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DOD civilian encourages Airmen to share their innovative ideas

By Rachel Kersey | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Nov. 13, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —

Jason Rios is a material handler work lead for the 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron on Joint Base San Antonio. It is his job to provide protective equipment, such as bulletproof vests and chemical suits, to those who need them. Recently, upon hearing about the Air Force Spark Tank competition, he decided to enter with an idea he came up with several years ago. 

Rios has carpal tunnel syndrome, which has affected the use of his hands.  

Because of this, about two years ago he came up with the idea to use a commercially-available water pump to clean gas masks, as opposed to the old way of using a canteen. 

“The original method involves hand squeezing one canteen of cleaning solution and two canteens of clear rinse water through the drinking tube of the mask,” he said. “No matter how hard you squeeze it, it only goes through it so fast. It was very painful after a couple of masks. Your wrist and hand would hurt a lot.”  

Rios’ idea to use a water pump effectively eliminated the need to perform the slow and arduous squeezing action, and greatly increased the speed in which he was able to clean the masks.  

“Once you put the pump in water, you connect the coupler that is on the mask directly to the pump,” he said.  

Rios competed against seven other ideas at the Air Education Training Command, or AETC, level of competition, and while his water pump idea was not chosen to represent the command at the Air Force’s Spark Tank competition, the idea is being refined and may be expanded to other AETC installations. 

“I feel they really listened and are pushing forward with this idea,” Rios said. “We had a meeting today with AETC/A9 Analysis and Innovation Directorate about implementing my idea, and we will have another meeting next week.” 

Rios encourages Airmen with innovative ideas that make their job easier, faster, or will save the Air Force money, to speak up through one of the wide-variety of innovation competitions listed on the Airmen Powered by Innovation website: https://usaf.ideascalegov.com/a/ideas/recent/campaigns/156. One such competition is the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s Innovation Rodeo, which is accepting submissions through Dec. 1.  

“Don’t hesitate to tell someone your idea, and get help from others pushing it through, no matter how simple it is,” Rios said. “It can really be helpful.”