USAFE-AFAFRICA dishes out rewards for ‘maddest’ innovators

  • Published
  • By Capt. Tom Barger
  • USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs
The 48th Fighter Wing at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, is the 2016 Innovation Madness champion, earning $175,000 for the highest per capita cost savings in U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa.

The 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, was this year's runner-up taking $50,000 to be used toward the wing's unfunded requests.

USAFE-AFAFRICA wings submitted 378 innovations, many of which can be replicated by various units around the command or even the Air Force. This year's innovations added up to $15 million in monetary benefits and 174,000 labor-hours saved.

The second annual competition differs from last year's inaugural edition by awarding the $250,000 pot of money in six categories as opposed to last year's winner takes all format. USAFE-AFAFRICA's Innovation and Transformation Council hopes the various prizes will urge more Airmen to think innovation year-round, day-to-day, and foster a culture of empowered, innovative thinkers.

The 435th Air Ground Operations Wing at Ramstein AB won $7,000 for the single best innovation for mission improvement. A re-engineering of existing communication equipment made the equipment significantly more useful and cheaper to use. Particularly advantageous for a unit that often deploys to austere locations with limited connectivity.

The 48th FW also earned $6,000 for the single innovation that saved the most money. The wing trained Airmen to be technically proficient on contractor projects and thus negated the need for outside consultants, avoiding $3.3 million in fees.

The 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein AB took the $6,000 prize for the single innovation that saved the most time. The wing consolidated an outdated paper process replicated by 47 units eliminating 22,000 labor-hours annually by simple process streamlining.

Finally, the 48th FW took their third prize of the competition by garnering the most reactions on Facebook with their Innovation Madness video. Their video was viewed 75,000 times and had 7,700 reactions throughout the three-week competition.

"These are certainly commendable results," said Gen. Frank Gorenc, the USAFE-AFAFRICA commander. "But the important thing to remember is that these numbers were earned by creating a culture of innovative thinkers who identified and captured ways to operate cheaper, better, faster throughout the year."

Capturing the innovations, such as engineered inventions or streamlined processes, are the crux of the Innovation Madness contest. Innovations submitted through the contest format are many times shared and replicated across the USAFE-AFAFRICA command making even the seemingly small innovations exponentially effective.

"I want to thank the Airmen, innovators and leaders who challenged themselves to improve the way we execute our mission," Gorenc said.

Gorenc is an ardent advocate for innovation and the Air Force vision, "The world's greatest Air Force, powered by Airmen, fueled by innovation."

"I love the Air Force vision," Gorenc said. "It clearly puts the burden on our Airmen to continue to fuel the complete success we've had since 1947. You tell me how to do it faster, better, and cheaper, and I will facilitate that move."

USAFE-AFAFRICA Airmen, it seems, have taken Gorenc's advice ... two years in a row.

Units can start innovating now for next year's Innovation Madness contest.

USAFE-AFAFRICA is the only major command in the Air Force that celebrates and rewards innovation in this uniquely mad, mad, mad, mad way.