Concerns over the coronavirus have forced the Air Force Personnel Center to start holding its Squadron Commander and Superintendent Course online — and it’s anyone’s guess how long it will stay virtual.

AFPC said in a release Wednesday that the group of new squadron commanders and superintendents coming on board this summer was to take this class in-person in April. But when that was canceled over COVID-19, officials began brainstorming an alternate way to get them the necessary training in time.

In a matter of weeks, the course’s co-directors, Lt. Col. Cody Gravitt and Lt. Col. Josh Hawkins and their team had designed and stood up a virtual, online class that ran from May 18 to 21.

Students and teachers met online for a more compressed total of 18 hours over those four days. During past in-person courses, Hawkins said, classes met for a total of 21 hours, over five half-days.

The class used Zoom, and though one commander quoted in the release admitted some unease over reported security vulnerabilities with the program, she said it was user-friendly.

During these courses, new commanders learn things like how to handle evaluations, promotions, fitness examinations, assignments, unit deployment readiness, casualty support, disability evaluations, and the Exceptional Family Member Program. AFPC revived it last year after a six-year hiatus. The course was brought back as part of Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein’s effort to revitalize the Air Force’s squadron structure.

The next virtual course will be held later in June, AFPC said — and the online courses could continue if necessary.

“Is this the future?" AFPC commander Maj. Gen. Andrew Toth said in the release. "That is yet to be determined, but we will conduct another virtual class this summer. We know that getting this information up front, within your first six months of command and not learning it on the fly like I did [as a squadron commander], is how we ensure our leaders are equipped to take care of our Airmen, their families, and the mission.”

AFPC said that holding the course online allowed it to nearly triple the number of students it admitted. The largest in-residence Squadron Commander and Superintendent Course had 52 students, but May’s virtual course had 145 attendees.

AFPC received 172 nominations to attend the course in May from 11 major commands. Those who did not make the cut will be at the top of the list for June’s course, AFPC said.

Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.

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