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Keesler Wins AETC innovation award for mission accomplishment

Keesler Air Force Base Wins Innovation Award

The 81st Training Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, was announced as the winner of the Air Education and Training Command's Innovation Award for Mission Accomplishment. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Andrew Whitman)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The 81st Training Wing won the 2017 Continuum of Learning Innovation Challenge Award in the Mission Accomplishment Category during the Air Education and Training Command Senior Leader Conference, March 19-21.

By winning this award, the 81st TRW will receive a monetary award to be used for any operations and maintenance fund purchases.

The Innovation Challenge is a contest designed to inspire improvement and change within the command that consists of five categories emphasizing the priorities of both Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast, commander of AETC, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

The “Mission Accomplishment” category is intended for units to show how redesigned developmental offerings resulted in more effective and efficient learning.

“During the award period, the 81st Training Group partnered with agencies across Keesler, the local community, and commercial industry to lead AETC in the implementation of several Major Command’s firsts like AETC’s first student-centered, “flipped classroom” training environment, AF’s first Wing's Center of Excellence for Online Learning initiative and DoD’s first Science on a Sphere weather training aid to name a few,’ said Lt. Col. Michael Manning, 81st Training Group deputy commander. “Throughout the award period, our Wing units demonstrated how redesigned, innovative developmental offerings result in more effective and efficient training environments.”

Through new initiatives, modularizing hands-on training and expanding online learning opportunities Keesler has increased productivity all while saving the Air Force millions of dollars.

Among the many accomplishments over the past year, Keesler led the Headquarters Air Force initiative that created blended training with the first cyber proficiency advancement process and virtualized radar training. These two initiatives alone saved the AF $639,000 and $3.4 million respectively.

“Our leaders empower our teams to come up with innovative ideas and allow them to own the ideas from concept to implementation,” said Manning. “I believe it is that level of ownership that inspires our members to continue to move forward and come up with great new ideas.”

The 81st TRW competed against wings and units from across AETC and Col. Debra Lovette, 81st TRW commander, was excited to hear about this accomplishment and credited the win to their dedication and focus on improving the Air Force.

"I am proud to say that I work with some of the most innovative men and women our Air Force has to offer and this award is a direct result of our team's laser-focus on the improved development of our students and staff,” said Lovette. “Our Airmen are our most important resource and here at Keesler we are investing every last dollar we can into making them the best the Air Force has ever seen."

Manning said this feat was accomplished because of the culture of innovation instilled by AETC, 2nd Air Force and 81st TRW leadership and he is excited for even greater innovation in the future.

“The recognized successful mission accomplishment in the 81st Training Wing is the direct result of the outstanding teamwork across all levels of the Wing and Keesler tenant units,” said Manning. “The 81st Training Group appreciates the contributions of our base and community partners and we are extremely proud of the outstanding work accomplished across the Wing and look forward to even greater innovations in the coming year.”