Columbus AFB Spark Cell shares best practices with Tinker AFB Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman Hannah Bean
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

The Columbus Air Force Base Spark Cell is leading the way across the Air Force for what an innovation lab should be, so much so, that a team from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, visited Columbus AFB Feb. 13 to gain insight of how to develop a spark cell at their base.

The visit was initiated by Master Sgt. Reza Zeinalpour, 552nd Air Control Wing process manager, after attending a Spark Cell workshop in Austin, Texas, in December. The workshop, hosted by the AFWERX-Austin hub team, featured speakers and classes that focused on building innovation teams and sharing ideas on how to foster a results-driven culture of innovation.

Maj. Ryan Brewer, 14th Flying Training Wing director of innovation, also attended and highlighted Columbus AFB’s Spark Cell and how its’ design allowed Airmen to network and collaborate on innovative ideas and projects. Zeinalpour wanted to learn more about the spark cell here so he reached out to Brewer so he and a team from the 552nd ACW, a tenant unit on Tinker AFB, could learn more.

“We wanted to look at the capabilities here, find out what return on investment has been happening from this spark cell to build a case for our own spark cell,” Zeinalpour said. “Every base has its own specific needs so we wanted to look at this and see how it’s been connected to your base and for us to take what we can back and maybe some of this stuff may transfer really well to us.”

Tinker AFB Airmen learned about project management software and the bigger ecosystem that was available to Columbus AFB. They also toured areas in the 14th Medical Group and 14th Operations Group, where the Spark Cell has aided in projects utilizing the innovation for faster and better daily operations.

“Think about building furniture; if you didn’t have directions, it would take 10 times longer to get the finished product,” Brewer said. “Given directions, you can build quicker and focus on your specific needs of that furniture. The blueprint and tricks of the trade create those directions. In turn, we will be able to partner with Tinker on future products and continue to grow the innovation ecosystem.”

What they learn at the spark cell here, through shared information, will aid in jumpstarting the 552nd ACW’s plans for their own version of a spark cell faster with shared experiences across the enterprise.

“If we don’t innovate, we’re already falling behind,” Zeinalpour said. “There’s someone in a garage trying to outthink us already and if we’re not already thinking to push further than where we’re already at, then we’re not going to be around. .. It’s very important to modernize, see what’s available, source it appropriately, and try to move forward.”

Since each base has its own capabilities, working together allows the innovation process to flow smoothly. Mixing these groups gives a deeper pool of talent and viewpoints, leading to further innovation.

Brewer said his goal is to assist wherever he can with creating these types of environments all across the Air Force.
“It’s about a culture of change, moving from stagnation to innovation,” he said. “In order to continue being the world’s greatest superpower, we must continue to grow, innovate and become more flexible to win wars in today’s challenging environment.”