Spark Pitch Competition drives innovation for Team Fairchild

  • Published
  • By Airman Kiaundra Miller
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

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.