Virginia Wing Conference 2020 – Virtual, for the first time.
Virginia Wing hosted their annual conference this past Saturday, Aug. 8, this time in a whole new fashion. For the first time in history, it was virtual.
Like many events in these last few months, the conference had found itself turned upside-down just weeks before an initially planned date for late March. Conference organizers quickly got to work and a virtual version of the conference started to be planned and was slated for August 8th.
The virtual conference was an array of various Civil Air Patrol facets of development for members of all types, cadets and senior members alike. The virtualization of the conference presented an opportunity for different topics to be presented than originally planned. The ability to be anywhere in the world and still be a member attending the conference allowed members as far as Japan and Alaska to be able to participate. The topics discussed at the conference pertained to all members of the organization, and being virtual allowed more people to be exposed to the topics they most enjoyed in the comfort of their own home.
“By going virtual, we opened it up for members outside the wing to come and participate in the conference. It allowed people who typically wouldn’t attend the conference to attend a virtual seminar where they could still advance in their specialty tracks. That opened the door for more members to want to attend the conference,” said the Wing Commander, Col. Dean Gould. “The content of the seminars were able to be adapted from the physical conference … a lot of the experiences were still there, but this way, many more members were able to attend.”
“That kind of diversity, to have so many people from outside the wing and outside the region, that’s not normal at a wing conference. It was easier to be able to get people from everywhere to attend,” said Conference Director Capt. Sarah Nutbrown.
Cadets were exposed to many ideas including making a squadron great, leading at the squadron level, scholarships, and even a seminar about cadet flight opportunities. Most of these were made by cadets, for cadets, and as such had a tailored experience towards the cadet program.
“I had high expectations and I thought it was a great experience and went off smoothly,” said Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Kyler Jorgensen.
There were many options for senior members as well. The conference gave many opportunities for diverse, specialized seminars to be taught that applied to every unit. Civil Air Patrol is rolling out a new senior member professional development program this year so multiple seminars were held to highlight the differences and changes CAP senior members would experience in the coming months. Specialized seminars were also held for finance officers, aerospace officers, health services officers, pilots, and more.
“CAP just rolled out the largest change to how we onboard and train senior members in a generation,” said the Virginia Wing Director of Education and Training, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Brodsky.
“[Being virtual] allowed for a lot more people. In the physical environment, you are limited in numbers by the space you are in for the conference. Virtually, we could reach a lot more people.”
Virginia Wing has been increasing emergency services training in preparation for what is predicted to be a very active hurricane season. Many seminars were disaster relief focused during the conference including virtual mission management, hurricane operation reviews, aerial photography standards, and planning effective training. These seminars gave information on increasing training, working within the virtual environment, and progress being made in operations and emergency services. Members are always looking for new opportunities to engage in emergency preparedness, and the conference allowed them to attend – or later go back and watch – seminars that could provide the most important info from the wing down to the unit-level.
The conference was widely regarded as a success in allowing all members to still experience the conference seminars many had hoped to see. “I thought it went very well, [I] couldn’t be more pleased with how it went,” said Col. Gould. This conference was originally going to be in-person, and through a team effort, organizers were able to pull together to have a successful full-day virtual conference, something that hadn’t been done in all of Virginia Wing history.
“It was a massive success for a first time. I’m happy to say that … members enjoyed it,” said Capt. Nutbrown, “It served its purpose in that we were able to have a conference. People were able to learn, senior members were able to get credit, cadets were able to come together, learn, and discuss. Thatis more important than anything. Truly, it turned into a nationwide event because anyone could join.”