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Innovative Airmen, bright ideas

By Senior Airman Stuart Bright 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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The 2nd Bomb Wing hosted Spark Tank 2019 to provide Airmen a platform to share innovative ideas that could help improve base’s quality of life and its mission readiness.

“Part of the job of leaders is to unleash that brilliance and to create an environment where young folks with good ideas actually can get a hearing,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein last year. “We can give them some resources and time and energy to allow them to pursue those ideas and see where it goes.”

The proposed innovations could help the 2nd BW be more efficient and more cost effective and ultimately impact the Air Force as a whole.

“The spark tank takes innovative ideas that are geared toward increasing lethality and the readiness of the B-52 Stratofortress,” said Senior Master Sgt. Gregory Butler, 2nd BW process manager. “We look to take those ideas and see if we can fund them with money from the Squadron Innovation Fund that we get and use the spark tank as a forum for Airmen to present their ideas.”

Ideas were presented to a panel of six judges from the 2nd BW leadership. This year Barksdale’s Squadron Innovation Fund provided $675,000 for the best innovations.

“The group commanders will vote once they listen to the presenters and give pitches on who they think should receive funding,” Butler said. ”Col. Michael Miller, 2nd BW commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Swanger, 2nd BW command chief, will determine if they will fund the idea or not. They will prioritize the ideas by which one will give the most “bang for the buck” when it comes to raising lethality for the B-52.” 

Nine ideas were briefed at Spark Tank 2019 and seven were funded. One of the concepts included incorporating virtual reality in aircrew training to reduce the number of flights and fuel usage.

“What virtual reality training can do is drastically reduce the training curve,” Butler said. “Just like a pilot practicing a maneuver, virtual reality helps build that muscle memory so the pilot knows what to expect and what scenarios may look like. When the pilot goes to actually complete the task and actually fly the aircraft, they would have done it so many times through virtual reality that it is almost muscle memory for them. That is going to reduce the number of flights required to get them certified on that task.”

Not all innovations were focused on ground-breaking technology.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Johnson, 2nd Security Forces combat arms instructor, proposed an idea that not only saves time and money but also reduces the base’s environmental footprint. Currently, used brass at the firing range sits in bins and can accumulate rainwater which can result in a possible breeding site for mosquitos. Instead of waiting to ship the brass to Little Rock, Arkansas, security forces can deform the brass on base, save Barksdale 80 man-hours and $5,000 a year while protecting the environment.

While Barksdale is focused on saving time and money, the panel also took time to listen to ideas that enhance safety.

Tech. Sgt. Isaac Tate, 2nd Munitions Squadron armament floor supervisor, pitched the idea of getting better loading stands to reduce the loading time of munitions on the B-52 while providing a safer loading process for Airmen.

“It feels good to keep my Airmen safer.” Tate said. “I know what it is like to do work on what we have currently and it’s going to be great to spend money to get on something that will improve safety, quality of maintenance and time.”

The goal of Spark Tank 2019 is to provide a platform for innovative ideas to allow the Air Force to capitalize on promising technological breakthroughs while increasing its readiness and lethality.   

 

“We are a service founded on innovation,” Swanger said. “Our airmen are brilliant and we need to provide as many ways as possible to cultivate their creative ideas. Spark tank is one of the many ways we do that.”