NEWS | Oct. 29, 2020

Virtual tools sustain Tobyhanna mission during COVID-19 pandemic

By Ms. Danielle E. Weinschenk

Virtual collaboration tools (VCTs) are helping Tobyhanna Army Depot continue to provide world-class support to the Department of Defense, despite limitations presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

VCTs have been employed to maintain a number of depot functions, including customer interactions, hiring initiatives and audit preparation. Matthew Raup, Chief of the depot’s Customer Service Branch, says the VCTs have been in high demand.

“Many of our customers have transitioned to virtual communication and collaboration over the past few months to reduce or eliminate in-person meetings. VCTs are an important part of the depot’s strategy to keep employees safe while remaining fully operational,” he said. Raup also noted that his team developed instructional guides to familiarize new users with VCTs. Employees can review these guides on the depot Intranet under IT Services.

The Sustainment Planning Division (SPD) is Tobyhanna’s epicenter for business development. This year, COVID-related travel restrictions kept SPD personnel from attending trade shows, symposiums and in-person meetings with Program Executive Officers and Program Managers (PMs).  The team quickly adapted and has been using VCTs like Microsoft (MS) Teams and Zoom to their advantage.

“Virtual platforms have allowed us to remain engaged with PMs and remotely demonstrate TYADs capabilities.  With visitors being limited, the VCTs are a more personal way to connect during this pandemic,” said Christopher Volch, a Logistics Management Specialist (LMS) in SPD.

“In addition, VCTs provide functionality that is not normally available, such as the capability to record a meeting. This feature has been increasingly beneficial because it allows team members to be fully present in conversations with the new option of replaying the conversations later for clarity or reference.”

VCTs have also helped the depot further its hiring initiatives. Representatives from the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center have participated in numerous online job fairs, including a recent session targeting students from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID).  The virtual approach allowed multiple students to hear the depot’s presentation and interact with employees, including an NTID graduate – all while maintaining social distancing. Participants say the job fair was key to continuing Tobyhanna’s equal employment opportunity (EEO) initiatives.

“Outreach is an important way for the depot to connect with individuals with disabilities,” said Shannon Reyes, a specialist in the depot’s EEO office. “"If it weren’t for the VCTs, we would have missed the opportunity to participate in this informational session, and NTID students might have missed the opportunity to apply for summer internships here at Tobyhanna.”

Personnel say that the virtual environments are equally important for supporting internal mission communication. The Quality Management Division (QMD) relied heavily on MS Teams while preparing for the Aerospace Standard (AS) re-certification audit in September. AS certification is vital to support the depot’s maintenance efforts on avionics components and is a fundamental part of operations overall. According to QMD personnel, pre-audit meetings are a critical communication venue and the VCTs ensured meetings could continue in support of audit readiness.

“MS Teams has been extremely useful for an important and collaborative mission like quality. The VCTs allowed us to connect with our customers and hold large meetings while still ensuring all could remain at a safe distance,” said Bill Stevens, a Quality Assurance Specialist in QMD. “We even conducted audit in-and-out briefs virtually because the process worked so well.” Quality Management director Robert Haas agreed.

“The use of VCTs keeps us working together, even though we’re apart,” he said, adding that QMD also benefited from the ability to record meetings for participants who could not attend.

Although depot personnel are eager for the pandemic to end, they say they hope use of VCTs is here to stay.

“The flexible environment on MS Teams makes everything visible, integrated and accessible. I hope its use will continue to be encouraged in the future,” said Molly Lorenzen, a LMS in SPD.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna’s Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C5ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.

Tobyhanna’s unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, post production software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our joint warfighters.

About 4,000 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command’s mission is to empower the Soldier with winning C5ISR capabilities.