Junior enlisted execute Wing1Werx innovation competition

  • Published
  • By Airman Elijah Van Zandt
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

Four innovators from Malmstrom Air Force Base planned, prepared and diligently worked to be selected as finalists for a quarterly innovation competition, which has implemented programs such as Air Force eSports and robotics now used across the force.

The first Wing1Werx Sparktank competition of 2021 was held April 16 in front of Malmstrom’s top leadership. The goal of the competition: to inspire innovation among all personnel by highlighting efficiency and cost-saving ideas that Airmen believe will improve quality of life at their workplace.

This particular Sparktank was unique because it was organized and executed solely by junior enlisted Airmen, a leadership structure never considered since the program began.

Junior enlisted Airmen were chosen to eliminate the perception that inexperience invalidates a transformative idea, and to emphasize the fact that all Airmen can contribute to Malmstrom’s no-fail mission of global nuclear deterrence through innovation.

Senior Airman Alexander Luttrell, 341st Contracting Squadron contracting specialist and team lead of the project, acted as an advisor to innovators and walked them through the logistics and planning by using his experience in the contracting squadron.

“My goal is to help Airmen get organized, talk to the right people and figure out the money so their idea can be presented with the best chance of getting funded,” Luttrell said.

Senior Airman Frederick Cleveland, 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron operator and project spokesperson, and Airman 1st Class Evan Boss, 341st Comptroller Squadron defense travel technician and project resource advisor, were also critical to the event’s success.

“Most Airmen I know are intimidated by higher leadership, especially when bringing their innovative ideas to the table,” Cleveland said. “Having us junior enlisted members doing the boots-on-the-ground work and encouraging our peers to turn their vision into a reality helped generate more interest in the program.”

Eleven applications were submitted for funding in this iteration of the innovation program, which was a modest increase from the fourth quarter in 2020.

The winner of the competition was Capt. David Mansfield, 341st Operations Squadron missileer, with his vision to route an extra phone line into the capsule in Missile Alert Facilities to provide clear and reliable connection. Mansfield conveyed to the panel that quality and reliability in communication will increase, combined with the fact that the price and time to implement the plan is minimal.

“This is the mindset from the very top, the mindset that (Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., Chief of Staff of the Air Force), wants to us to have. Innovation doesn’t come from rank, it comes from the person,” Luttrell said.

He said he expects to see more involvement from Airmen in the future but also recognizes the innovation team’s impact on the competition.

“Everyone did their homework, and we’ve seen significant improvement in the quality of the presentations. I’m excited for that lucky Airmen who will finally win this thing.”