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Innovation program “Sparks” knowledge for Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 20th Fighter Wing “Viper Spark” innovation cell hosted a MD5 Boot Camp at the 20th Force Support Squadron Carolina Skies Club and Conference Center, March 19-22.

Offered by the Department of Defense, the four-day course is aimed at educating and empowering participants to solve problems on the installation.

A teaching team from the University of California, Berkeley spoke with approximately 30 Airmen, selected by their commanders, to brainstorm, produce initial concepts and find solutions to command sponsored problems.

The program helps train participants by connecting them to resources outside of the DOD through three portfolios: education, collaboration and acceleration. Education helps in developing an innovative mindset; collaboration helps participants integrate into new communities; acceleration supports solutions and ventures that address the problem.

“Bringing UC-Berkeley to Shaw is providing our commanders with an additional tool to address issues within their respective area of responsibility to improve the mission, cut costs, simplify processes and bring tomorrow’s tools to the warfighter today,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Giles, 20th Fighter Wing Viper Spark team coach. “Training and empowering our innovators across the wing will allow us to unify our efforts, simplify the processes and increase our chances of winning big when it counts.”

According to a publication on, the training has assisted over 200 service members and serves to not only find viable solutions to an immediate problem area but to provide the skills necessary to solve concurrent and future problems within a participant’s organization.

Throughout the event, Airmen participated in various briefings and hands-on activities intended to enhance their problem-solving skills.

Service members spent the last day preparing for the final activity, which was pitching an event to the 20th FW.

“Innovation is about trying,” said Giles. “We want to spark the fire of giving it a shot. We have to empower our innovators to fail forward or we are destined to repeat the same cycle.”

By participating in the event, service members are able to apply new skills and potentially solve future problem that may arise in their units, enhancing overall mission efficiency and success.