Idea today, in play tomorrow: Robins program pushes innovation

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • Robins Public Affairs

“Accelerate, Change, or Lose” is Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, Jr.’s call to action to empower Airmen to be innovative and adaptive, ensuring the Air Force is ready for any future mission.  

Helping take up that charge at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, is Master Sgt. Stephen Van Pelt, the 78th Force Support Squadron Career Assistance advisor. His office recently sponsored the Senior Noncommissioned Officers Professional Enhancement Seminar at the Museum of Aviation.

“It is amazing here at Team Robins. We have a great team that’s all about innovation,” said Van Pelt. “This seminar was the perfect platform to educate these new SNCOs as they begin their new roles of leading bigger teams and learning how to be an effective and encouraging leader.”

The participating Airmen represented active duty, National Guard and Air Force Reserve members.

A portion of the week-long event focused on the Air Force program called AFWERX. AFWERX is composed of a team of innovators who encourage and facilitate connections across industry, academia and the military to generate a culture of innovation.

Van Pelt said it is important that motivation and inspiration come from leadership.

In addition to that, Senior Airman Ricardo Morales, 461st Aircraft Maintenance Group crew chief, believes having a leader who listens and supports the ideas of Airmen is critical for change to occur.

During the event, Morales shared how leadership support led to him becoming the winner of the 2021 Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Innovation Rodeo.

“The confidence they had in me was very encouraging,” said Morales. “I presented an idea for smart lockers because I noticed Airmen consistently experienced delays in receiving their packages due to the manual processes at Robins. So when a package arrives at the base post office, it could take two to three days to sort, notify, and distribute.”

And then, there was the matter of Airmen picking up their packages.

“With varying work times that can conflict with the limited post office hours, we needed a better way to get our mail. My idea for the smart lockers saves space in the post office and allows Airmen to pick up the items at a convenient time for them.”

According to Morales, the smart lockers will be implemented at Robins this fall.

The innovation push is also being shared with new first-term Airmen arriving to Robins.

“Once a month, we hold a First-Term Airman’s Course to help Airmen familiarize themselves with Robins and learn how things operate outside of tech school,” said Van Pelt. “We also let them know that their ideas matter and can play a big part in improving how the Air Force operates. So don’t be hesitant to share ideas with your leader.”