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Staying connected while separated

  • Published
  • By Catherine White
  • 363rd ISRW
The 363rd Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing has always implemented creative solutions to stay resilient and connected since its activation in 2015. From the dissemination of the 363rd Airman Resilience Team’s “Five Minutes to Thrive” products, which focuses on different resiliency topics each week, to wing-hosted competitions created to bridge the physical separation gap of this geographically separated wing, the Airmen are constantly finding novel ways to build partnerships and connections.   
Today, with social distancing guidelines in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the wing, like so many others, is facing a new set of challenges.
Out of an abundance of caution, a previously scheduled retirement ceremony for Elaine Brown, the wing’s financial management director, was canceled last month. Determined to come together to honor Ms. Brown’s service, 363rd ISR Wing Airmen immediately began brainstorming ways to celebrate. The result: the 363rd ISR Wing’s first virtual retirement party.
“There’s an important distinction between the need for us to maintain physical distancing and the need for us to stay socially connected,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Melissa Stone, 363rd ISR Wing commander. “We can still find creative ways to stay connected and continue our important traditions such as celebrating promotions and recognizing performance, and in the case of Ms. Brown, finding a way to come together to honor her distinguished career of service.”
Hosted on an online video chat, wing staff directors and leadership along with friends and colleagues called in from their homes to celebrate Ms. Brown and her service to the U.S. Air Force.
“Amid the litany of tasks associated with managing an organization during this time, it would be easy to let previously scheduled events be overtaken by the focus on this pandemic,” said Frank McAlpine, 363rd ISR Wing Director of Staff. “However, after four decades of honorable service to her country, managing resource requirements for 12 named combat operations, and acquiring over $400 million to facilitate the wing’s ability to meet global demands, we had to approach this challenge with the same tenacity Elaine would have.”

The wing’s inaugural virtual retirement party was a success. “I believe we created a virtual event filled with friends and peers to truly honor Ms. Elaine Brown’s career,” said McAlpine. “In her words, ‘we made it amazing and memorable.’”
In addition to continuing recognition of their Total Force, leadership also prioritized maintaining meaningful connections with its Airmen. Social gatherings, which are typically held in a conference room, are now hosted on video chat platforms from staff living rooms and home office spaces. Wing town halls and retirement ceremonies have all gone virtual. Friendly competition continues, as Airmen participate in online gaming tournaments set up by units in the wing. Finally, the ART is publishing “Five Minutes to Thrive” more frequently to help Airmen strengthen their mental and physical health during this unprecedented time.
“As individuals, and as a force, we thrive on connectedness,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacqulyn Rider, 363rd ISR Wing NCOIC of religious affairs. “Working from home can be frustrating and even lonely, which is why it is more important than ever to remain connected to those on our teams.”