News | Aug. 31, 2020

COVID-19 doesn’t stop CBRN

By Maj. Denise Hauser 940th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Air Force members across the world are required to be ‘green to go,’ having all readiness training completed and prepared to deploy within 72 hours. That includes Reserve Citizen Airmen.

Since March 2020, servicemembers have been completing training while following COVID-19 health guidelines.

Part of readiness training includes Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield explosives.

According to Tech. Sgt. Jim Stonebarger, 940th Air Refueling Wing emergency manager, changes to the training had to be made.

“The training is still required to be done, but we have to do it in a restricted COVID environment” said Stonebarger.

Before the pandemic, classes could have up to 30 people, he said.  Now class sizes are limited to no more than 10 people. The 940 ARW has been managing this by having three instructors teach separate classes simultaneously to accommodate fore restrictions.

“We have to instruct each group at different locations to follow the social distancing guidelines, so we have to utilize multiple locations to accomplish the same training at the same time,” said Stonebarger.  “There is a lot more leg-work involved in the planning process than before COVID.”

The emergency manager also said social distancing during class means instructors have to personally train each student instead of the group being close enough to pick up the instruction of another student.

“This is done so hands-on contact between students is minimized to reduce cross contamination while instructors check the trainee’s suit and mask are worn correctly,” he said.

Stonebarger said another challenges is the more individualized and hands-on intensiveness of instructing this way takes more time to complete the course, which takes away from everyone’s availability to complete other requirements during the reserve weekend.

“However,” Stonebarger said, “even with the challenges of training in this COVID environment, the mission is still being accomplished. We actually prefer the smaller classes because we can focus more on the individuals. The former larger classes made it difficult to reach each student. Now with the smaller classes, we are better able to make sure each member understands all parts of the training and answer their questions.”

Stonebarger said even if COVID-19 restrictions are lifted sometime in the future, Emergency Management may continue to train with the smaller class sizes.