Social distancing: Adapting to the current norm

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Paige Yenke
  • 926th Wing

When faced with something as unprecedented as the current climate of the country, we can sometimes lose sight of normalcy and routine tasks that still need to continue.

I knew my reenlistment was approaching months before teleworking was instated to the maximum extent throughout the 926th Wing. However, I wasn’t prepared for the rapid changes brought by COVID-19.

In February, I changed career fields from aviation resource management to a new position as a public affairs specialist for the 926th Wing. I was excited to start learning all the different aspects that came along with my new job, but what I wasn’t expecting was to experience the magnitude of current events that came our way. I was now thrown into the fire of covering a worldwide pandemic via telework. On top of the new unique work situation, I had another dilemma that needed to be solved rather quickly: my reenlistment.

With my service contract ending at the end of the March, there was no time to wait for the challenges facing everyone to resolve themselves before swearing-in. I was grateful that most of the paperwork allowing me to reenlist was completed and passed along to the appropriate departments prior to social distancing, but the final coordination wasn’t yet complete.

While my superintendent, Master Sgt. Timothy Moynihan, 706th Fighter Squadron superintendent, worked hard to route my reenlistment paperwork through its final steps, people were quickly trading their work offices for home offices and experiencing connectivity issues. We had to rely on personal phones and email to communicate, no longer able to just pop into someone’s office to see if they were around. With his help and persistence we got it done and I was asked if I had an officer in mind to conduct my reenlistment. Fortunately, I did have an officer in mind, as well as a way for me to limit my exposure to base.

Months earlier, I had viewed my reenlistment as something that just needed to get done in order to keep me in the service. Originally, I had planned to just ask any officer around that was willing to conduct the ceremony. However, circumstances had now changed. My mother, retired Chief Master Sgt. Josephine Yenke, suggested I take advantage of the opportunity to have my father, Lt. Col. Richard Yenke, also a member of the Air Force Reserve, conduct my reenlistment. Having my dad be the one to swear me in suddenly had me emotionally invested in the entire process, as my parents had always been a driving force in me joining the military to begin with. It was more than fitting to have him be the one to lead me into the next phase of my military career.  

Keeping social distancing in mind, my roommate, Staff Sgt. Keith Charisse Dalere, 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron aviation resource manager, attended as a witness along with my son and with a neighbors permission we used a flag hanging from their house. I will cherish that moment in time that occurred during such a chaotic turn of events in our country.

Now that it’s done, I can breathe a sigh of relief. Currently, we are all having to adapt and creatively overcome the obstacles being presented to us during this challenging time. But I’m thankful for the support and help from my wing and family in getting my reenlistment done in an unprecedented time and for allowing me to continue my career as a member of the Air Force Reserve. I will not forget my journey to becoming a career Airmen.