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AFSOC selects Spark Tank Competition semifinalists

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Lynette Rolen
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

Air Force Special Operations Command selected two semifinalists for the Air Force Spark Tank Competition Nov. 13.

Within AFSOC, 19 Airmen submitted ideas geared toward restoring readiness and driving innovation for the Air Force. Five Airmen were selected to present their ideas in front of Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of AFSOC. Out of these five, the two semifinalists were selected for competition at the Air Force level.

“These five teams have made the cut,” said Webb. “It's right in line with not only what I want for this command, but what the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the Secretary of Defense wants from us. Thank you for submitting and congratulations on making it to this point.”

The teams presented innovative ideas to heighten mission readiness, save in transportation costs and keep aircraft ready for flight.

“It highlights the fact that a unit all the way out in the middle of the ocean on Okinawa was able to press a problem all the way up to the top and be heard by an AFSOC commander,” said Master Sgt. Bon Strout, 353rd SOG flight chief of survival, evasion, resistance and escape. “That's going to be echoed back and it's going to show that our top leadership does care about our problems at the lowest level."

Strout and Capt. Kevin Knutson, U.S. Africa Command J4 deputy sustainment branch chief, generated an idea of ultralight shipping containers in an effort to conserve fuel.

“Capt. Knutson and I have been working together on this for about a year,” said Strout. “He pointed out the idea of ‘Hey, these containers are really heavy and they’re constraining us across the whole force.’ Between the two of us in collaboration, we came up with the concept. To see it in front of the AFSOC leadership and for us to move to the next level is exciting.”

The other winning idea included an MQ-9 Reaper digital aircraft link emulator. This idea of packing the key systems of the MQ-9 Reaper in a portable box saves the Air Force time and labor as well as ensures the aircraft is more quickly mission ready.

“It's a very lengthy and labor-intensive process to pack up an actual aircraft and to unpack it,” said Master Sgt. Bridget Neighbor, 606th Air Control Squadron mission support readiness section chief. “This (emulator link) is in a case and you throw it on a pallet and then you do all the checks you need to do to make sure it will be safe for landing and take-off. There's two prototypes currently in use at Cannon. Winning this will mean that more get to be made. It'll mean that it gets us in the fight tonight because we can load up in a cargo plane and get there faster.”

The two semifinalists will now go on to present their submissions along with finalists from other major commands at the 2019 Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium. The other three ideas presented will be implemented at the appropriate levels.

“This is the direct artery to get a really good idea to happen,” said Neighbor. “Air Force leadership is really showing they care about us. This is a perfect environment for making things happen.”