JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
It’s been two years since the Analysis and Innovation Directorate, A9, at Headquarter Air Education and Training Command stood up and its members have created many avenues to ensure both analysis and innovation are making a difference in how the command recruits, trains and educates today’s Airmen and Guardians.
April 2, marked the second anniversary for the first command’s ability to deliver critical thinking, innovation and data analytics to fuel decisions necessary for Airmen to accelerate change.
“Innovation is a critical part of our national security because we must out innovate our adversaries in order to maintain the technological edge we’ve enjoyed since the end of World War II,” said Col. Thomas Wegner, director for Analysis and Innovation. “That technological edge extends into how we must train and educate Airmen, now and in the future. “
Since its inception, A9 members have provided emphasis on the use of technology to aggressively and cost-effectively modernize education and training.
Members integrate analytic tools into the Air Force learning environment, making these tools available to every Airman. Airmen can be empowered with more control over their own development, and they will be more active partners with their supervisors and commanders when it comes to developing competencies.
Wegner believes the Air Force must aggressively and cost effectively modernize education and training in ways that optimizes an Airman’s learning experience.
“Today’s Airmen and Guardians grew up in an era of smart phones, tablets, and laptops; they’re hyper-connected, which makes accessing information as simple as pulling your phone out of your pocket. That experience alone, makes how today’s Airmen and Guardians interact with the world different from the past.”
Wegner believes those experiences foster an innovative mindset and that the directorate is structured to help those innovative Airmen and Guardians take their ideas and mature them into a proof-of-concept.
The Innovation Advancement Division, A9A, serves as the primary interface between the command’s innovators and AETC. Members track the command’s innovations on a dashboard and constantly scan the contents for innovations that have enterprise potential or address the command’s strategic challenges. They facilitate the bi-annual iSummit that brings innovators, from across the command, together to discuss ongoing innovation efforts. The event provides a network for future collaboration in which more than 800 Airmen have participated.
A9A is also responsible for iChallenge, AETC’s version of Spark Tank, and AETC’s Spark Tank submissions, which has provided $300,000 directly from AETC to Airmen innovators. The A9A team works with innovators on their pitches and identifies resources to help innovator’s mature their ideas and presentations.
The Arnold Group, A9Z is tasked to help identify and understand what changes will impact force development. They do that by scanning for current trends in learning science and technology, and by maintaining relationships with the other services, academia, and industry to promote knowledge sharing and identify areas where all stakeholders can collaborate.
The Arnold Group is currently spearheading a cross-functional, joint team that’s looking at the force development environment of 2030. The information from that assessment will then feed the command’s strategy.
The Rapid Development Office, RDO, pairs with the 338th Enterprise Support Squadron, supports iChallenge and Spark Tank winners, including innovations with enterprise potential and gets on contract with a vendor that can help mature their idea to a level where a prototype is produced and tested.
Another avenue to gain support from academia and industry is through AETC’s Defense Laboratory. AETC’s Transformational Education and Training Applications, ATETA, lab is a force multiplier, providing avenues for new technology in the national security innovation base to transform force development and learning environments.
A Liaison Officer, LNO, from A9 is also a part of the Department of Defense’s Austin, Texas, innovation ecosystem. With partnerships including Army Futures Command, the Defense Innovation Unit and AFWERX, the A9 LNO keeps up to date on innovations that have force development applicability and helps fosters an innovative community.
Rounding out A9 is the Studies and Analysis Squadron, SAS. With responsibility to execute four Air Force-level programs along with two AETC functions, SAS is unique in that it’s currently the only squadron of its kind in the U.S. Air Force.
“The key to accelerating change and transformation is providing senior leaders data-driven insights to detect where changes are needed and when strategies are not working as intended,” said Lt. Col. Katherin Batterton, SAS commander “Data-driven transformation is only attainable if we have the capability to capture the right data, analyze it, and deliver the analytic results in a way that provides actionable information to decisions makers.”
AETC’s A9 team continues to work toward making innovation a part of the everyday life as it is instilled into the development of every Airman.
“The future of innovation in the Air Force is secure,” said Wegner. “ I think senior leaders collectively recognize we need to innovate to keep our competitive edge and they have given Airmen and Guardians the freedom to try new approaches to solve existing problems. The disciplined approach A9 brings to the command, dubbed idea-to-innovation-to-impact, ensures precious resources are used wisely to support innovations with enterprise potential, in order to close force development gaps.”
To learn more about innovations within AETC, check out AETC’s innovation page www.aetc.af.mil/About-Us/Innovation/ or contact A9 via firstname.lastname@example.org.