JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
The Air Force’s Personnel Center Squadron Commander and Superintendent Course has gone virtual.
As the Defense Department continues to define its new norm due to COVID-19 precautions, AFPC hosted the virtual course May 18-21. The AFPC course directors acknowledged a group of new squadron commanders and superintendents were coming on board this summer, regardless, and would need the sought-after training.
“After the April in-residence class was canceled due to COVID-19, we started brainstorming that Friday afternoon on what needed to occur to keep this vital program going,” said Lt. Col. Josh Hawkins, AFPC co-course director. “We developed the concept for the 20B-virtual program, presented it to Gen. Toth for approval on May 4, and executed 14 days later becoming the first central course to go fully virtual.”
“From the quick adjustments to the innovative processes implemented, the team did a great job across the board putting this course together,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew Toth, AFPC commander. “Is this the future? That is yet to be determined, but we will conduct another virtual class this summer. We know that getting this information upfront, within your first six months of command and not learning it on the fly like I did [as a squadron commander], is how we ensure our leaders are equipped to take care of our Airmen, their families, and the mission.”
The team collaborated with various AFPC subject matter experts across the Talent Management spectrum, developed rules of engagement for the multi-day video-teleconference class hosts, and equipped 46 AFPC “briefer cadre” teammates with interactive training to prepare their briefs for virtual delivery.
“The support we received from the briefer cadre and AFPC leadership was phenomenal,” said Lt. Col. Cody Gravitt, AFPC co-course director. “We always have more interest than spaces in the unit-funded program, which is a testament to the quality of course. During the first 12 hours of registration, we had 40 people enroll.”
“Although I was wary of using Zoom, due to the vulnerabilities identified by the Department of Defense, the platform was very user-friendly and worked like it was supposed to,” said Kim L. Caldwell, 5th Mission Support Group, Minot Air Force Base, Nort Dakota. “I am proud to be one of the nearly 150 students to attend the very first virtual Squadron Commander Course. I’m going to have to find a way to work that into my bio.”
The team fully registered 145 attendees -- a 286 percent increase over the course’s largest in-residence class size of 52 attendees—of the 172 nominations from 11 MAJCOMs. Those nominees who didn’t make the class will be prioritized for the 20C-virtual class in June, Hawkins said.
“We compressed five one-half days of 27 contact hours into approximately 18 hours,” Hawkins added. “The challenge for this class was conducting it before the Memorial Day holiday, which included a family day, and the start of the change of command season.”
“This course is very beneficial for incoming squadron commanders,” said Lt. Col Jamie Humphries, Director, National Media Engagement-New York and inbound 1st Combat Camera Squadron commander. “It provides the groundwork to help you be a successful commander and allows you to focus on some items you may not be as familiar with.”
“The idea to include superintendents allows them to learn the same information the commander is learning and fosters better support between the two,” Caldwell said. “I, most definitely, feel I am better prepared for my upcoming leadership role. I learned about topics I had never considered and am excited to be that selfless, servant leader and mentor.”