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Spark Pitch Competition drives innovation for Team Fairchild

Airmen in audience

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 92nd Logistics Readiness Squadron hold signs spelling ‘IPE’ during the Inland Spark Pitch competition at the base theater at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, June 6, 2019. Airmen from the individual protective equipment shop attended to support their coworkers, who presented their innovations to base leadership. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kiaundra Miller)

Judges at the Inland Spark Pitch competition

Team Fairchild base leadership asks questions from the judges table during the Inland Spark Pitch competition at the base theater on Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, June 6, 2019. More than seven Airmen were given five minutes to present their innovation and two minutes to answer questions from the judges. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kiaundra Miller)

2nd Lt. Phil Samples explains his electronic weapon-cleaner idea to the judges during the Inland Spark Pitch competition.

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Phil Samples, 92nd Mission Support Group executive, explains his electronic weapon-cleaner idea to the judges during the Inland Spark Pitch competition at the base theater at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, June 6, 2019. Samples’ idea would allow the Air Force to save hundreds of man hours, leading him to be one of the winners of the competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kiaundra Miller)

Col. Derek Salmi, Staff Sgt. Kristofer Ballard and 2nd Lt. Phil Samples pose for a photo.

From left to right, U.S. Air Force Col. Derek Salmi, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander, Staff Sgt. Kristofer Ballard, 92nd Logistic Readiness Squadron individual protective equipment supervisor, and 2nd Lt. Phil Samples, 92nd Mission Support Group executive, pose for a photo at the Inland Spark Pitch Competition in the base theater at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, June 6, 2019. The competition planners showed competing Airmen the importance of innovation and encouraged them to use what they learned from the event to improve working conditions within their career field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kiaundra Miller)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --

Innovation within the Air Force is key for maintaining the ability to fly, fight and win, and units throughout the branch have fostered an environment to grow ideas and pursue better ways to accomplish the mission. Team Fairchild has taken that one step further by not only creating an innovative environment, but also giving Airmen the chance to pitch their ideas directly to decision makers.

 

The Inland Spark Pitch Competition was one way Team Fairchild leadership challenged Airmen’s ideas to improve the base and the Air Force; it also showed Airmen how important innovation is to the Air Force.  

 

Airmen presented more than 10 concepts during the two-hour event, ranging from an electronic weapons-cleaner to giving Airmen the funds to attend an innovation class. By the end of the competition, five competitors were awarded a combined total of more than $250,000 in innovation funds to support the development of their ideas.  

 

“We really depend on innovation in the Air Force; we’re small and that’s how we get the mission done,” said 2nd Lt. Phil Samples, 92nd Mission Support Group executive, and one winner of the Inland Spark Pitch Competition. “We have the biggest mission we’ve ever had with the smallest Air Force, and how we [accomplish that mission] is by connecting the dots through innovation.”

 

Samples believes that innovation has several perspectives, and it goes beyond having the newest technology.

 

“Everyone thinks innovation is this latest and greatest technology and sometimes it’s not,” Samples said. “Sometimes it’s saying ‘Hey, maybe this process isn’t needed anymore,’ so maybe that innovative idea is cutting a process or doing something like the Green in ‘19 initiative.”

 

The competition was used to show Airmen that through hard work and dedication, you can contribute to and strengthen the base and Air Force mission by creating and sharing their innovative ideas.  

 

“[Innovation] is coming together as a team and figuring out how we can do better,” Samples said. “It’s how you can take the current process and either get rid of it, develop it, or change it completely, whatever drives results in a better direction.”

 

Airmen were shown support from Col. J. Scot Heathman, former 92nd Air Refueling Wing vice commander, and Col. Derek Salmi, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander.

 

“Wing leadership backed this whole initiative,” said Rachael Kaulig, 92nd Contracting Squadron contracting officer and planner for the pitch competition. “Col. Heathman and Col. Salmi were really backing their Airmen and rewarded them for putting time into looking for innovative ideas.”

 

Innovation is a key part to the U.S. Air Force values, one that aims high in developing improvements and ideas that maintain Global Reach.