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AFCENT Battle Lab paves paths for innovation

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt. Chris Hubenthal-Magagian
  • Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) Public Affairs

One of 9th Air Force (Air Forces Central)’s top priorities is to innovate new processes, technologies, and approaches. The Command Technology and Data Office helps ensure that goal is met.

The AFCENT ‘Battle Lab,’ nested under the CTDO, provides a space and capability where Airmen can innovate and cultivate ideas, and then work with the CTDO to obtain resources to engineer, refine, and validate their mission requirements throughout the command.

At the Battle Lab, Airmen are able to tap into resources to help solve problems impacting their mission, including real-time support from DOD and private sector subject matter experts to help brainstorm and plan courses of action to mitigate challenges.

“We bring them into a ‘one-stop shop’ to look at innovative solutions, big or small,” said Master Sgt. Randy Young, 9th AF (AFCENT) CTDO superintendent. “The Battle Lab serves as a place to have an Airman articulate their problem and what their solution should look like, and then sit them down with an engineer and have them be able to figure that out in real-time.”

Providing Airmen with a single location that connects them to resources helps ensure that good ideas actually become innovative solutions. “What the Battle Lab provides is the opportunity to gain these resources in a collaborative environment for technology integration, digital transformation, and innovation in general,” said Lt. Col. Chaz LeDeatte, 9th AF (AFCENT) deputy chief of staff. “It gives Airmen an opportunity to come in and learn new skills and take that back to their work spaces to get after problem sets and enable decisions at their level.”

Since October 2023, the team has helped Airmen tackle projects through a variety of workshops, digital transformation, and even artificial intelligence. AFCENT has already benefited from the lab’s efforts including through the implementation of the Joint All-Domain Warfighting System.

“JAWS is essentially a dashboard that we stood up during the Israel-Hamas conflict,” said Young. “It developed a space where all the directors could have their subject matter experts and action officers consolidate information that was important to the CFACC when responding to that. We were also able to utilize the tool to improve workflow processes for areas including global force management and aircraft beddown.”

Maj. Joshua Brock, 9th AF (AFCENT) CTDO chief innovation officer, said their team’s work to promote and employ innovative ideas like JAWS is effective thanks to a wide range of partners. These partners include AFCENT directorates and special staff, and external partners including U.S. Central Command, the DOD’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office, Headquarters, Air Force, and George Mason University.

“Our partners have been very responsive and excited,” said Brock. “By partnering with industry, academia, and other organizations we’re getting folks that are basically living and breathing that side of the world real-time every day, and we’re bringing them into the DOD environment by showing them our challenges. That helps us get leaps and bounds ahead.”

Thanks to their partnerships, the CTDO has seen success in developing solutions to streamline processes and procedures at AFCENT. LeDeatte said he is proud of the partnerships and progress his team has forged in support of the Battle Lab’s work to enhance AFCENT’s capabilities.

“At the end of the day, they got an opportunity to lead in many different areas, and learn how to communicate in a strategic manner,” said LeDeatte. “There’s a lot of key capabilities they were able to attain in this space, enabling our culture of innovation across the board. It’s definitely been a fantastic venture for them.”

For every Airman, AFCENT’s Battle Lab cultivates innovation and paves paths to solutions for challenges across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.