By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christina Brewer, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa / U.S. 6th Fleet Navy Reserve Detachment 130
Navy reservists across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East gathered around their computers to conduct their first virtual drill weekend with commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (CNE-A) and commander, U.S. 6th Fleet (C6F) Navy Reserve Detachment (Det) 130, May 2-3, 2020.
As a reserve unit, Det 130 meets in Naples quarterly to train and maintain military readiness and to provide support to the CNE-A/C6F area of operations. Europe has worked hard to slow the spread of the virus, including restricted movement, which has prompted Det 130 to determine new methods of training and support to their active duty counterparts. Part of the solution is to conduct drill virtually, which has pros and cons.
“I really enjoyed this opportunity to drill with Det 130 virtually,” said Capt. William Walton, commanding officer of Det 130. “For me, I truly missed seeing and talking to my unit in person, but this was a good way to connect. We were able to disseminate information and host a promotion ceremony.”
Each department also used the opportunity to hone critical skills despite the distance.
“Building the schedule for the weekend is something all department heads are involved in [before drill],” said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Burgess, Det 130 administrative officer. “I saw a good opportunity to offer a couple of training events that will help people to not only be better reservists, but also help them navigate some of the complexity caused by COVID-19.”
Virtual drill has been made easier thanks to the abundance of methods of communication to include virtual chats, e-mail, and messaging systems.
“Our department is responsible for making sure people get properly mustered – and paid – wherever they are in the world,” said Burgess. “With over 100 [service members] spread across three continents, the admin team really focused on how to make these processes flow smoothly.”
Being stationed in different locations throughout the CNE-A/C6F area of responsibility can be challenging, but the ability to reach each other using electronic means ensured a successful weekend.
“With an overseas unit, we have personnel in several time zones that are as much as 8 hours different from Italy,” said Walton. “This provides us the flexibility to reach our personnel. The overall experience was simply fantastic. I felt the connection with my unit and feel it can be a force multiplier for many years to come.”
Service members expressed their lessons learned from the virtual drilling experience.
“I think this weekend went surprisingly well,” said Burgess. “There are, of course, always ways we can improve, and I'm confident we'll continue to make this experience better for the next time. Personally, in my department we did eval debriefs with our E-5s via video conference. To get my Chief, my Leading Petty Officer, and my E-5s together all at once is a challenge even on a normal drill weekend. Being able to get together while spread between Spain, France, Italy, Bahrain, and [the United Arab Emirates] is an incredible capability that I'll definitely be carrying over to future debriefs.”
As they continue to tackle the obstacles COVID-19 presents, Det 130 will continue to charge forward.
Det 130, headquartered in Naples, Italy, is a U.S. Navy Reserve Detachment that supports CNE-A, C6F, to conduct the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.