BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, California --
Communication is the plan. Effective communication is described as the active receiver waiting for the feedback response from the sender and back around again to the receiver.
Just like commanding, communication is a must. Communication is always a challenge due to unscheduled interruptions, getting the message across with its intended purpose and all other external obstacles around and constant thoughts going on in everyone’s mind at every given second of a day.
It’s a tough job, being the communicator. It’s a tough job, being a good listener.
So what can a commander do to reach the Airmen, hear the questions they may have and respond to what is exactly on their minds?
Colonel Jeffrey J. Downs, 940th Air Refueling Wing commander has set the stage for his wing just for that reason, effective communication.
This past August, Downs coordinated with the wing public affairs office to set up and host a Zoom Virtual Conference event with no less, social distancing and all mandated guidelines in place for the staff.
The commander’s call for the unit training assembly was nearly seamless. A lot of planning went into making this Zoom event a hit.
The public affairs staff reserved the community center and had access to executive style furniture and props. So, in essence a small professional set was created. Behind the scenes, technically speaking, things were a bit more technical.
TSgt. Brenda H. Bell, 940 ARW, noncommissioned officer in charge and lead photo journalist used her specialized skills to broadcast the commander’s call flawlessly. A wide variety of tools were used. The main camera was an i-Phone positioned on a small tripod with a Vastar bracket frame to support it.
Two MacBook Pros were used with one dedicated to run slides live during the presentation with the other MacBook to monitor chat and to forward questions to another public affairs member’s i-Phone providing incoming questions for the commander and to the command chief.
The staff had a timekeeper on hand with flip cards to keep the commander aware of the time.
It was a process but a successful one.
“I think there was a lot of hard work that went it to that and I am very appreciative of the efforts, so we can communicate directly with our Airmen,” said Downs. “That allows us to get our story out versus having the story filled by the Airmen themselves.”
The repeat performance, November UTA weekend, included another Zoom meet. This time the commander called for only a question and answer session for the wing’s Airmen. Down’s intent was to answer previous questions that had been asked but he wanted to verify any and all sources and content for accuracy and take new questions too.
The 940th ARW had Michelle Slusher, 940th ARW finance director, Colonel William Lucas, 940 AMDS commander, Master Sgt. Teresa Lopes, 940 FSS chief of knowledge operations and key spouse representative Blair Downs, ACC 9 FSS and Marlo Smith, spouse representative for the 940 ARW to speak to the audience and take questions.
“I think the Q &A session was a duplicate effort and it went really well and we will continue to have these in the future (as a benefit) for our Airmen to have a voice and get their concerns out so we can help address it,” said Downs.