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Virtual promotions: Upholding tradition

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady
  • 480th ISRW/PA
A time-honored military tradition is the promotion ceremony. The ceremony highlights a significant achievement in a service member’s career. However, as the world is impacted by COVID-19, many traditional events have been disrupted.

Determined not to let this tradition lose its significance, the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group at Fort Gordon, Ga, recognized their April and May promotees with a virtual promotion ceremony.

“It would have been easy to cancel the promotion ceremony in light of current events; however, Fort Gordon Airmen are not interested in doing what is easy, but rather in doing what is right,” said Chief Master Sgt. Shaun Khoenle. “Putting on this ceremony for our promotees was the right thing to do, and Staff Sgt. Groshong and his team exceeded all expectations in executing it.” 

The idea for the virtual ceremony came from Group leadership as April's promotion ceremony was changed from an in-person environment to a virtual setting. Once the method was determined, the Airmen leading the promotion ceremony started formulating how to execute the ceremony. 

“We reached out to the units, supervisors were able to have promotees get in touch with me,” said Staff Sgt. Gabriel Groshong, 480th ISRG. “We weren't sure how cheering would sound either so when we did our run through, we had everyone clap. There was a lot of mic feedback so we decided to have the promotees be congratulated through the chat feature. Throughout the ceremony, the chat was very active and it was awesome to see.”

“It is important that we recognize these Airmen because each promotion comes with increased leadership responsibilities,” added Khoenle. “The promotees have mastered the responsibilities of their previous grades while demonstrating the potential to serve in the next grade, and that deserves to be celebrated with their family, Wingmen, and leadership.” 
Not only did this event allow 30 Airmen to be recognized while maintaining social distance, but numerous family members and friends attended virtually.

“We had people all the way from Germany and California attending the ceremony,” said Groshong. “The virtual environment was great to allow people who couldn't normally attend a promotion ceremony share in the Airman's milestone.”

“I have heard the Airmen and families really enjoyed event,” added Khoenle. “Ironically, this ‘venue’ boosted our connectiveness by allowing us to share the event with families and friends from outside the local area. I could see us live streaming similar events even in a post-COVID world.”     

After the successful event, the team is focused on ways to improve future ceremonies to ensure they continue to uphold military traditions.

“I have been in for over 15 years and promotion ceremonies are always something I look forward to attending,” said Groshong. “These milestones in an Airmen's career are always worth celebrating. I think celebrating the people who make the Air Force great is one of our best traditions, whether it is virtual or in person.”