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Aviation Professional Development Goes Virtual at USMA

By COL Rich Melnyk and CPT Jonathan Lunde: The Black Knights chapter at West Point has a mission to support the selection and development of the future leaders of our branch. The cadets at West Point were already on Spring Break when the pandemic started to shut down functions across the country, so Academy leadership made the decision to leave the cadets at home and continue academics remotely. To avoid having a class of Aviators leave without the branch-specific professional development normally provided to graduating classes, the AAAA team, in conjunction with the branch accession representative went virtual.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point held its graduation and commissioning ceremony for the Class of 2020 on The Plain in West Point, New York, June 13, 2020. This year, 1,113 cadets graduated. In attendance were commencement speaker President Donald J. Trump, Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and Chief of Staff of the Army GEN James C. McConville. / U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY BRANDON O’CONNOR

Led by COL Rich Melnyk, chapter President, and CPT Jonathan Lunde, Aviation branch representative, the AAAA team at West Point leveraged communication tools like Microsoft Teams to continue the mentorship process started back in November when the senior class received their branches. Staff and faculty continued their small group discussions on leadership and professionalism using webcams and microphones. The team also held several large-scale meetings over MS Teams where cadets could interact and ask questions to help them prepare for the transition. To date, the group conducted meetings in this manner related to the fixed-wing community, and the Experimental Test Pilot program.

In the near future, there is an MS Teams meeting planned with Lieutenants currently in flight school to help the cadets better understand the tempo and administrative requirements of flight school. In addition, BG McCurry, the Director of Army Aviation, HQDA G-3/5/7, is scheduled to ‘attend’ a virtual sendoff event to provide his advice and perspective as a senior leader in the branch. The AAAA chapter will also use this opportunity to recognize the top Aviation cadet from West Point, CDT Haley Watson. The last event of the year will include a panel of Lieutenants serving in units and airframes throughout the Army. They will speak and appear remotely to help prepare the cadets for their airframe choices in flight school and more importantly, their roles as junior leaders in a combat aviation brigade.

The Black Knights chapter and the entire Aviation staff and faculty remain highly dedicated to ensuring that West Point provides high quality, well-prepare Lieutenants to the branch every year. A pandemic is not going to get in the way of that mission!

Above the Best!

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