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A new wave of innovative Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Imani West
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The Air University Project Mercury Innovator Workshop took place from July 25-27 giving Airmen the space and tools to increase their abilities to embrace the innovation culture, competency and community within their respective organizations.

Saber University which opened in Spangdahlem in April 2022, offers resources, like the Project Mercury Workshop, for increased education and innovation, therefore aiding in strategic advantages against peer adversaries.

“It’s so important to innovate the minds of our Airmen and give Saber Nation the tools to speak effectively in that [innovation] space ,” said Major Kevin Walton, 52nd Maintenance Squadron commander. “Innovation is more than just a good idea. It’s taking a good idea, and then taking it through the innovation lifecycle to ensure that it gets across the valley of death and actually becomes a real thing.”

The courses that are available in the workshop are Innovation 101 and Innovation 201. Innovation 101 teaches Airmen foundational innovation. Innovation 201 covers the practical application of innovation. A six week sprint is available for a selected group of Airmen that have completed the full workshop, giving them the chance to take on real world challenges and pitch their solutions to senior leaders.

Spangdahlem has shown continued interest in innovation and has previously placed in the Spark Tank competition, an annual innovation competition, four times. The event encourages innovative solutions to operational issues.

The Project Mercury Innovator Workshop seeks Airmen that are passionate about learning new skills and actionable change initiatives within the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. Airmen are encouraged to bring their weaknesses, strengths, questions and curiosity to the three day workshop.

Airmen can expect to work on building resilience during their time in the workshop, allowing them to strive in the innovation ecosystem and accelerate the change they would like to see within their particular organizations.

“People consistently fail, but it’s the ones that get back up that succeed,” said Tech. Sgt. James Gulick, an innovation coach at the Project Mercury Innovation Workshop, from the 319 Operations Squadron on Grand Forks Air Base, North Dakota. “Project Mercury gives you a way to get away from ‘no’, and gets you to a ‘yes’.”

Project Mercury works globally to bring educational experiences to Airmen, helping them to sustain their innovation capacity as well as stay persistent after their time in the workshop.

“The most important thing to me is empowering the minds of our Airmen,” said Walton. “They’re the difference maker in the future.”

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