very same decisions to keep the safety of their Airmen at the forefront.
“We considered all the factors that cancelling the Regularly Scheduled Drill would have on the more than 1,300 members,” said Knobbe. “Most of the same factors that go into all decisions impacting the Wing: mission, members, and guidance from state and national government leaders.”
On March 19, drill for April was postponed until further notice. Very similar to a student going on spring break and not getting a chance to get back into a physical classroom, Airmen assembled for their March drill with the intentions of coming back again in April.
Wing leadership didn’t take the decision lightly to move forward with the cancelling of the April drill and looked for alternative options for May drill.
“We challenged the units to develop training plans that could be performed at home, reducing the footprint required on base, and significantly reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19,” Knobbe said.
The decision was made in mid-April to still hold May drill, but in a virtual format for non-essential Airmen.
“We planned for it and felt the capability was there,” said Knobbe. “Training tasks needed to be accomplished, and many of our members were idle at home anyway, so why not try.
Even with challenges that came with working virtual, Knobbe spoke on the accomplishments.
“You hand a Jayhawk a problem, and they will give you back a list of solutions to choose from in return,” said Knobbe. “My hat is off to everyone that made this a success, and I really can’t say enough about how proud they make me, and how proud I am to call myself a Jayhawk.”