TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Telework had always been a tool of flexibility and a privilege for Lt. Col. Shayla CantySmith. Today, thanks to COVID-19, telework is critical for CantySmith and the entire 25-person Tyndall Program Management Office to continue delivering the “Installation of the Future” for the nation.
“Teleworking demands creativity and a commitment to continue to lead people and execute the mission while apart,” said CantySmith, integration division chief. “We’re required to be innovative about reaching out to check on each other, and intentional about collaboration and communication. But more than that, it actually allows for the time and space we sometimes need to focus on more overlooked tasks.”
The PMO team is teleworking as part of the Air Force response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges of telework and COVID-19 concerns, the rebuild of Tyndall continues.
“I am so impressed with the awe-inspiring dedication of my PMO team,” said Brig. Gen. Patrice Melancon, PMO executive director. “We’ve been thrown a curve ball like everyone else around the globe, but we continue to move forward with the multibillion-dollar rebuild even while teleworking. You can’t stop this hard-charging team as they continue to move the mission forward building the Installation of the Future and securing airpower for years to come.”
Members of the PMO are embracing the new challenge, adapting to conditions and using technology to maximize efficiency and remain on schedule. Teammates like Ana Schneski, PMO knowledge and data manager, are taking full advantage of available resources to remain connected and motivated while apart.
“VPN, Outlook, and internet connectivity issues always present a challenge,” Schneski said. “That being said, I rely on all forms of technology to get the work done and stay in constant communication with my teammates. I’ve even adapted my working schedule to access VPN in the early morning or early evenings to ensure I’m able to read emails and not miss anything.”
The PMO is using several resources like Skype, Microsoft Teams, GroupMe chats and WebEx video conferencing to enhance productivity while apart, Schneski said. These tools ensure progress continues with several safety precautions being implemented, like planning meetings transitioning to a virtual setting and the postponement of major events, such as the Coastal Resilience Stakeholder Meeting and the AFWERX Fusion event in Las Vegas showcasing Tyndall.
However, team members say they also recognize the need for more casual social interaction and have created group texts to stay connected, send motivational pictures, quotes and even funny memes to lift spirits through this trying time.
“We all understand the challenge of operating virtually and the PMO director and deputy director are extremely conscious of this fact,” CantySmith said. “PMO leadership conducts regular check-ins with the team and partners from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the 325th Fighter Wing to ensure virtual operations are not negatively impacting execution of the mission.”
One month into the shift to a virtual PMO, Melancon said telework has proved “business as usual” for the PMO with the rebuild moving forward as planned by allowing for minor adjustments and finding new ways to maintain open lines of communication.
“We are continuing to look toward the future and find solutions for any challenges that may come up due to COVID-19,” Melancon said. “Already, we are working to reschedule critical events like AFWERX and have ensured a seamless transition to virtual design meetings. No matter the situation, the PMO team and all our partners remain focused and dedicated to bringing Tyndall into the 21st century.”
To date, Tyndall remains on track to welcome their first F-35 fighter jets in September 2023.
Visit here for more on the Tyndall rebuild progress.