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Socially distanced while staying connected: AFGSC Reservist pins on first star via virtual video chat

Photo of Brig. Gen. Murphy's virtual promotion.

Brig. Gen. William Murphy's daughter, Rachel, was able to virtually watch her father's promotion ceremony from her home in Santa Monica, California, on April 4, 2020. Because the general was unable to have an in-person ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic, friends and family from around the world were able to join the virtual ceremony using remote conferencing services. (Courtesy photo)

Photo of Brig. Gen. Murphy's virtual promotion

T.J. Murphy, daughter of Brig. Gen. William Murphy, is able to watch her father's promotion ceremony April 4, 2020, via remote conferencing services. Family and friends joined the ceremony from as far away as Hawaii, Uzbekistan, and Germany. Murphy is the Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the Director of Operations and Communication at Air Force Global Strike Command.

Photo of Brig. Gen. Murphy's virtual promotion.

Brig. Gen. William Murphy, Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the Director of Operations and Communication at Air Force Global Strike Command, receives his one star flag, is pinned on my family members and takes his oath virtually from Eighth Air Force Commander, Maj. Gen. James Dawkins (not pictured). Friends, family and colleagues joined in viewing ceremony from around the world after COVID-19 forced a change in plans from an in-person ceremony to a virtual one. (Courtesy photo)

Photo of Brig. Gen. Murphy's one-star coin

Brig. Gen. William Murphy, Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the Director of Operations and Communication at Air Force Global Strike Command, shows off his new one-star coin after being promoted in a virtual ceremony using remote conferencing services. Family and friends participated from as far away as Hawaii, Uzbekistan and Germany and from all over the United States after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled plans for an in-person ceremony. (Courtesy photo)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --

With COVID-19 quickly spreading around the world, the need for social distancing to mitigate the virus has disrupted not only the daily work and school routines of most Americans, it has also caused the cancellations or changes of many important celebrations, such as birthday parties, weddings and even promotions.

One member of the Air Force Global Strike Command team recently found a unique way to share his promotion celebration with family, friends and coworkers using available technology.

Brig. Gen. William Murphy, Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the Director of Operations and Communication at Air Force Global Strike Command, officially pinned on his first star April 4 during a ceremony attended by dozens of friends and family members using remote conferencing services.

“When discussing this promotion with my family, especially my wife on whether we would delay or maybe even skip ceremony all together, I think my wife Natalya summed it up best for me - ‘even in times such as these, we NEED to be able to celebrate those once in a lifetime events, marriages, baptisms, graduations and in this case a promotion ceremony,’” Murphy said during the ceremony. “So here we are celebrating what may be the first ALL virtual ceremony where each participant and attendee (with the exception of three of my family members) are all at different locations.”

Making the ceremony work required additional up-front coordination as the presiding official, narrator and chaplain all connected remotely from their homes, as well as real time interactions from multiple individuals/locations as they switched video feeds, and moderated questions and comments from attendees.

The general said that the ceremony was “surreal,” because the audience could see him, but he couldn’t see them. Family and friends participated from as far away as Hawaii, Uzbekistan and Germany and from all over the United States.

Maj. Peter Dobbins, executive officer for the AFGSC Directorate of Operations and Communication was one of the general’s coworkers who attended the ceremony virtually and served as narrator. 

“This was a unique situation, as the ceremony was not hosted by a grand attendance in a hall or theater, rather we all witnessed this special achievement by virtual attendance from our living room,” he said. “We are living in an interesting time, where military traditions are impacted, but not halted, as we produce solutions using modern video telecommunications.”

He added that the precautions we’re taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has us seeking alternative methods to continue traditions.

“From what was considered a simple method to video-chat, or host a small business meeting, now Gen. Murphy could connect with friends and family from around the nation,” Dobbins said. “The only thing missing - the taste of promotion BBQ!”

Murphy feels that his ceremony was the perfect example of how the nation is finding innovative ways to do business.

“We are living in historic times; social distancing, travel bans….we are all taking these measures, rightly so, for the health, wellness and lives of all those around us,” Murphy said. “I don’t see us going back to business as usual for quite some time….if ever. Our nation, to paraphrase Defense Secretary Esper, needs to ‘adapt, innovate and continue to demonstrate’ the values and culture that makes America strong, resilient and a country where we stand with each other in the face of diversity.”

Murphy was commissioned in 1990 as a graduate of the Air Force ROTC program at University of Nebraska, Omaha. He was a Distinguished Graduate in the Minuteman II and Minuteman III weapon systems and has served in numerous wing, Numbered Air Force, Air Staff, Combatant Command and Joint Staff assignments. He has served on faculty for the Reserve Component National Security Course, National Defense University and as guest lecturer for the Air Force Nuclear Fundamentals Course and Nuclear Concepts Course. He was awarded Joint Qualified Officer (Level III) in 2012.

In his civilian capacity, Murphy is transitioning to the position of Director, Senior Leader Education at Louisiana Tech Research Institute. Prior to his current position, he served as Chief, Operations Training and Standardization Division, Joint Staff, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

As he wrapped up his remarks, Murphy thanked those who helped make his virtual ceremony possible, and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to continue to serve.

“I am humbled our great Air Force has given me the honor and privilege to serve this great nation for an additional 3 years and I pledge to all you watching from internet land that I will ‘do my best’ - the same pledge I have lived these past many years.”

At the end of the ceremony, Murphy even had a virtual receiving line, with numerous friends, family, mentors and co-workers chiming in – a good example of how members of Air Force Global Strike Command are remaining socially distant while staying connected.