Creech innovators soak in Silicon Valley

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Scarlett Trujillo
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Twenty-four 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing and affiliated Airmen travelled to San Jose, California (Silicon Valley), for the wing’s Innovative Leadership Immersion and Development trip, Jan. 27, 2019.


“We took a group of leaders that group commanders selected, with the wing commander’s approval, to Silicon Valley to get a better idea of what it means to lead with innovation,” said Capt. Henry, deputy chaplain for the 432nd WG/AEW.


Team members were funneled from all parts of the wing, to include 799th Security Forces Squadron and geographically separated units.


The goal: to learn from civilian companies, brainstorm to isolate problems within their individual units, present innovative solutions to those problems with intent to seek leadership approval, then execute.   


“This is just a sampling of what’s available in our units on a wide scale, we already have talent coding and developing products,” Jenkins said. “One member has a working product that’s ready to demo. They’re saying, ‘hey Air Force leaders, I’m ready to make a difference!’”


The team received mentorship from organizations who ranged from major companies like Google and eBay, to startups like Humanyze.


Each location offered Airmen a different look into the world of a civilian organization as well varying cultures of innovation, giving Airmen practices to think about implementing within their units.

“The biggest principles we talked about were so universal,” said Staff Sgt. Raechal, intelligence analyst with the 89th Attack Squadron. “I’m so excited to bring them back, things we learned about training, addressing people, trust, transparency, and things we learned about how big business operates and what they put their focus on.”

To wrap up the trip, the team rallied at AFWERX-Las Vegas, “a prototyping workshop where Airmen, students, or garage tinkerers build and test technologies” where they began the groundwork for presentations of their capstone.


Innovators also received the opportunity to raise their ideas preemptively to Col. Julian Cheater, 432nd WG/AEW commander, who was looking to discuss key takeaways from their experience.


“A core human need is to be heard,” said Lt. Col. John, 432nd WG/AEW Director of Staff and immersion participant. “All this effort is really to make sure we are hearing our people. I think it’s just important that folks feel heard and there is a mechanism to make things happen.”

Participants and coordinators agreed the temporary duty was unique, and an opportunity to make positive change across the wing, even if it meant facing some failures along the way.


“This wasn’t a trip to just learn about innovation, this was a trip to learn about what it means to be an innovative leader, and innovative leaders give space for failure,” Henry said. “If we’re going to expect people to innovate, if we’re going to expect them to be risk takers, there’s got to be room for failure. It’s not just something we want them to expect from their leadership, it’s something we want them to model through their own leadership style.”


Innovators will complete their capstone through presentations to wing, group and squadron leadership Feb. 26, 2019.