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Code Militia: Tactical Coding, by the Warfighter for the Warfighter

Five members of the Washington Air National Guard Code Militia quickly adapt by using virtual tools to meet during COVID-19 Sept. 8, 2021.  The team regularly meets and in real time make code changes while working on a discovery phase task to visualize data from multiple sources on a single common operating picture for the next generation tactical command and control mission system.  The Washington Air National Guard spearheaded the formation and implementation of an organic software coding team to get after problems in order to take extremely knowledgeable operators and support personnel and embed them into the front lines of software development to help make sure any new software and computer networks are mission ready.  Members of the team include Lt. Col. Rex Ayers, 225th Air Defense Group; Capt. Sharon Torres, 143rd Cyber Operations Squadron; Tech. Sgt. Brandon Johnson, 225th Support Squadron; Maj. Henry Lee, 225th Air Defense Group; and Senior Airman Lance Richards, 116th Air Support Operations Squadron.

Five members of the Washington Air National Guard Code Militia quickly adapt by using virtual tools to meet during COVID-19 Sept. 8, 2021. The team regularly meets and in real time make code changes while working on a discovery phase task to visualize data from multiple sources on a single common operating picture for the next generation tactical command and control mission system. The Washington Air National Guard spearheaded the formation and implementation of an organic software coding team to get after problems in order to take extremely knowledgeable operators and support personnel and embed them into the front lines of software development to help make sure any new software and computer networks are mission ready. Members of the team include Lt. Col. Rex Ayers, 225th Air Defense Group; Capt. Sharon Torres, 143rd Cyber Operations Squadron; Tech. Sgt. Brandon Johnson, 225th Support Squadron; Maj. Henry Lee, 225th Air Defense Group; and Senior Airman Lance Richards, 116th Air Support Operations Squadron.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, WA -- Compiled and error free. For Airmen and Soldiers of the Washington Air and Army National Guard’s Code Militia Team, these are the new mission complete expressions in a fight for future air and ground dominance.

To maintain America’s technological edge against near-peer threats, the DoD can no longer rely solely on industry to provide software innovation to the warfighter. A new model is for the warfighter to be the innovator and directly partner with industry.

Since November 2020, Code Militia has set a new standard for how the National Guard can leverage the expertise of citizen Airman and Soldiers to rapidly develop software for the next peer-to-peer fight. The blend of Airman and Soldiers from different career specialties to include fighter pilot, intelligence, cyber operations, air battle management and tactical air control party has been critical to producing a future mission software system that all operational specialties can use. This is based on the premise of continuing to build digital literacy within the National Guard under the motto “Tactical Coding, by the Warfighter for the Warfighter.”

Rooted in National Guard traditions, Code Militia leverages the expertise of citizen Airman and Soldiers who hold civilian tech industry occupations and pairs them with junior members for a robust learning environment. This model can expedite skill development and reduce the dwell and schooling periods of traditional military training pipelines.

Although software development encompasses hundreds of languages and frameworks, the members of Code Militia are unified by common coding skillsets. Before joining the production development team, Code Militia members must pass a rigorous coding assessment and graduate a three-month coding boot camp that aligns them on the fundamentals of modern full-stack development which includes JavaScript, React, Java, SQL, Docker and more.

This boot camp takes members who have dabbled with coding and arms them with the core software development concepts of a four-year computer science degree. Upon completion of the boot camp, graduates perform a three month internship on an existing DoD software program where Code Militia joined the ranks within Advanced Battle Management Systems applications. Along with other graduates across the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force, we partnered with existing government and commercial developers on various projects. Highlights for Code Militia included: developing a playback tool to use data from previous live-fly events to provide a common scenario for future demonstrations; contributing to the initial version of an edge-node which allowed integration of multiple applications and services on various government Platforms as a Service; and developing unit tests for a next generation user interface permitting a quicker time for the application to achieve initial Certification to Field.

While some of the team had to return to their regular jobs, our leadership is continuing to find ways to keep those that can stay be active contributors in developing software to support our Air and Army National Guard homeland defense missions. Code Militia is always looking to grow its pool of developers, product managers, and user experience designers. 

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