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See a problem, create a solution

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Dana Tourtellotte

“Innovators always seem to ruffle feathers,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joshua Oberheu, a petroleum oil and lubricants specialist with the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Fuels Flight.

In March 2022, Oberheu was asked by the 379th Expeditionary Air Maintenance Squadron to assist with formulating a solution for a hot-pit refueling procedure while they waited on ordered parts. Oberheu was able to immediately acquire comparable parts from civilian vendors in addition to re-working the pre-existing equipment already owned by the Department of Defense, which created a viable solution.

Oberheu’s aircraft to aircraft refueling system was put to use during Accurate Test 22, where he had the opportunity to demonstrate his innovative solution to U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Gregory M. Guillot, commander, Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central), during his tour of Thumrait Air Base, Oman.

“At first my aircraft to aircraft refueling idea I’d been working on wasn’t getting very much traction and wasn’t very popular, said Oberheu. “However, I kept trying at it anyways just as a proof of concept.”

He kept moving his idea forward, despite many obstacles and “nay-sayers”, and then, all of a sudden, his innovative creation began gaining momentum. All it took was the right person to notice what he was trying to do and see the value in it.

“A lot of my innovation ideas are fuels specific, since that’s what I work with every day,” said Oberheu. “When I’m not forward deployed, I help to run the innovation lab a couple days a week and teach 3D printing classes at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.”

When Oberheu sees something that needs to be improved, he tries to find a way to improve it, but sometimes he says, “you have to just wing it and see where it goes”.

“For example, at medical, they have a container that they fill with liquid nitrogen and when they’d refill it the liquid would spray out, which can burn you, and waste product,” Oberheu said. “When I learned about this issue, I took some measurements, looked up the regulations, did a bit of research and was able to make a new and better lid.”

The impact of that new lid made using the liquid nitrogen safer, reduced waste of the product and increased the ease of use for medical personnel, similar to the benefits created through Oberheu’s aircraft to aircraft refueling innovation.

“Even if it’s not related to fuels or job specific, it’s still worth it to push forward and run with your ideas and maybe dream a little,” said Oberheu. “Innovators are usually told ‘no’ a million times before they make it to their end goal. I hope they keep trying, because if they take ‘no’ for an answer the first time they hear it and give up, then everything will stay the same.”