Born out of combat necessity: RPA Airmen host Defense Innovation Board

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Haley Stevens
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Airmen with the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing highlighted the wing’s creative advancements to visitors from the Secretary of Defense’s Innovation Board, Defense Innovation Unit and Defense Digital Service at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 12, 2019.

The Defense Innovation Board (DIB) members are distinguished leaders across civilian industries and academia who lead large, innovative organizations or conduct groundbreaking research in fields relevant to the Department of Defense. The group is made up of prominent business leaders, scholars, inventors, and scientists such as the director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

During their visit, Creech Airmen showcased examples of their forward-thinking and innovative solutions within the Remotely Piloted Aircraft enterprise. Members of the DIB also heard from the operators on possible changes and improvements for the highly-demanded MQ-9 Reaper platform.

“There is a certain kind of electricity on the base when the DIB comes to visit,” said Col. Stephen Jones, 432nd WG/432nd AEW commander. “The discussions are thorough and enlightening. The Airmen are inspired and motivated. Overall, it reminds us to embrace new ways of thinking and creative solutions to entrenched issues. It’s one of the many ways we keep our airmen—the men and women who drive the future of our enterprise—focused yet nimble.”

As efforts to bring tomorrow’s Air Force faster and smarter continue, 432nd WG leadership make empowering Airmen to innovate and developing bold leaders top priorities.

“Innovation is in the Air Force’s DNA; it is why American air power is such an overwhelming, dominate force worldwide today,” Jones said. “At the same time, our country develops and nurtures some of the best academic and business minds in the world; it’s only logical we would avail ourselves of any chance to share and develop ideas to improve our operations. Organizations like the Defense Innovation Board and Defense Innovation Unit formalize this partnership.”

Throughout the day, DIB, DIU and DDS members had the opportunity to see Aircrew at the 42nd Attack Squadron, flight simulators at the 432nd Operations Support Squadron, and speak with maintainers while at a 432nd Maintenance Group MQ-9 static display.

“I have been very pleased with what I’ve seen today,” said Gilman Louie, advisor to the DIB and former developer of the F-16 Falcon flight simulator. “One thing I worked with previously was great technology but my principle mission was changing the culture. From my point of view, this unit is changing the culture of the Air Force. You guys are leading the way.”

One of the many topics discussed at a question-and-answer information session with the DIB, DIU and DDS members was the cultural development of partnering with industry leaders to help the U.S. Air Force challenge Airmen to broaden their perspective, innovate, and pursue their ideas.

“Why not rotate through the corporate world the same way you would rotate through Congress or through another service?” asked Mark Sirangelo, DIB member and entrepreneur scholar at the University of Colorado. “I think doing that will infuse some innovative thinking. My company brought in people from the military to walk alongside of us for six months and it was amazing - the exchange of ideas on both sides.” 

In his aeronautics and space career, Sirangelo explained that when he ventured outside his expertise, he was able to succeed by bringing in people who were outside the industry and could share a fresh perspective.

The RPA enterprise is ever-changing, growing, and evolving to keep ahead of the nation’s adversaries. Without the bright minds and creative ideas of Airmen and DOD partners, the continued progression of the MQ-9 mission would not be possible.