JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — In February 2019, 40 innovators — comprised of service members and civilian employees from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base attended an “MD5 Boot Camp.”
The outcome of this workshop focused on the commander’s local priority of improving gate security and efficiency.
After a full evaluation of the commander’s problem, MD5 Boot Camp participants were split into seven teams. Each team worked on different problem sets, allowing attendees to focus on contributing in areas in which they could help the most.
One team focused on gate efficiency and worked on a way to regulate incoming traffic.
“One of the MD5 Boot Camp-inspired solutions which will soon be implemented at the Richardson Gate is a traffic-calming system,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Crystal Jenkins, 673d Air Base Wing photojournalist and Arctic Spark Council CEO. “This not only provides a safer approach for commuters but also a more secure inbound environment for the military police who are vulnerable and exposed to fast-moving vehicles while guarding the gate.”
Another team focused on the security of the wildlife gates on the base. Their solution was live, high-definition cameras with two-way communication placed near areas known to have higher unauthorized entry violations.
“The cameras allow base security to monitor the gates as well as provide two-way communication with trespassers,” said Airman 1st Class Danielle Piazza, 673d Security Forces Squadron alarm monitor and Arctic Spark Council executive administrator. “It helps us stop those attempting to enter the military installation in an unauthorized way.”
The cameras allow base security to ensure the safety standards of the base are being met while still allowing wildlife to pass freely.
“Ultimately the cameras give us eyes on the ground more efficiently and allow us to generate an immediate response,” said Airman 1st Class Stefan Arredondo, 673d SFS installation entry controller and Arctic Spark Council marketing and networking assistant.
Because MD5 Boot Camp included both civilians and service members all from different installations and duties, it encouraged collaboration and innovation through differing ideas.
“I think including different agencies made it easier for us to think outside of the box for solutions because none of us were in the box,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Gered Crawford, a 732d Air Mobility Squadron lead production superintendent. “It was cool to see how quickly we came up with ideas and were able to narrow it down to a few the base was able to accomplish quickly.”
Additionally, the MD5 course focused on strategic, innovative and viable solutions for the base.
“I think we need to keep coming up with ideas and pushing through the status quo of what embodies a good idea,” said Arredondo. “Because those ideas may move into bettering our squadrons and the Air Force.”
Both Arredondo and Piazza said JBER leadership is a driving factor behind the course’s rapid success.
“Col. Csànk was definitely enthusiastic about the ideas that came out of the course and wanted those solutions to be put into motion very quickly,” Arredondo said.
“It starts from the top,” Piazza said, “when you have leadership that believes in you and pushes you, it trickles down. The MD5 Boot Camp was a great start for all of us especially because ideas got picked up and pushed so quickly.”
The Airmen who participated in the course were encouraged to question themselves about where to go next with their new ideas and skills.
“I think my favorite part of the MD5 Boot Camp was the challenge to stay involved after the camp was over,” Arredondo said. “It left me asking myself what is next, how do we take this knowledge gained into our squadrons?”
This question was part of what led to the conception of the 673d ABW Arctic Spark Council.
“The 673d ABW Arctic Spark Council is a team of people elected by their peers, to improve JBER through innovation and process improvements,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Justin McDonald, 673d SFS noncommissioned officer in charge of future operations. “The idea behind the council is that we would be able network and provision out our problems to create innovative solutions.”
Jenkins said she hopes that the successes from the MD5 Boot Camp will encourage others to get involved with the Arctic Spark Council.
“I’m hoping more people will be inspired to bring their ideas forward when they realize the minimal time it has taken to see an idea go from a rough prototype and then see it come to completion less than five months later,” Jenkins said. “That sort of a timeline is unprecedented when it comes to how the Air Force has worked in the past. It shows just how serious we need to be in order to remain the best.”
Arredondo said he credits base leadership with the success of the MD5 Boot Camp and the conception of the 673d ABW Arctic Spark Council which will allow the continuation of the ideas ignited in the course.
“When you have leadership that buys into creating better processes, better systems and better ideas, you get better results,” Arredondo said. “Hopefully this just goes to show what kind of leadership we have at JBER and inspires others to continue in their own areas.”