The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all aspects of life for Americans across the country, but it hasn’t kept Reserve Citizen Airmen from ensuring they are ready to respond at a moment’s notice when the nation calls.
Take the Reservists at the 944th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for example. The wing’s November unit training assembly was very different from the standard two-day UTA. Held Nov. 6-9, the “super UTA” encompassed four days of intense pre-deployment preparations.
This longer UTA was initially scheduled for April of 2020, but, due to COVID precautions, it was postponed to November. The objective for adding two additional days was to have more time to complete training requirements for upcoming deployments.
“COVID has created quite a few constraints over the past six to seven months as far as our ability to complete in-person training,” said Lt. Col. Ronald Sloma, 944th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander and Reserve deployment officer. “We can leverage the time to maximize our training accomplishments.”
The mandatory training includes Self-Aid and Buddy Care medical training, gas mask fitting and usage, and simulated pre-deployment checklist scenarios.
“We are primarily looking to test the deployment process for upcoming RCPs (Reserve Component Periods),” Sloma said.
An RCP is a period of months Reserve Citizen Airmen are more likely to be mobilized to support Air Force taskings around the world.
The most recent example of this for the 944th FW was when more than a dozen of the wing’s medical specialists were mobilized to aid COVID response efforts in and around New York City in April.
“In a worst-case scenario, if we needed to mobilize an entire wing, it would need to happen in a 72-hour period,” Sloma explained. “This is what we are trying to test this weekend.”
Each of the processes and steps required for pre-deployment were evaluated during the super UTA to identify deficiencies and improve overall effectiveness.
“Communication is a critical piece being looked at this weekend because it can delay the entire process,” said Master Sgt. Jessica Schoewe, 944th LRS logistics plans superintendent.
In addition to training requirements, mobilization requires members to visit various offices throughout the wing, including finance, Airman and Family Readiness, legal and the chaplain.
“The most difficult component in this short time frame is ensuring available communication from the correct individuals,” Schoewe said.
Beyond testing members to prepare to deploy, the members who assist with this process were also tested and evaluated during the UTA.
“We want to ensure personnel have the tools and resources needed in order to identify deficiencies and address them accordingly,” Schoewe said. “This exercise will help us improve our processes so we can effectively and efficiently get members out the door.”
Sloma and Schoewe each emphasized the importance of what was accomplished over the long weekend.
“We are testing our deployment process,” Sloma said. “The overarching goal this weekend is to try to find the bottlenecks or gap areas and fix them before people start getting deployed.” #ReserveReady
(Bolken is assigned to the 944th Fighter Wing public affairs office.) ■