Military Discounts Local Info & Discounts Air Force Army Coast Guard Marine Corps Navy Moving Tools Military Education Center Military Travel Center Find Military Answers

 Installation Search

Face of Defense: Airman Earns First ‘Spark Tank’ Innovation Award

Air Mobility Command

PRINT  |  E-MAIL  |  CONTACT AUTHOR

An airman from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, took home the top prize in the Air Force’s first-ever Spark Tank innovation competition at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium here Feb. 22.

An F-18 Hornet is reflected in the face mask of an airman during a refueling operation.
Air Force Master Sgt. Bartek Bachleda, 22nd Air Refueling Wing, refuels an F-18 Hornet aircraft over Missouri, Feb. 10, 2017. Bachleda developed an ergonomically correct support cushion and floor panel for KC-135 Stratotanker boom operators, which potentially helps prevent future medical problems for airmen. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor Rhynes
An F-18 Hornet is reflected in the face mask of an airman during a refueling operation. Refueling Over Missouri
Air Force Master Sgt. Bartek Bachleda, 22nd Air Refueling Wing, refuels an F-18 Hornet aircraft over Missouri, Feb. 10, 2017. Bachleda developed an ergonomically correct support cushion and floor panel for KC-135 Stratotanker boom operators, which potentially helps prevent future medical problems for airmen. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor Rhynes

Master Sgt. Bartek Bachleda, an aircraft refueling boom operator with the 22nd Air Refueling Wing, won the inaugural Air Force Spark Tank Competition Cup for his proposal to reengineer the boom operator platform position for the entire KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft refueler fleet. He asked the Air Force for $1.5 million to implement his innovation.

“It’s refreshing to see [leaders] encouraging airmen to innovate,” Bachleda said. “It’s really cool!”

Better Boom Operator Platform

Bachleda’s winning idea is designed to provide a more stable and ergonomically correct platform for all KC-135 instructor boom operators. The proposed innovation aims to both reduce back and neck injuries and save the Air Force $132 million each year in this critical aircrew specialty.

“We were getting neck and back injuries, and it’s been happening since the 1950s,” he said.

A panel comprised of Air Force senior leaders, including the secretary of the Air Force, the Air Force’s chief of staff and industry partners, judged six innovative finalists.

After Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson heard Bachleda’s idea, she gave firm direction to the Air Force’s acquisitions lead.

“Before we leave tonight, I want you to talk to this guy, figure out his [system] and get this [out] to the airmen,” she said.

Master Sgt. Bartek Bachleda (right), 22nd Air Refueling Wing aircraft boom operator, from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, briefs his idea to the Spark Tank panel during the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium, Orlando, Fla., Feb. 22, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne A. Clark)
Air Force Master Sgt. Bartek Bachleda, right, an 22nd Air Refueling Wing aircraft boom operator from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., briefs his idea to the Spark Tank panel during the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 22, 2018. Air Force photo by Wayne A. Clark
Master Sgt. Bartek Bachleda (right), 22nd Air Refueling Wing aircraft boom operator, from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, briefs his idea to the Spark Tank panel during the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium, Orlando, Fla., Feb. 22, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne A. Clark) KC-135 aircraft boom instructor platform wins Spark Tank cup
Air Force Master Sgt. Bartek Bachleda, right, an 22nd Air Refueling Wing aircraft boom operator from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., briefs his idea to the Spark Tank panel during the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 22, 2018. Air Force photo by Wayne A. Clark

Innovation Competition

The Air Mobility Command, based at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, and its Phoenix Spark innovation program embraced the call for innovation after Wilson kicked off the Spark Tank competition last September. The competition was co-hosted between the Airmen Powered by Innovation Program and the newly-announced AFwerX Innovation Ecosystem, and was conducted in a multi-step approach starting with participants submitting their ideas through their major commands.

AMC was the only command with two innovations selected for presentation to Air Force and industry leaders in Orlando.

“Innovation is central to our Air Force‘s ability to apply airpower,” said Air Force Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, AMC commander. “At a time when we are challenged with resource constraints, with no rest from our adversaries, we need to find more effective ways to continue as the world‘s most dominant Air Force.”

Bachleda encouraged his fellow airmen to keep bringing their ideas forward.

“I didn’t come here to win,” he said. “I wanted senior leadership to see this problem in front of them and explain to them that we can save the Air Force all this money.”

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, contributed to this article)


Proud Sponsors

My Account

Social Media
* Share This Article  
* The appearance of hyperlinks to other sites does not constitute endorsement by MilitaryAvenue.com of that site or the information, products or services contained therein.

Military Tools


Advertisement