LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --
In February 2018, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein announced that Air Force squadrons would receive $100,000 to begin investing in innovative ideas presented by airmen. In the spirit of Air Force innovation, the 189th Airlift Wing embarked upon a mission to find and fund the most creative ways to increase overall mission readiness capabilities.
Although the CSAF’s guidance suggested that commanders could allocate 80 percent of the Squadron Innovation Funds to each squadron commander and hold 20 percent to bolster the best ideas and foster competition for additional funding, Col. Thomas Crimmins, 189th AW commander, decided to think outside the box.
“We talked about it amongst ourselves in the leadership team and with some of the squadron commanders and decided that in using that template, some of our Airmen might get a couple thousand dollars toward their ideas, but that some others might not ever see the light of day,” Crimmins explained.
In order to ensure that every airman in the wing had the opportunity to present an innovative idea, the Sink or Swim Innovation Challenge was created. Sink or Swim was designed to give Airmen the opportunity to pitch their big ideas to a panel of judges, comprised of the wing’s group commanders, who had the authority to choose which ideas would best benefit the wing. The competition challenged presenters to come up with interesting ways to showcase their inventions or process improvement ideas for possible funding. It was important to leadership that Airmen felt empowered to bring forth their best ideas, no matter the cost.
“If the money that we received through the squadron innovation funds is not enough to fund all of the ideas that we want to implement, I will match it with funds from my Operations and Maintenance budget,” Crimmins said.
While some ideas required the judges to question how they could be implemented within the budget provided and were tabled for further discussion, other ideas were quickly identified as immediately implementable.
Tech. Sgt. Jason Bobo, a 154th Training Squadron flight engineer, presented an idea for consideration to the judges that he believes could benefit the entire Air Force enterprise, not just the 189th AW. Bobo fabricated an aircraft cooling fan to help with air circulation in the flight deck, impressing the judges with his innovative design, quick fabrication time, and low cost.
There were a total of 11 eager presenters seeking funding for the ideas that they brought forth but wing leadership recognized that there may by more Airmen who had ideas that they hadn’t yet shared.
“Don’t stop being creative”, said Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Boston, 189th AW command chief. “Keep bringing those ideas forward. I can guarantee that there are Airmen in your squadrons with great ideas that we haven’t seen yet.”