Innovation is a word that is often misapplied, overused or just seen as a buzzword. But, innovation for the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing and the Intelligence Community is a necessity to stay ahead of adversaries.
The 70th ISRW continued to build a powerful network of innovators as they hosted an Innovation Summit at College Park, Maryland, on July 24, 2018, to help connect motivated individuals from across the wing and the Intelligence Community.
“We have three very important goals that we must fulfill with this summit,” said Maj. Laura Wilson, U.S. Air Force Reserve Individual Mobilization Augmentee for the 707th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group Director of Operations.
“First, we will win back the word ‘innovation’ through education,” she said during her remarks. “We are going to own it, live it and prove its value in our community.
“Secondly, we are going to spur that innovation through inspiration,” said Capt. Rebecca Delisio, 707th ISR Group director of operations and current wing Chief of Innovation. “We are going to relax our concepts of certainty, we are going to open our minds to new possibilities, and we are going to listen to others and combine ideas and grow them into realities.”
The third goal of the summit is driving innovation.
“We want you to know that we have your back when it comes to bringing an idea to life,” Wilson said.
This year’s Innovation Summit included keynote speakers: Col. Matteo Martemucci, 70th ISRW commander, Valerie Rivera with Take Back Work, Lt. Col. Garry Floyd, the deputy chief of architecture and interoperability at the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team/Project Maven, Capt. Joseph Arora from AFWERX, and various partners from academia.
“Innovation is about creating positive change,” said Martemucci during his presentation. “It’s a mind-shift, a cultural shift. I expect every Airman to constantly ask the ‘big three’ questions: Why, Why Not, and What If? We have to have the guts to think and act differently.”
During the commander’s speech, he highlighted a video called “How Wolves Change Rivers.” In short, wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, after an absence of over 70 years.
According to the narrator of the video, the area was overpopulated by elk, and because of that, the vegetation was reduced to almost nothing. When the wolves returned, they changed the behavior of the elk. The elk were forced to move about rather than over-graze certain parts of the park.
Those overgrazed areas, particularly the river valleys and gorges, immediately started to regenerate. The rivers themselves changed in response to the wolves. The regenerating forest stabilized the banks so they collapsed less often, and the rivers became more fixed in their course. Other animals, like beavers, returned to build ponds and lakes, which had for years been absent from the park.
Similarly, by driving the deer off of the valley slopes, the wolves reduced erosion by allowing vegetation to stabilize entire valleys. The wolves, while small in number, transformed not just the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park, but also its physical geography, the narrator concluded.
“I’m not suggesting that we are going to dramatically change the world,” said Martemucci. “But, with our innovative efforts we can change our Air Force ecosystem. Even small change can have a great impact.”
The summit’s next keynote speaker, Rivera, spoke about her mission to help organizations create workplace cultures where people thrive. She incorporates best practices in organizational behavior, design thinking and coaching for change that sticks.
“Our Airmen are talented problem solvers,” Rivera said. “We can create conditions for Airmen to thrive and reach their highest potential.”
Similar to Martemucci’s three questions of why, why not and what if, Rivera also shared her three questions to improve processes. She asked, “What do you need to start doing;” “What do you need to stop doing;” and “What do you need to continue doing?” She urged Airmen to get out of their comfort zone, take risks and learn things.
The representative from AFWERX reinforced the idea that innovation must continue.
“The world is changing and the Air Force needs to evolve with it,” said Arora, whose program was established in 2017 by the Secretary of the Air Force.
The program is a catalyst for agile Air Force engagement across industry, academia and non-traditional contributors to create transformative opportunities and foster an Air Force culture of innovation, according to its website. The core mission of AFWERX is to improve Air Force capabilities by connecting innovators, simplifying technology transfer, and accelerating results.
In addition to the informative sessions with speakers, also available to attendees during their lunch was a room filled with Virtual Reality googles, 3-D printing, Space and Cyber Challenges, FBI I-challenge, and many more opportunities to experience innovative products first hand.
Following the lunch-time opportunities, presenters from across the wing and from the intelligence community briefed on innovative projects, programs and ideas during a Peer-to-Peer Innovation Highlight session and Best Practices session. Those programs and/or presenters were:
• 363rd ISRW Innovation Program
• 373rd ISRG Automated Report: Tech. Sgt. Christopher, 381st IS
• 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing Demo: Capt. Christopher Knutson, 32nd IS
• 480th ISRW Innovation Program: 1st Lt. Aubry, 480th ISRW Innovation
• 566th IS State of Innovation: 1st Lt. Andrew, 566th IS
• 659th ISRG Incubator Cell: 1st Lt. Dean, 7th IS
• 668th Alterations and Installations Squadron Cable & Antenna Systems: Staff Sgt. Brian, 688th ALIS
• 70th ISRW Benjamin D. Folouis Innovation Center
• AFTAC Innovation Lab: 1st Lt. Andrew Belk, AFTAC
• Continuous Process Improvement: Master Sgt. Trevor Chayer, 707th FSS
• DISA-Ruptive: Charlie Fields, DISA
• DIUx/Silicon Valley Experience: Airman 1st Class David Ahn, 707th CS
• FBI I-Challenge: FBI HQ
• I-Corp Intro: 1st Lt. Aubry Eaton, 480th ISRW Innovation
• NARWAHL: Staff Sgt. Corey, 94th IS
• National Intelligence University: Isadora Caplan
• NRO JEMA: Master Sgt. Garry, 544th ISRG/DET 5
• NSA iCafe:
• Project Maven Demo: Master Sgt. James, 22nd IS
• Publically Available Information: Maj. Sarah Undeutsch, HAF/A2
• Space and Cyber Challenge: Victoria Bennett
• University of Maryland Virtual Reality Demo: Dr. Jared Linck
• Wingmen Connect: Staff Sgt. Shalese, 34th IS
Through their Innovation Summit, the leaders and Airmen of the 70th ISRW hope to transform innovation from a buzzword to reality.
Delisio encourages all attendees, whether an Airman or squadron commander, to take the information gained at the summit back to their units and continue developing a culture of innovation.
Wilson agrees, thanking those who are on the leading edge of the Intelligence Community, and looking forward to future collaborations.
“We look forward to connecting with you and together growing this culture within the 70th ISRW,” she said.
For more information on the Innovation Summit, please contact the 70th ISRW Innovation Office at: firstname.lastname@example.org.