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Innovator reconfigures, enhances critical intelligence asset

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- Among the nearly 30,000 Airmen of 25th Air Force are a multitude of outstanding innovators who, through hard work and diligence, make technological advancements that significantly improve mission and training capabilities.

Tech. Sgt. Christopher, a member of the Tactical Systems Operators’ Research and Development section, 25th Intelligence Squadron, is one of those innovators. His technical expertise and innovation led to the acquisition and development of a wireless command and control network for remote emitters, according to his recent Air Force Achievement Medal citation.

“Specifically, (Christopher) was able to procure two $50,000 portable towers that will be used to advance our training areas on the Eglin range,” said Master Sgt. Joshua, Christopher’s supervisor.

“(Christopher) noticed the first tower sitting behind someone's building not being used, so he asked if he could have it. With that, the snowball effect of setting up remotely operated emitters for our training purposes was in full roll. Innovation seems to be born out of necessity and - with folks like (Christopher) and the rest of our Airmen in our small Research and Development shop - they are exceptional at acknowledging where we can improve using this kind of thinking,” his supervisor said.

When Christopher began the project, his intention was to assist with training opportunities.

“Initially, the goal was to increase pre-deployment training capabilities, but it quickly became apparent that streamlining equipment would ease accountability issues, expanding our ability to learn and become familiar with advancing technologies and incorporate commercial, off-the-shelf technology into our training, allowing us to become better, more capable and flexible operators,” Christopher said.

He also wanted to make things better for the next generation of tactical systems operators.

“This innovation has primed the unit to provide the best training available, with the newest systems available, while also evaluating those new systems and providing valuable feedback, along with possible fixes, to vendors,” he said.

This noncommissioned officer’s unique idea may seem technical and complicated to most, but to the Airmen using the systems, his improvements are invaluable.

Christopher’s innovation became the backbone of the enhanced technology capabilities available at the different test ranges at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, where he is stationed, as noted in his award citation. He also contributed to reducing range manpower and played a critical intelligence role in the Air Force Special Operations Command’s Emerald Warrior exercise, delivering the most realistic signals environment to date.

Innovations by this Airman, and others like him, help accomplish unit, wing, service and Defense Department missions.

“The team of professional Airmen working in the Research and Development section are extremely innovative in pioneering new ways to simultaneously increase efficacy and efficiency in the way we train to fight,” said Lt. Col. Mathew Norton, 25th IS commander. “Tech. Sgt. Christopher has led this team to do just that! His knowledge and expertise have enabled him and his staff to acquire both equipment and technology to improve training processes across the board for the entire unit. Their streamlining of equipment has incorporated advanced training techniques, increased training realism and improved operational security.

“His leadership efforts have saved the squadron and the Air Force more than $2 million and will decrease future manpower requirements and constraints by approximately 85 percent in order to afford personnel the opportunity to better train and fight downrange,” Norton said.

The advancements Christopher and his teammates made will help other Airmen efficiently and effectively accomplish their mission, his supervisor said.

The gains the Logistic Support, Research and Development section at the 25th IS have made to tackle issues are a direct reflection of the creative thinking of the Airmen and NCOs, and their outside-the-box thinking, Joshua said.

“For the past few years, we have recognized that between deployments, manpower crunches, turnover rates and the constantly evolving technological arena that we operate within, innovation is a useful driver to become more efficient at what we do,” Joshua said. “The work Christopher has done could have been done by other Airmen, but no one thought of doing it.”

Because of his motivation and effort to improve capabilities, Christopher was recently recognized by his wing commander, Col. Jonathan Rice IV, who presented him the Air Force Achievement Medal.

A humble Christopher said he is not a big fan of recognition though.

“I’ve never been one to seek out recognition or put myself in for awards,” he said, adding that much of the innovation that happens within his section is due to the Airmen assigned there. “I have some smart people working for me, and I’ve also had the support of my (chain of command) to think outside of the box and make things happen.”

Norton said Christopher and the entire team’s ability to brainstorm new innovative techniques never ceases to amaze him.

“I’m extremely excited to continue supporting and encouraging their new ideas, concepts and theories ... all they need is for leadership to block and tackle for them, recognize their potential and enable their success,” he said. “This team is the future of better quality training for our members and their more recent recognized accomplishments are a testament to that.”

The 25th Intelligence Squadron falls under the 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, 363rd ISR Wing, 25th Air Force. The units of the 361st ISRG provide direct support to Air Force Special Operations Command, and strengthen analytical and targeting support to the rest of the Air Force. The group and subordinate units conduct cultural and network studies to enhance tactics, techniques and procedures to ensure interoperability within the special operations forces, and they conduct research and development of commercial and government-acquired communications suites.