Start-ups and AF personnel come together during training

  • Published
  • By Patty Welsh
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

BOSTON, Mass. – Air Force personnel participating in Banshee Innovation Training gave myriad challenge statement presentations to Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, leadership during a culmination event April 5 at the MassChallenge offices.

The training is part of a five-year partnership between Hanscom AFB, MassChallenge and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Banshee lets Air Force personnel network and collaborate with representatives from innovative start-ups and non-traditional businesses who may have unique ideas for AF and Department of Defense challenges.

The program executive officer for Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks said that connection with industry partners is a crucial piece of the training.

“We won’t ever be successful in what the Air Force asks us to do without industry,” Maj. Gen. Anthony Genatempo said. “You must take this experience and you must continually reach out to our industry partners – especially brand-new ones. The biggest aspect of this program is your introduction to working with industry and cultivating that industrial base we need to constantly expand.”

Banshee participants learned different ways to evaluate and approach challenges, and the topics they presented varied extensively from Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to Air Traffic Control and Weather Systems.

Hollie Mazzocchi from the Digital Directorate noted how helpful the training was to her, as she’s new to both the Air Force and to acquisitions.

“I learned a lot this week about the tools available that I can take back to improve my acquisition strategy,” she said. “When I came in, I hit the ground running, and this gave me the chance to look up and out and see what resources I have around me.”

Jeff Womack, program manager from C3I&N Directorate’s Crypto Transformation branch noted that Hanscom AFB’s partnership with MassChallenge allows this training that he said was “an excellent opportunity.”

“This external partnership allows us to think outside the stovepipes we, as the military, often get stuck in. We can do things in more innovative ways.”

The leadership participating also highlighted areas where they see the training is helping.

Ryan Mantz, acting deputy PEO for Digital, talked about a recent small business panel and how he believed about four-fifths of the attendees didn’t know how their innovative solutions meshed with Air Force acquisition strategies.

“We need a cadre of people who speak their language,” he said.

Addressing the trainees, Hanscom AFB’s installation and 66th Air Base Group commander, Col. Taona Enriquez, said she was also not initially aware of MassChallenge and the local innovation ecosystem when she was first assigned to Hanscom in 2016 in contracting, and noted she regularly observes how the training has benefitted previous Banshee participants.

“Your experience is going to pay dividends; wherever you go you now have the tools to share,” she said. “The only failure in this is if you don’t take them and run with it.”

This group was the eighth cohort completing the training, bringing the number of graduates to more than 250.