Texas Wing Takes Professional Development to a New Dynamic Level
Top: Maj. Gen. Smith (screenshot outlined in red) discusses his feelings on the interactive webinar format for SLS, as class members look on virtually. (Photo: Lt. Col. Sherra Ogden, CAP)
by 2nd Lt. Eric Holtzclaw, CAP, Oklahoma Wing
ENID, Okla. – When Civil Air Patrol (CAP) National Headquarters (NH) announced that a new professional development program for all CAP members would be begin on August 4, 2020, many CAP members were motivated to complete their Level 2 and Level 3 requirements quickly.
Foremost among those are the Squadron Leadership School (SLS) and the Corporate Learning Course (CLC). The SLS trains squadron-level members to perform their squadron duties, and introduces leadership and management techniques. The CLC gives students an overview of how the wing functions in each of CAP's major mission elements, and how mission support functions enable these mission elements. The new training is expected to have a modular format, similar to a university learning style, and the existing SLS and CLC courses will no longer be available.
Col. Regina Aye discusses leadership principles via webinar with 36 senior members of the first Online Interactive SLS Course. (Photo: Col. Regina Aye, CAP)
When the coronavirus pandemic struck and CAP NH ordered that all formal in-class professional development training be halted, commanders and staff members scrambled to find an alternative solution. That was when Lt. Cols. David and Sherra Ogden, based in Houston, proposed a plan that might guide the way future training is accomplished. When they presented it to Texas Wing (TXWG) and NH, CAP National Commander Maj. Gen. Mark Smith agreed to participate as a teacher.
TXWG Assistant Director of Professional Development Lt. Col. David Ogden is an experienced teacher, besides his CAP training background. In his professional career, he is a senior trainer for iSpeak Inc., where he provides communication, leadership and presentation skills training for students worldwide. Knowing that members would want to complete the SLS and CLC courses in order to grandfather under the legacy professional development program, he explored the possibility of using his work platform to host live virtual classrooms.
While working to obtain a private pilot certificate, cadets and students will become familiar with airplane performance, effects of weather, basic VFR sectional charts, chart symbols and aircraft cruise performance. The STEM kit provided hands-on training for cadets to enhance their understanding of flight preparation.
(L-R): Lt. Cols. Sherra Ogden and David Ogden discuss the next lesson plan during a break. (Photo: Lt. Col. David Ogden, CAP)
“I thought that using a webinar format with slight modifications was possible, with the software platform that my company is currently using,” said Ogden, “So I asked my boss if we could use the iSpeak license for Adobe Connect to facilitate this instruction. Before I could complete my proposal, my boss agreed at once!’” Thus, the Ogdens adapted the SLS and CLC material to live interactive formats and routed the proposal through NH. Because of Texas’ great distances, TXWG had previously been granted a waiver to CAP Regulation 50-17 to allow alternative instruction methods for SLS and CLC, provided all course objectives were fully met.
2nd Lt. Eric Holtzclaw listens to professional development instruction by Lt. Col. Sherra Ogden (screen) as part of the online SLS format. (Photo: 2nd Lt. Eric Holtzclaw, CAP)
Without delay, the Odgens set up the virtual training and announced the training opportunity to TXWG members. Priority enrollment was given to those displaced because of social distancing requirements. Knowing that this was a challenge that other wings were facing as well, the Ogdens opened registration to additional wings, including Oklahoma Wing (OKWG). When the first SLS class started, 36 students had signed up and an all-star cast of instructors included the experience of 28 specialty track Master Ratings, 200 combined years of CAP service, current or former wing commanders from 4 different wings, 2 current or former region commanders, and CAP National Commander Maj. Gen. Mark Smith.
Scheduled over a two-week period, the course met electronically three evenings weekly for a few hours, on Tuesday through Thursday. This was designed to maximize attendance for those working away from home and others dealing with social distancing requirements. On the first evening, former TXWG Commander Col. Sean Crandall taught officership and public trust. Recapping the first session, he emphasized that, to go far, it is important to surround oneself with people who are better than one is.
(L-R) 2nd Lts. Jennifer and Raymond Pfang attend the SLS class online from their home office. (Photo: 2nd Lt. Jennifer Pfang, CAP)
The second evening featured Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, who facilitated Introduction to Leadership. He said that it was his first time using this teaching format and initially had been apprehensive, but felt that there was still an interactive component to get responses from the students, and it went very well. A question and answer block allowed students to ask the instructor for clarification. The national commander felt that online instruction will be the wave of the future, and that technology now allows effective interaction between the students and the instructor. He spoke on leadership principles, and reminded all that compassion as a leader goes a long way, especially with an all-volunteer force. He explained that doing the right thing and standing behind one’s principles is essential.
CAP Chief of Education and Training Col. Regina Aye spoke about the legacy professional development program transitioning to the new education and training program. She explained that the new system will be presented in a different format, and believes it will benefit everyone more efficiently. She reminded students that in August 2020 the system will change, and only a few months would be allowed to “grandfather” and complete their current level under the legacy professional development program. She told students that they should be “a river, not a reservoir,” by passing on what they learned through leadership and mentorship.
Class instruction included interactive group activities, and the ability to provide feedback through chat, audio, and visual formats. This was new to many SLS students, who were surprised at how user-friendly the webinar platform was.
Second Lt. Doug Griffith, a member of Enid Composite Squadron, OKWG, said, “This was an awesome approach to learning. To be able to receive such high-level officers teaching this program was a further plus to the experience.”
Senior Member Ronda Kilian, a member of Azle Composite Squadron, TXWG, said, “I learned so much about everything in CAP from this course, even doing it online. I come from a small unit, and getting the understanding from so many different folks was great.”
Second Lt. Agustin Trujillo, a member of Ellington Composite Squadron, TXWG, said, “I gained confidence and enjoyed being able to talk and learn from long-time senior members of CAP.”
Second Lt. Paul Katz, a member of Apollo Composite Squadron, TXWG, summed up the course by saying, “The webinar format was an excellent presentation and well organized. They took a bad situation with all of us being on lockdown from COVID-19 and put the time to great use.”
Lt. Cols. David and Sherra Ogden will bring this new virtual format to more areas of training in CAP. “It is the wave of the future for CAP professional development,” said Sherra Ogden.
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Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of more than 80 lives annually. CAP’s 66,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. In addition, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to over 28,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. Visit www.GoCivilAirPatrol.com or www.CAP.news for more information.