HomeNewsArticle Display

Project NEXUS: Empowering the USAF’s digital talent

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Weatherington, Air Education and Training Command deputy commander, stands with the first class of the Project NEXUS program after their graduation ceremony Nov. 4, 2019, at the Capital Factory in Austin, Texas. Designed by the AETC Technology Integration Detachment and hosted by the AFWERX-Austin hub, the beta test program was designed to fuel organic technology problem solving efforts for Airmen in their day-to-day workplaces. (Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Jordyn Fetter)

Maj. Gen. Mark Weatherington, center, Air Education and Training Command deputy commander, stands with the first class of the Project NEXUS program after their graduation ceremony at the Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, Nov. 4, 2019. Designed by the AETC technology integration detachment and hosted by the AFWERX-Austin hub, the beta test program was designed to fuel organic technology problem solving efforts for Airmen in their day-to-day workplaces. (Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Jordyn Fetter)

AUSTIN, Texas (AFNS) --

From July through November, 18 enlisted, officer and civilian personnel traveled to the AFWERX-Austin hub to participate in Project NEXUS, an Air Education and Training Command initiative testing how to equip Airmen with industry-standard digital competencies including software development, data science and user interface/user experience design.

Championed by Capt. Kyle Palko, an operations research analyst by trade and an Air Force game-changer by spirit, the course intended to uplift the service’s standards for organic talent development and align them with those in the civilian sector.

“The Air Force is losing the war for technical talent,” Palko said. “We are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the Googles, Amazons, or Facebooks of the world to recruit digital talent. Instead, the Air Force is going to have to enable opportunities to build our expertise from within.”

In an effort to preserve and expand the U.S. military’s advantage in this new operating environment, the Department of Defense is making it a priority to cultivate talent for an adaptive, innovative and capable digital force.

With that challenge in mind, the AETC technology integration detachment designed a program to train three cohorts of six Airmen each in partnership with Air Force organizations like the Air Force Chief Data Office, Kessel Run, and LevelUP, and executed by three vendors: GrowthX Academy, Data Society, and The Tech Academy.

In addition to stand-alone training, the course provided Airmen the opportunity to formulate solutions for 12 Air Force problems as their capstone projects, which resulted in three prototyped software applications and nine data science models for programs like Pilot Training Next and organizations like the Air Force Recruiting Service.

“Agile software development is key to the Air Force’s future and this nation's ability to compete in a near-peer, multi-domain environment,” said Lt. Col. Eric Frahm, ATID director. “Innovation efforts like NEXUS are unleashing the power of Airmen to solve problems at the unit level. The students demonstrated how ordinary Airmen, given access to the right data and training, can produce applications to assist with everything from aircraft mission planning to service-level force management.”

As with any experiment, the bulk of the planning and execution process was spent on testing educated assumptions, tweaking operations as needed and collecting all the necessary feedback and data to determine the effectiveness of the course.

Through the evaluation process, Palko found that one of the key benefits of NEXUS is the cost savings of training by utilizing Air Force personnel. For the price of a single contract, mid-level software developer NEXUS can train about six Airmen with similar competencies.

“This proved that the immersive boot-camp model is a viable solution to take high-performing Airmen of any rank or career field and upskill them at a fraction of the cost of outsourcing,” Palko said. “With organic technical talent, we can develop and field software faster, provide data insights for commanders on demand, and build the DNA of the Digital Air Force in preparation for the wide-scale adoption of artificial intelligence.”

In order to maximize the students’ time spent in the course and set them up for success following graduation, they also were exposed to the AFWERX ecosystem and embedded in a tech hub.

Whether it be Maj. Rachel Ramirez taking advantage of a weekend hack-a-thon to put her UI/UX design skills to the test or Senior Airman Jacob Traugott choosing to join the Vance Air Force Base Spark Cell following graduation, the resources available to Project NEXUS students served as the foundation for a career bolstered by robust personal networks and the exposure to new ways of doing things.

“When you read about different technologies and actually see it in action here, it opens up your worldview,” said Staff Sgt. Gavin Munoz, 81st Training Support Squadron software developer and Project NEXUS graduate. “Now, we’re wondering what’s next, what other possibilities are out there for us.”

After 120 days filled with technical training, mentorship events and integration into a support network, the students wrapped up their participation with an experiment Nov. 4 that developed skills ranging from full-stack and iOS development to collaboration via notebooks and machine learning with (programming language) Python, ready to tackle their unit’s challenges with a new perspective.

“This isn’t about solving the Air Force’s biggest problems all at one time and it shouldn’t be,” said Maj. Gen. Mark E. Weatherington, AETC deputy commander, during the course’s graduation. “This is about grassroots efforts solving local problems, small problems that make a big difference for our Airmen.”

As a result of the service’s investment in these 18 Airmen combined with their commitment to bettering themselves, the graduates are now moving on to build a smarter, faster Air Force.

“Bettering the Air Force starts with you,” Munoz said. “There’s one thing I learned from listening to everyone talk and from the classes we’ve been through, and it’s that every individual has the ability to change the Air Force.”

Engage

Twitter
Not a bad way to cool off in the summer. The 815th Airlift Squadron's Reserve #Airmen visited Alaska to airlift o… https://t.co/DElqEx4JwJ
Twitter
RT @USAFRecruiting: Built different 😤 These @airforcespecwar exercises will put your strength to the test and show you what muscles these…
Twitter
Another Air Force week complete, and we've got it in photos! View the rest here: https://t.co/OkjRFKvDjz https://t.co/HXcWkJN35U
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: On behalf of our #Airmen and families, congrats and welcome to Ms. Jones, our new Under Secretary of the @usairforce. #…
Twitter
Jumping into the weekend Tactical Air Control Party Airmen assigned to the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron pe… https://t.co/VLRxCb90mw
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: Getting ready for the big leap into civilian life? #Airmen preparing to separate from active duty service can take steps towar…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Acting Secretary Roth on the confirmation of Gina Ortiz Jones to serve as the Under Secretary of the Air Force. ⬇️ https…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Confirmed yesterday by the Senate, Gina Ortiz Jones will be the next Under Secretary of the Air Force! Read more ⬇️ @US
Twitter
The Senate unanimously confirmed Gina Ortiz Jones to be Under Secretary of the Air Force, clearing the way for the… https://t.co/Q8SFw2fq45
Twitter
Hundreds of Airmen participated alongside @USArmy Soldiers in the inaugural Pacific Warriorz 2021 Joint and Total… https://t.co/fAPp4UGjmW
Twitter
RT @US_EUCOM: #JF21-2 is designed to test simulated emergency response procedures, ballistic missile defense & crisis response assistance i…
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: Thanks to the conservation upgrades, Keesler AFB expects an annual savings of 113,840 million British Thermal Units, a 15.8 p…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: .@Spangdahlem_AB was the first wing in @HQUSAFEAFAF capable of Agile Combat Employment. Being agile & persistent is a m…
Twitter
After catastrophic flooding in Germany & Belgium, @Spangdahlem_AB volunteers provide relief. “80% of people on Sp… https://t.co/6roLIRoFT0
Twitter
RT @Southcom: Supporting our partners in #Suriname: A @usairforce C-17 from @TeamCharleston delivered a field hospital to Suriname July 1…
Twitter
Congratulatons! 🎓 https://t.co/dzK8o0E9rK
Twitter
RT @AETCommand: On the latest edition of the Air Force Starts Here Podcast, we discuss the modernization of the @usairforce Career Developm…
Twitter
F-16s from the 555th Fighter Squadron fire munitions at the Graf Ignatievo Air Base range during Thracian Star 21 i… https://t.co/aYEY5PoEWD
Twitter
The #AirForce Civil Engineer Center, in partnership with the USAF Installation Contracting Center, has streamlined… https://t.co/8iFGwfrYHR
Twitter
A-10 Thunderbolt II's auxiliary power unit insulation is on the path of modernization as the Ogden Air Logistics Ce… https://t.co/3vWCDmV8Sf
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,354,123
Follow Us