Striving to be “Second to None” during a pandemic

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Ricardo Hollingsworth
  • AEDC/Test Support Division

When Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) set the goal to be “Second to None” in October of last year, no one would have ever guessed that the following year that goal would face unprecedented challenges.

Going into 2020, the plan was to realign our organizations to more of a wing-like structure, focus on our priorities, and gain clarity in our decisions and transparency in our communication. The plan wasn’t etched in stone, but the guidelines were there. It was well thought out and planned by our commander, Col. Jeffrey Geraghty, and reinforced by his leadership team.

The pandemic has changed our work environment tremendously. When we set out to be “Second to None,” it came with some hurdles that we knew were going to be challenging, but leadership was ready to take action.

When COVID-19 hit, those challenges quickly became mountains. The way we conducted business changed and changed immediately. Over the course of several months, we went from a fully-staffed installation to a ghost town. A Crisis Action Team (CAT) was assembled to mitigate the spread of the disease across the complex. We quickly found out that communication was of the utmost importance in order to maintain the success of AEDC. It was time to rethink our strategy to fit the “new normal.” Our focus had to shift and the key was transparency with our expectations and clarity in our direction.

As we worked through the pandemic, telework was maximized to sustain the mission. To accommodate the new telework status, all laptops on hand were issued and more were purchased.

Video and teleconference platforms were adopted to allow meetings to be more conducive to social distancing, but it didn’t come without its own set of problems. A lot of users, some that are and some that aren’t tech-savvy, had problems learning and using these new platforms that weren’t previously used in their office settings.

The force showed amazing fortitude and overcame these tremendous obstacles allowing AEDC to keep on the path of success. As time passed, more avenues were needed to further our abilities.

Later, a Return to Full Capacity (RtFC) team stood up so that the workforce could slowly be reintroduced to a safe and healthy work environment. The Medical Aid Station reached out to the Eglin Air Force Base Public Health Emergency Officer and other agencies for in-depth Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. The team tracked COVID-19 cases across five different states and over 130 counties. The CAT along with the RtFC team briefed Geraghty and the leadership team so they could make sound decisions for the complex.

Sanitation stations were set up along with the implementation of touch point cleaning and deep cleaning. Face coverings were mandated in common areas and where members could not maintain 6 feet of separation. Alternating telework and in-office work schedules were established in some areas, rotating the staffing while maintaining minimum manning in the work areas.

Through a collaborative effort by all the teams involved, AEDC has established a clean work environment for the staff to return to Arnold AFB and its geographically separated units.

Despite the current condition we now call the “new norm,” we push towards our goal to accomplish the 2020 AEDC strategy. COVID-19 may have slowed down the process, but our dedication and ambitions have proven to have great resiliency.

Further apart, but working as a team, like AEDC always does, we changed up the way we do business but never faltered. We worked under the guideline of the CDC and implemented policies and procedures to give our returning workforce a clean, safe and healthy environment to work.

Even though our work dynamic might have changed, our focus has not. As we progress through this pandemic our practices, policies and procedures will undeniably change but there is one thing that is for sure – we will continue to pursue mission excellence, we will invest in our people and invest in and sustain our complex. Through clarity in direction and transparency with our leadership, we will strive to be “Second to None!”