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Pacific Warriors connect despite physical distancing

A photo of U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Ray Arceo, the 44th Aerial Port Squadron ramp services superintendent, conducting virtual training with unit members during the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Guam. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Ray Arceo, the 44th Aerial Port Squadron ramp services superintendent, conducts virtual training with unit members during the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Guam. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

A photo of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Amber Kurka, 624th Public Affairs photojournalist craftsman, speaking with Col. Athanasia Shinas, the 624th Regional Support Group commander, during a video teleconference interview April 2, 2020, from her home in Mililani, Hawaii, about the unit’s upcoming first-ever virtual unit training assembly. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Amber Kurka, 624th Public Affairs photojournalist craftsman, speaks with Col. Athanasia Shinas, the 624th Regional Support Group commander, during a video teleconference interview April 2, 2020, from her home in Mililani, Hawaii, about the unit’s upcoming first-ever virtual unit training assembly. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

A photo of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Charlie Trilles, a 624th Civil Engineer Squadron Engineering Journeyman, teleworking with his son Evan during the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Honolulu, Hawaii. Like many of the people in the U.S., Reserve Citizen Airmen in Hawaii and Guam are adapting to family and work requirements during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Charlie Trilles, a 624th Civil Engineer Squadron Engineering Journeyman, teleworks with his son Evan during the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Honolulu, Hawaii. Like many of the people in the U.S., Reserve Citizen Airmen in Hawaii and Guam are adapting to family and work requirements during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

A photo of U.S. Air Force Teck. Sgt. Raena Campos, a Personnel Systems Management with the 624th Regional Support Group  Force Support Flight, providing personnel assistance to members as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from her home in Hawaii. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Teck. Sgt. Raena Campos, a Personnel Systems Management with the 624th Regional Support Group Force Support Flight, provides personnel assistance to members as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from her home in Hawaii. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

A photo of U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jared Arellano, from the 44th Aerial Port Squadron, participating during a slide presentation as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Guam. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jared Arellano, from the 44th Aerial Port Squadron, participates during a slide presentation as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Guam. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

A photo of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. David Hsu, 624th Aeromedical Staging Squadron aerospace medical technician, taking the oath of enlistment from Lt. Col. Ramos Regan, a 624th ASTS clinical nurse, via video teleconference during a virtual reenlistment as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Hawaii. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. David Hsu, 624th Aeromedical Staging Squadron aerospace medical technician, takes the oath of enlistment from Lt. Col. Ramos Regan, a 624th ASTS clinical nurse, via video teleconference during a virtual reenlistment as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Hawaii. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

A photo of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Victor Reinares, a 624th Civil Engineer Squadron structural craftsman, conducting hands-on preplanned component of his training from home in Hawaii as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Victor Reinares, a 624th Civil Engineer Squadron structural craftsman, conducts hands-on preplanned component of his training from home in Hawaii as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

A photo of U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Ivan Vibar, from the 44th Aerial Port Squadron, participating in computer based training requirements as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Guam. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Ivan Vibar, from the 44th Aerial Port Squadron, participates in computer based training requirements as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Guam. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

A photo of U.S. Air Force Capt. Kathleen Page, a 624th Aeromedical Staging Squadron clinical nurse, providing medical training from her home in Hawaii to more than 30 Reserve Citizen Airmen assigned to the 624th ASTS as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Guam. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Kathleen Page, a 624th Aeromedical Staging Squadron clinical nurse, provides medical training from her home in Hawaii to more than 30 Reserve Citizen Airmen assigned to the 624th ASTS as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Guam. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

A photo of U.S. Air Force Capt. John Penaranda, the 624th Civil Engineer Squadron readiness flight commander, administering the oath of enlistment via video teleconference during a virtual reenlistment for Tech. Sgt. Miguel Gil, a 624th Civil Engineer Squadron water and fuel systems maintenance craftsman, as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Hawaii. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)
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U.S. Air Force Capt. John Penaranda, the 624th Civil Engineer Squadron readiness flight commander, administers the oath of enlistment via video teleconference during a virtual reenlistment for Tech. Sgt. Miguel Gil, a 624th Civil Engineer Squadron water and fuel systems maintenance craftsman, as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020, from his home in Hawaii. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

A photo of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. TSgt Jeffery Baez, a 624th Civil Engineer Squadron structural craftsman, conducting hands-on preplanned component of his training from home in Hawaii as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)
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U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. TSgt Jeffery Baez, a 624th Civil Engineer Squadron structural craftsman, conducts hands-on preplanned component of his training from home in Hawaii as part of the 624th Regional Support Group virtual unit training assembly April 4, 2020. Air Force Reserve Airmen in Hawaii and Guam continued mission readiness training during the first-ever 624th RSG virtual UTA, which was implemented to help keep Airmen safe during COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --

Recognizing limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Pacific Warriors here and in Guam utilized innovative solutions to increase social connections while keeping Airmen and families safe during their April unit training assembly.

For the 624th Regional Support Group, restrictions and shelter-in-place orders didn’t mean training cancellations, but instead provided leaders the opportunity to conduct the first-ever virtual UTA in both locations.

Instead of physically reporting to workplaces, Airmen throughout the Group participated in virtual meetings, computer-based training, daily check-ins, and other training from their own homes.

“Our top priority is keeping our Airmen and their families safe,” said Col. Athanasia Shinas, the 624th RSG commander. “While we need to be physically distant, we don’t want to be socially distant. Now more than ever we need to stay socially connected as a team and as a family.”

For many Reserve Citizen Airmen, the Air Force Reserve is not only about the mission, but it is also about camaraderie and taking care of each other during times of crisis.

“When we first realized there was a potential that we would not be doing April UTA due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a lot of concern for our Airmen and the personal struggles they were facing,” said Maj. J. DeMeo, the 624th Aeromedical Staging Squadron staff dentist, and key member of the virtual UTA development team for the ASTS. “Being able to connect with people is a really important way to help them manage stress, and to make sure they have the support they need to help their families at this time.”

For Lt. Col. Lisa Huntoon, the 624th Medical Operations Flight commander, the ability to connect with her flight was extremely meaningful.

“As a flight commander, having the ability to see my Airmen and ask them how they’re doing, and to listen to their personal stories almost had me in tears,” said Huntoon. “One of my Airmen had to cancel her wedding and listening to her story was heartbreaking. I could see that my flight members needed this connection, but what was even more amazing was the level of resiliency they have displayed as we continued to connect as a team.”

Leaders were able to connect with their Airmen through using technology. Through the development of training plans geared towards a digital environment, teams were able to continue mission essential operations and tasks.

“We have more than 98 percent of the Airmen in the squadron teleworking,” said Maj. Kenneth Ruggles, the 48th Aerial Port Squadron commander. “We have a deployment coming up, so we’re focusing on skill level and Total Force training, ensuring Airmen are ready to do their jobs downrange.”

Not only were squadrons able to accomplish critical training requirements, but the virtual UTA provided an opportunity to complete medical readiness requirements to fulfill short-notice deployments.

“We received a tasking for one of our members to deploy for the COVID-19 response,” said DeMeo. “Through the use of digital technology, we were able to give that member a required same-day medical exam enabling them to leave that evening for their deployment.”

For medical professionals, the use of technology to connect with patients allowed them to adapt and provide care despite the current challenges of physical distancing and sheltering-in-place.

“Having people literally separated by thousands of miles is a serious challenge for maintaining medical readiness,” said Lt. Col. David Trowbridge, the 624th Aerospace Medicine Flight commander. “Thankfully through the use of virtual applications we’ve been able to reach out to members to get an update on their medical status and their readiness in order to get them out the door to respond to a short-notice tasking to help with this pandemic.”

According to Group leadership, they're focused on continued training for their mission of providing throughput of cargo, passengers, patients and runway repair. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the 624th RSG will continue to adapt to the challenges, not only protecting Airmen and families, but the communities they serve.

“Preserving our force is important,” said Shinas. “We need to be both physically and mentally ready to respond in order to help our communities, our country, and execute our wartime mission. We do that by making our Airmen and their families our top priority. We are a resilient group of military professionals and we will overcome whatever challenges we face together as a family.”