HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --
The 505th Command and Control Wing (CCW) held a Virtual Town Hall on 28 April 2020 on Facebook LIVE. The following is a transcript of the opening remarks by 505 CCW Commander Colonel Richard Dickens along with the questions that were answered during the live event. If you have questions during our new abnormal, please post it as a comment below, or use Facebook messenger to send it to us privately. We will record additional videos to address your questions.
Col Dickens: This is a great opportunity to talk directly to the airmen in the 505 CCW. Due to the travel restrictions, the Chief and I have not had the opportunity to get out and about to our geographically-separated units.
Our wing is unique in the fact we are at the intersection of ACC Directives, host-installation guidance, and state/local government orders. Each location will have a different mix of local installation and government directives.
I wanted to cover four policies that apply to all 505 CCW Airmen.
The first is the Department of Defense Stop Movement order. This order halts all official travel, to include PCS, until 30 Jun. This guidance will be reviewed every 15 days. There are both exemptions and potential waivers to this policy. Waivers should be based on either a mission-essential requirement, humanitarian reasons, or for personal hardship; commanders can submit waivers through the chain of command
Local State stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders. Each state where our wing is located in has some sort of local guidance. Most of these limit gatherings and non-essential activities. All personnel must follow these orders.
Commander, Air Combat Command (COMACC) Order for off-duty activities. COMACC issued an order to all active duty airmen limiting their off-duty activities to those that are mission essential. Airmen will limit their travel to the purposes of household necessity. Outdoor exercise with appropriate social distancing is also authorized.
Finally, the Dept of Defense order for all personnel to wear cloth face coverings while on DoD installations when unable to maintain appropriate social distancing.
The way you can make yourself a hard target for the virus is four-fold... 1) Avoid close contact with anyone outside of your household, 2) Wear a facemask when you are likely to come in close contact with anyone, 3) Sanitize after you touch any high-traffic item, and 4) Practice good hygiene – wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water and don’t touch your face.
The Wing’s vision has not changed despite the COVID-19 pandemic; we are still delivering C2 dominance! In some cases, our higher headquarters has outlined some mission essential tasks we must still perform; two important ones are conducting 13O Multi-Domain Warfare Officer Initial Skills Training and Air Operations Center Initial Qualification Training. For others, I have left mission essential task designation to the unit commanders.
As tragic as the crisis has been, there have been some silver linings for us: We have been able to develop virtual training for students to perform from their hotel rooms while serving a 14-day ROM prior to entering our facilities. We have seen an increase in virtual/constructive training through the distributed mission operations center; units unable to execute full flight schedules can train through their simulators in a virtual and constructive environment. We have seen innovations. One Airman printed PPE for local medical professionals on his 3D printer. A squadron conducted a mask drive and delivered over 100 masks to the local Hurlburt medical staff. We have also had volunteer cloth mask makers – a key spouse made and delivered masks to the base dependents and an honorary commander delivered dependent and child-sized masks for distribution.
Question 1: When can we expect to start returning to normal on Hurlburt Field and in the 505th CCW (i.e. opening the base to all personnel/retirees to allow use of the Exchange / Express / commissary / food trucks / golf course / fitness centers; opening 505th CCW office buildings for all workers [in a disciplined, socially-distancing fashion], etc.)?
Answer: A lot of the decision for the base’s status is driven by Health Protection Condition (HPCON) level. The DoD declared all installation to implement HPCON-C; furthermore, most installations commanders, including Hurlburt Field, declared a Public Health Emergency. Senior military officials are discussing the potential to push reopening down to the local base commanders. Leaders are making daily health and threat assessments, but we can expect a conservative approach to opening back up our installations.
Question 2: Will masks be provided by the units for military and civilians? What type of masks, i.e., materials?—what level of protection do they provide?
Answer: 505 CCW units have been authorized to purchase masks for their members, and we’ve prioritized our mission essential personnel first. Commanders who wish to mandate cloth face coverings for civilian employees under this memo must furnish the face coverings. These are simple cloth face coverings, not the N95 surgical masks worn by healthcare professionals. There are also homemade options for face coverings using scarfs and t-shirts.
Question 3: Do you have to wear a mask to drive onto Hurlburt?
Answer: You do not have to wear a mask when driving through the gate; however, DoD guidance requires the wear of a face covering if you must come within 6 feet of someone else while on a DoD installation. Additionally, there are a few facilities that will require a mask to enter. At Hurlburt Field, for example, you must wear a mask at the Commissary and in the Medical Clinic, regardless of social distancing.
Question 4: Are there any updates to the civilian use/loose leave, similar to the military?
Answer: Civilian leave policy is expected to mirror what was approved for active-duty. The ability to accrue and use through FY23.
Question 5: When the coronavirus has run its course, do you foresee DoD or the Services extending telework arrangements?
Answer: We will take many of the learning points regarding telework forward. Some things we will be able to perform virtually in the future, but other things will still need to be done in-person. While we maximized the use of telework during this crisis, in many cases that meant accepting a less than optimal solution. This experience will enable us to refine our wing-wide teleworking policy, but telework will remain a local commander decision.
Question 6: As the situation improves and work places are opened, will telework still be allowed?
Answer: The transition to open work centers will be made at the local commander level. We will rely on CDC and HHQ risk analysis and guidance for opening work centers. We will not open the facilities without first assessing the risk to force and mission. Commanders are expected to make a decision on the duty location for the personnel based on current guidance and HPCON restrictions. Ultimately, teleworking will remain a local commander decision.
Question 7: Will active duty members be allowed to go to the beaches when they open? The current COMACC order only allows active duty to travel for household necessities. Is there any extension with beaches opening up soon for fitness in accordance with local laws and safety procedures?
Answer: Per COMACC’s order, “Outdoor exercise with appropriate social distancing is authorized.” I expect all active duty military to continue to execute within the intent of COMACC’s order, which is designed to minimize risk of exposure and maximize insulation of our military personnel from COVID-19. COMACC is currently reviewing the order and will adjust, as deemed appropriate, across the command.
Question 8: The 505 CCW COVID-19 huddle slides showed a graphic containing phases for “Opening America.” What are the gates/requirements to move through each phase?
Answer: The Department of Defense is monitoring the “Opening Up America Again” framework published by the White House. The DoD will mirror this framework and we expect it will inform our transition. There are currently no fully defined the gates or requirements for phase transition, but a transition is unlikely until the Public Health Emergency is over and HPCON levels are relaxed.
Question 9: What type of screening will be done at future exercises for participants and observers?
Answer: More than likely, there will be some sort of restriction of movement/quarantine prior to participating in an exercise. Additional screening may take place at the entrances, such as health and temperature checks. You can expect face coverings to be required when working in close proximity to others. Finally, those in the high-risk categories may be further protected with extra precautions.
Question 10: After we open work centers up, will civilians that do not feel comfortable returning be permitted to continue to telework?
Answer: The 505 CCW will move forward smartly by assessing the risk to our force. We will use guidance from HHQ, the CDC, and host installation commanders to open work centers. We will mitigate risk the force through social distancing, face coverings, and cleaning the common areas. This will ultimately be a local commander decision, as they are responsible for determining duty locations based on mission requirements.
Question 11: When the travel restrictions are lifted, how will TDYs be restored? Will all TDYs return back to normal or will there be limitations based on hot-spots?
Answer: We expect that we’ll see a phased approach when the travel restrictions are lifted, to include TDY schedules. Additionally, we might also see geographically-based restrictions that prevent some TDYs. Unit commanders will have to make the risk assessment for each authorized TDY and we may no longer require some TDYs based on the lessons we’ve learned and virtual meeting capabilities we’ve gained during the crisis.
Additional Questions: If you have questions during our new abnormal, please post it as a comment below, or use Facebook messenger to send it to us privately. We will record additional videos to address your questions.