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Gunfighter Spark Cell brings innovation to the 366th FW

The 366th Fighter Wing is designing solutions and improving processes with the Gunfighter Spark Cell innovation competition, a program designed to allow Airmen to submit recommendations for improving processes within their workplaces. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class JaNae Capuno)

The 366th Fighter Wing is designing solutions and improving processes with the Gunfighter Spark Cell innovation competition, a program designed to allow Airmen to submit recommendations for improving processes within their workplaces. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class JaNae Capuno)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --

The 366th Fighter Wing is designing solutions and improving processes with the Gunfighter Spark Cell innovation competition, a program designed to allow Airmen to submit recommendations for improving processes within their workplaces.

Base leadership believes the innovation competition brought several ideas that will better the Air Force as a whole.

“Innovative Airmen are a key component to maintaining military superiority in the 21st century,” said Col. Kurt Helphinstine, 366th Fighter Wing deputy commander of operations. “What makes us different from our great power competitors is that we encourage innovation from E-1 through O-10.”

Inspiration for the innovation competition sprouted from leaders wanting to hear from Airmen on how they could improve their daily tasks, enhance readiness, build leaders, take care of Airmen and families, and develop trust among mission focused Airmen.

“Facilitating opportunities for learning and development is what the Gunfighter Spark Cell is looking forward to doing in the coming months,” said Capt. Margaret Kealy-Machella, 366th Fighter Wing public affairs officer. “The competition is implementing the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s priorities by encouraging Airmen come up with ideas to cost-effectively modernize and increase the lethality of the force.”

Colonels and innovation cell members rated the ideas based on uniqueness, cost effectiveness, usefulness, and several other categories.

“Some of these were process fixes, others focused on off-the-shelf commercial technology implementation and some even were apps that helped save dollars and man hours at the wing that could be leveraged on a larger scale,” said Kealy-Machella. “What these competitions do is empower Airmen at every level and rank to take ownership of their ideas and define problem sets.”

The selection process has so far narrowed the submissions down to the following five ideas, which will be improved within a team of experts to ensure that all possibilities are considered:


•A point of scale system for fueling aircraft

•An app that predicts the location of a specific error on aircraft systems

•Illustrated checklists for high-tech processes

•The conversion or addition of positions in a specific career field to better match on the ground requirements and work

•The use of some form of training gas masks to decrease cost and increase the number of masks available for training

“The chosen ideas went back to a team for judging where they decided all five warranted recognition from leadership,” Kealy-Machella said. “The selected ideas will be improved and possibly implemented within the wing.”

Many of the submissions go beyond their unit and have the chance of being submitted to higher headquarters.

The submissions reflect what Helphinstine believes the Gunfighter Spark Cell is about - proficient Airmen with a heritage of traditional innovation working to improve the service.

“Supervisors need to build, nourish, and encourage an innovative culture,” said Helphinstine. “Help your subordinates refine innovative ideas to increase lethality and readiness. Listen to every idea, no matter how outlandish it may sound, because if someone brings you their idea they trust you; and a culture of trust will be the bedrock of innovation within your unit.”