Staying Connected amidst Social Distancing

  • Published
  • By Bo Joyner

There are usually dozens of people packed into the main conference room at Air Force Reserve Command headquarters here for AFRC’s quarterly Community Action Board meetings. Dozens more from across the country participate via video teleconference.

For the latest meeting in early April, it was teleconference or phone-in only as Lt Gen. Richard Scobee, AFRC commander, and his wife, Janis, led the CAB from AFRC’s much smaller – and much emptier – executive conference room, due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements.

The CAB is a senior leader-driven forum to identify and resolve quality of life issues impacting Total Force readiness, incorporating the comprehensive Airmen fitness framework. The CAB promotes collaboration among helping agencies to reduce redundancies, identify gaps in service, and develop and implement local solutions to support the Total Force.

“I want to stress how important it is that we keep the lines of communication open during these difficult times,” the general said in kicking off the meeting. “And making sure we keep communicating with our spouses and family members during this pandemic is just as important as maintaining the lines of communication between our military members.”

Mrs. Scobee stressed the importance of staying connected during these days of social distancing. “Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we make sure everyone knows they are a part of the team,” she said. “Take the extra time to check on the people close to you, both at work and away from the job, to make sure they are doing OK.”

She said the Key Spouse program is one avenue to connectedness. The Key Spouse program is an official Air Force unit family readiness element designed to enhance readiness, strengthen personal and family resilience, and help foster a sense of community among Airmen and families.

Key Spouses and Key Spouse mentors serve as liaisons by bridging communication gaps, providing informal support as needed, and administering ongoing awareness of community resources. The AFRC Key Spouse Facebook page, is the command’s communication resource for helpful information for military members, spouses and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Leaders, Airmen and spouses, please reach out to your Key Spouses,” General Scobee said. “This is the time the Key Spouse program shines. Our spouses are ready to support Airmen and their families any way possible through this pandemic.”

Here are a few additional recommendations for staying socially connected while socially distancing:

• Make a phone call or two. With all the digital options available today, making a simple phone call may seem old fashioned. But hearing someone else’s voice might just be enough to lift both your spirits. The 911th Airlift Wing, Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, has instituted a “phone tree” system to promote connectedness among its members. Participants call some people they know in their unit and some they don’t know to both check on the welfare of others and lay the groundwork for new friendships.

• Connect digitally. While modern technology has often been accused of promoting isolation, during social distancing it can actually help build community and prevent feelings of loneliness. Social media platforms and collaboration tools, like Zoom, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and others, provide tools to communicate with people, and learn and share ideas and skills. Just make sure you make the most of your time on-line by interacting with people and groups who use the platforms in a positive way.

• Take a class or attend an event virtually. Hosts of schools and attractions, like zoos and museums, are providing opportunities for people to take their classes or enjoy their services virtually. Most are making these online services, classes and attractions available for free.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our No. 1 priority has always been to take
care of Americans, our Airmen and their families,” General Scobee said. “That priority has not changed. And one way we are doing that is by making sure every person who is a part of the Air Force Reserve team practices the appropriate social distancing, but stays fully connected with their friends, families, work families and wingmen.”