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Maine Air National Guard Present at New England Spark Summit

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Duplain,
  • 101st Air Refueling Wing

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. – Maine Air National Guard Members attended the New England Spark Summit at Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire, on Aug. 9th for a three-day event hosted by ARCWERX. The Air National Guard developed ARCWERX, which allows Airmen to share ideas to innovate and make positive changes within the Air Force. The program is 100% ANG manned, funded and focused. 

The summit provides training and networking covering the fundamentals of innovation by introducing guests to the tools, partners and resources needed to develop and sustain a Spark Cell. Spark Cells are an innovation network that utilizes the ingenuity of Air Force personnel at the base level and non-traditional partners to create unique opportunities for military members to collaborate with the top problem solvers in the industry. The summit offers the opportunity for the Spark Cells in the area to network together.

Master Sgt. Jason Howes, the Fabrication Section Supervisor for the 101st Maintenance Squadron and Technical Sgt. Christopher Look from the Aircraft Metal Technology shop traveled to New Hampshire to attend the event and do a presentation.

Howes and Look started their innovation journey when they submitted an entry-level desktop 3d printer that was awarded at the wing level and they have never looked back.

Their quest for innovation has blossomed into being one of the first units to receive a large award for purchasing a Fortus commercial-grade 3D printer. They continued to grow, learn and innovate with the Fortus 3d printer demonstrating their commitment. After the Strategic Financial Increase contract was awarded to Essentium, ARCWERX selected Bangor as one of the first locations to receive a new Essentium industrial-grade printer due to the team’s experience in using additive manufacturing technology.

Maj. Bobby Carbonell, the co-founder and operations officer of ARCWERX, asked Howes and Look to present at the New England Spark Summit. “We wanted to showcase how a problem gets turned into an innovation project and can be scaled across the organization. The experiences of these Non-Commissioned Officers looking for new solutions in order to maintain a 70-year aircraft is something that other Airmen can relate to and learn from.”

Being an innovator is not without sacrifice; Howes and Look have had to step outside their comfort zone, learn new technologies and be committed to the process of pioneering a new way forward. Simultaneously doing this as an additional responsibility and having the support of the 101st leadership has empowered them to be an innovation benchmark in the Air National Guard.

“Anything worth doing takes effort; the need to innovate is a no-fail mission. We have a responsibility to remain relevant and keep ahead of our adversaries. The sacrifices and investments made now translate into unrealized dividends for our future. We have been able to capitalize on technology that crafts more efficient and capable Airmen,” said Howes.

The purpose of ARCWERX is to create and foster a lasting culture of innovation in the Air Reserve Component that builds on the unique structure, geographic distribution and talents of individual Guardsmen and Reservists. This is the purpose of ARCWERX from their website, but what does that mean to all the Airmen out there?

Maj. Bobby Carbonell broke it down like this.

“ARCWERX is here to help Air National Guard Airmen solve problems. We support innovators at every level of the organization and have a wealth of resources we can connect Airmen to solve tough operational problems. We really work to make our organization user-friendly and easy to access. Any Airman can reach out to us and ask for help on how to solve a problem and we’ll be happy to help them get started.”

Air National Guard members bring a vast amount of skills and experience to their weekend jobs. Their civilian capabilities only help to strengthen the force and innovation is a way for those Airmen to bring forward ideas and contribute in meaningful ways like never before.

Howes and Look are great examples of how innovation works, and their connections and experiences can help foster the next great MAINEiac innovation idea.