BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Obstacles plague Airmen from all ranks and occupations across the operational Air Force; some obstacles require simple solutions and others need assistance from an outside source.
A source that’s having an impact is AFWERX; an Air Force program with the goal of connecting up-and-coming innovators from the civilian world with Airmen in need of a solution. Airmen from the 548th Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group held a ‘Collider’ demonstration 10 April, 2019, in their iLab to give Beale senior leaders a chance to see what opportunities are out there for the Air Force to invest in.
One of the senior leaders who’s been the most active with AFWERX is 548th ISRG superintendent, Chief Master Sergeant Ian Eishen.
“AFWERX is a separate entity within the Air Force,” Eishen said. “They’re given money and then they get a hold of Airmen who have problems and then connect them with a legitimate company that can solve that problem. We’re not trained to talk to a company or write a contract, but AFWERX helps with that, so they’re networking everyone together.”
The companies involved in Collide Demo ranged from virtual reality software that assists with training, to wearable biometric data collection which could potentially make studying the physically stress on Airmen a lot easier. All of the companies are startups, meaning they’re looking for growth just as much as Airmen are looking for solutions, making their connection mutually beneficial.
“AFWERX has effectively changed the way the Air Force engages with a startup,” William Allen, co-founder of Harpoon Ventures said. “Meaning, they’ve aligned a startup’s wants and needs with the Air Force’s wants and needs. They’re bridging the divide between Silicon Valley and the Department of Defense.”
Harpoon Ventures helped facilitate last week’s Collider demo by supporting the startups and bringing them face to face with senior leaders. Harpoon was founded by William Allen and Larsen Jensen, both military veterans who’ve now seen both sides of the acquisition equation. This gives them insight to what the U.S. military is looking for when it comes to problem solving.
“There is a serious significant difference between what AFWERX does and what other ‘WERX’ programs do,” Allen said. “They are knowledgeable of financial vehicles, dollar amounts, and access to people who have money. They are aware of timelines that are meaningful and make a difference to a startup. The Air Force is out and ahead of every other branch on the topic of innovation, which, as a former marine, pains me to say.”
You can learn more about AFWERX and how to make a difference through innovation by visiting www.AFWERX.af.mil.