Got a better idea of how to run range control? Maybe a way to seamlessly share medical data from a small unit up to a higher command? What about building small hit teams of electronic warfare crews that can zip around the battlefield and knock out sensors?
The XVIII Airborne Corps wants to hear about it.
And it’s built an open website for just that reason.
It may sound like all the other “innovation” ideas you might have heard from the battalion or brigade commander throughout your time in the Army. You can visit the site here.
But this time, the command is actually responding, issuing challenges and dangling free days off, a training school of your choice and a medal for those who win the challenge. And there’s one every 90 days.
If you have an idea, however, move quickly, because those listed above have already been posted and are being considered.
In about a week’s time, the “Corps Dragon Innovation Program” saw more than 30 entries — both for the Corps’ issued challenges and also original fixes for problems encountered — for the Corps’ more than 90,000 soldiers and their families.
“We want to respond to all of these within 24 hours of their posting on the site,” said Col. Joe Buccino, XVII Airborne Corps spokesman. “I’ve at least read through the problem and taken some kind of action to run it through the system.”
There have been initiatives like this before, even predating the Internet. But often they had to run up the chain and got clogged in the bureaucracy and to-do list at each level. Then, even with the Internet options, most sites required Common Access Card use, which could rule out half or more potential respondents in a large unit like the Corps.
So, a few months back, the command formed an “innovation council” within Corps headquarters to get this started, Buccino said. The open site was launched and the ideas are landing.
The council, along with leadership, will issue a specific challenge every 90 days, take entries and award a winner of the goodies previously mentioned. Representatives from each division in the Corps meet every other week to review submissions, Buccino said.
“People out there have ideas,” said Brig. Gen. Robert Ritchie, assistant commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps, in a statement. “They see inefficiencies in their everyday lives and they develop solutions.”
One such solution came from Capt. David Hamer, currently deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq.
Reached by phone Aug. 25, Hamer told Army Times he’d been thinking about inefficiencies with land use and ranges for a while. He’d had the fortune, or misfortune, of seeing the problem from the perspective of both a unit leader and from a Corps staff member, working previously in the G3 training section.
“I had the ideas in my head, I had talked with people about it over time,” he said.
Then his brigade commander asked unit leaders to submit their ideas to the new program.
Hamer first polled members of his unit to glean the best feedback and then packaged it, like any good Army officer, in a detailed PowerPoint presentation, which now sits, for all the world to see, on the innovate defense webpage.
He’ll have to wait and see if his unit’s solution is selected as the challenge winner, which could spur more soldiers to submit their own ideas.
That’s already stated happening though, he said.
“Sometimes it’s just about knowing the program exists,” Hamer said. “We’ve already seen a couple of good ideas, some soldiers have talked about some easy fixes for dining facilities on post.”
Submissions haven’t been only on the range-usage challenge.
They run the gamut, and have included such ideas as removing barriers to effective drone training; building reconnaissance teams that maximize electronic warfare options in smaller packages; and “fixing water supply and resupply.”
That was the aim of the program.
“We’re looking for inventive concepts related to everything from use of on-post MWR facilities, to the platforms through which we communicate with our families, to the way we organize for training, to the structure for tank gunnery, and everything in between,” said Sgt. Maj. Mike Noggle, corps innovation officer, in the statement.
Those who post non-challenge items that are selected will receive some kind of reward for their effort, though it may not be what the challenge winners get, Buccino said. That’s still being worked out.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.