Det 880 Adapts to Unique Challenge of COVID-19
Air Force ROTC Detachment 880 has worked hard to adjust its training activities to meet the unprecedented demands of a world struck by the coronavirus pandemic. Every area of the AFROTC program, from classroom instruction to physical training and leadership laboratories, has evolved to adhere to mask usage, social distancing, and other COVID guidelines.
The cadets’ Air Force courses have aligned themselves with VMI standards for in-person instruction. Maximum occupancy in each classroom has been halved to allow for proper social distancing, and cadets are required to wipe down their areas with disinfectant spray and paper towels before seating themselves. Masks must be worn at all times by cadets, and many assignments are now turned in online as digital copies, rather than the traditional paper work. Classrooms have been supplied with rolling plexiglass dividers to allow professors the opportunity to remove their masks for better projection and clarity while teaching. In the event that a cadet is quarantined and unable to attend class, a Zoom link will be provided for the cadet to join class virtually. Each of these actions has been taken in an effort to provide cadets the highest quality in-person instruction while not sacrificing the health and wellness of cadets, faculty, and staff.
Physical training, which usually consists of cadets exercising in close proximity to one another, has seen major modifications as well. The start times for each service’s PT have been staggered to decrease congestion to and from the workout and in shared exercise areas. PT circles typically allow for a couple of feet between each cadet, but have been widened significantly to allow for a distance of eight to ten feet. Masks, although not required to be worn during exercise, are encouraged anyways and must be worn by cadets when not actively working out. Partner exercises have been eliminated from PT plans due to the physical contact required. Additionally, certain Friday PT sessions have become individual workouts, both to minimize group activity and to allow other VMI events to take place. Great measures have been taken to mitigate as much coronavirus risk as possible during cadet physical training.
Leadership laboratories are another aspect of Air Force cadet training that have seen large changes this year. The entire Cadet Wing typically meets together in the Mallory Lecture Hall, but this has changed as a result of COVID policy. This semester, one half of the Cadet Wing meets in Mallory Lecture Hall and the other half meets in Gillis Theater, providing additional space to meet social distancing requirements. Zoom is used to join the two groups together, with briefs and instruction for the entire group delivered in one location and streamed to the other. Additional training is provided outside to the greatest extent possible, and mask and distancing regulations are adhered to. Training conducted during Saturday ROTC control times will be conducted in much the same manner. Planners for these events are taking the utmost care and precaution to provide high-quality training in a safe and low-risk manner.
Detachment 880, and VMI as a whole, have both gone to great lengths to accommodate strict health and safety measures in these unprecedented, trying times. Cadet, detachment, and school leadership elements are working together closely to provide the best education and training available in a safe manner that mitigates as much COVID risk as possible.
Cadet Drew Melusen ‘22
Air Force ROTC Detachment 880
Virginia Military Institute