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AFRL Commanders Challenge seeks participants

Members of Team Kirtland working to set up radar detection and video tracking equipment during last year's AFRL Commander's Challenge competition Dec. 8-16 in Nevada. Kirtland is hoping to have a team in this year's competition as well.

Members of Team Kirtland working to set up radar detection and video tracking equipment during last year's AFRL Commander's Challenge competition Dec. 8-16 in Nevada. Kirtland is hoping to have a team in this year's competition as well.

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

“Got innovation?” That’s a question that AFRL New Mexico’s John Holbrook is asking of Team Kirtland in advance of this year’s AFRL Commanders Challenge.

Holbrooks is looking for a team of junior members (officers, enlisted members, and civilians with under 10 years of service) with a passion for innovation. The team he puts together will take on a problem identified as an emerging threat and special interest item for the Secretary of the Air Force.

“The Commanders Challenge will put our team in a rapid prototyping environment to develop a system for precision supply delivery to remote/austere locations,” Holbrook said.

According to Holbrook, Kirtland’s team will convene for six months, competing against teams from other Air Force Materiel Command bases to arrive at the most innovative solution. Travel to the final competition will be paid for by AFRL.

Holbrook stresses that it is important to remember that the Challenge subjects are not AFRL-generated ones.  They are immediate need problems identified by the operational Air Force, and it’s the solutions that count, not who came up with them.  AFRL employs its expertise in problem solving to oversee the program, but it is important that teams are composed of AFRL personnel and representatives from a variety of base wide units. 

In addition to AFRL team members last year, both the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center and the 377th Security Forces Group were represented on the team.  The team before that included members from the 377th Security Forces Group, the Distributed Mission Operations Center, and the 58th Special Operations Wing, in addition to engineers from AFRL.  Officers and enlisted, and junior force civilians are encouraged to apply. We would like to see a broad base wide representation, and a range of backgrounds.   

Even though AFRL recognizes the need to pool expertise from across Team Kirtland, the organization also believes that a base with two AFRL directorates should compete in the challenge year-in and year-out, Holbrook said, adding that Kirtland is second only to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, in terms of the AFRL presence. Still, participation requires a commitment from the volunteers and their work centers.

“Kirtland should have a team,” Holbrook said. “But volunteers must obtain their supervisors' approval to take part, and we are essentially borrowing them from their work centers for six months. It’s not a trivial undertaking.”

Volunteers must obtain supervisor’s approval to participate and submit a short resume by May 31. The submission should include background, education, experience, any other qualifications and a short email indicating interest in the program, according to Holbrook. Teams will be selected by June 16. The challenge will run from July 2017 to early January 2018.  

Send submissions to him at john.holbrook.2@us.af.mil.  For more information, contact Holbrook at 846-2875.