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Innovation leads to connection with Keesler AFB

Maj. Ryan Brewer, 14th Flying Training Wing director of innovation, speaks to Col. Derek Stuart, 14th Operations Group commander, during the Spark Cell grand opening Oct. 19, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The need of innovation at Columbus AFB led to a partnership with the 333rd Training Squadron at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, to create new processes and contribute different concepts.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Melissa Doublin)

Maj. Ryan Brewer, 14th Flying Training Wing director of innovation, speaks to Col. Derek Stuart, 14th Operations Group commander, during the Spark Cell grand opening Oct. 19, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The need of innovation at Columbus AFB led to a partnership with the 333rd Training Squadron at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, to create new processes and contribute different concepts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Melissa Doublin)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The Columbus Air Force Base Spark Cell is designed to be a creative hub for innovative minds to cultivate ideas.

The need of innovation at Columbus Air Force Base led to a partnership with the 333rd Training Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, to create new processes and contribute different concepts.

It all started with Maj. Eddy Gutierrez, 14th Communications Squadron commander, reaching out to Keesler Air Force Base to see if any transitional lieutenants would be interested in partnering with Columbus Air Force Base to drive some solutions that would benefit the base and potentially Air and Education Training Command and headquarters Air Force.

“Collaboration and innovation go hand-in-hand,” said 2nd Lt. Joshua Hullings, 333rd TRS Undergraduate Cyberspace Officer Training course student. “More minds working together provide more unique solutions, allowing for more creativity.”

Currently, the lieutenants are helping program a flight scheduling application to aid the instructor pilot scheduling teams at the 37th and 41st Flying Training Squadrons. The skills of the 333rd TRS members are being utilized to bring the instructors idea to their screens.

“If we can automate parts of the scheduling process, we would go a long way to helping instructors schedule sorties more efficiently and impact our greater Air Force mission to break barriers and save time,” said 2nd Lt. Connor Hamlet, 333rd TRS UCT student. “The 37th FTS and 41st FTS schedule over a hundred sorties per day and can’t afford excess paperwork or inefficiencies. We as an Air Force are at a point where our inefficiencies have to be cut, or we will all be left behind.”

Since each base has its own capabilities, working together allows the innovation process to flow smoothly. Mixing these groups gives a deeper pool of talent and viewpoints, leading to further innovation.

“The Spark Cell and the 333rd TRS make a good team, and fortunately both commands are supportive,” Hamlet said. “We at the 333rd have the technical knowledge to impact their mission set, but lack the knowledge on what needs to be done or where we can apply it.

Hamlet said having this relationship allows the 14th Flying Training Wing to quickly educate the 333rd TRS on the wing’s needs and where the squadron can help most. They then take this information and tackle the problem.

“These relationships are what drive a vision toward fruition,” said 2nd Lt. Michael Parr, 333rd TRS UCT student. “Once a working relationship is established, communication moves faster and both parties are able to stay on the same page while working towards fulfilling the aforementioned vision. Additionally, it speeds up progress by tightening the feedback loop, allowing for quick confirmation, denial, or change requests to be given daily rather than biweekly.”

In addition to the partnership with Spark Cell, lieutenants from the 333rd TRS have been working on a variety of projects to help Columbus AFB progress and turn their innovative ideas into fruition.

“It’s the wing’s mission that we connect, so we might as well connect with the rest of the Air Force,” Gutierrez said. “If somebody already has the solution or the resources that can do it, why not ask? The worst case scenario is that we get a no and where back to square one in finding other resources. When we get a win like Keesler, we realized that we’re not that far off in accomplishing both of our wing’s intent.”