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News | May 20, 2022

Behind the Scenes of JBLE Spark Tank

By Airman Mikaela Smith Joint Base Langley-Eustis Public Affairs

In 2017, with the intent to inspire innovation within the Air Force, the Air Force Association put on the first “Spark Tank” competition in Orlando, Florida. In 2018, Gen. David Goldfein, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, came out with Air Force innovation funds Air Force-wide.

“Originally the innovation funds were divvied up and used how a squadron saw fit,” said Sarah O’Neil, 633d Contracting Squadron contracting specialist. “The funds weren’t being utilized properly and Col. Gregory Beaulieu [633d Air Base Wing commander] wanted to change that. He wanted to find a way to remove that restraint and meet the intent of the innovation funds by allowing for more flexibility of funding so that people could actually implement ideas that improved work processing.”

That’s when the idea of a Joint Base Langley-Eustis Spark Tank competition commenced.

“The squadrons have a lot of Airmen who have really good ideas and Spark Tank is an opportunity to empower those Airmen. They can bring forward those ideas and be a part of that process of bringing something new and innovative to their squadron,” said Capt. Trevor Enos, 633d Comptroller Squadron budget officer.

Enos and O’Neil were partnered together and tasked with creating and facilitating the Spark Tank event.

“Once we got the submissions in, I was the main point of contact for contracting to check and vet each submission and make sure they are executable,” said O’Neil. “Once the money has been awarded, a contracting specialist will work directly with the Spark Tank winners on diving deeper into what the product needs to make it happen for contracting to go through and buy everything.”

“From a financing perspective, we had to think about what we can spend the money on. We have to make sure everything is legal,” said Enos. “Once the money is divvied out, we are getting into the execution of the spending of the funds.”

On April 8, 2022, 10 JBLE personnel were awarded checks for their innovative thinking and ideas to improve the Air Force.

“Knowing we have a wing commander that wants to listen and understand where our Airmen are coming from, I think that’s inspiring. It's also inspiring to see people come with great ideas,” said O’Neil. “I was really pleased with what I saw come from this event and I am excited to see where the future of the Spark Tank goes.”

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