Defense

May 8, 2012

Air Force innovation

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by Major Angela O'Connell
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
Air Force photograph by SMSgt. Rob Wieland
Jasmine Kemble, a senior at Coronado High School in Colorado Springs, Colo., explains to Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice, Air Mobility Command vice commander, how their robot performs during the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology World Championship in St. Louis on April 27, 2012.

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., (AFNS) — Lt. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, Air Mobility Command’s vice commander, was among a panel of educators and civic leaders in St. Louis on April 27 to discuss the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or better known as STEM, education to an audience of teachers, parents, students and business leaders.

Allardice conveyed how critical STEM-educated individuals are to the mission and role of Air Mobility Command and the Air Force.

“Within the Air Force, STEM personnel are found in all major commands,” said Allardice. “The Air Force possesses significant levels of STEM proficiency for conducting a full spectrum of missions for air superiority, precision strike, air mobility and refueling, airborne intelligence, aeromedical evacuation, surveillance and reconnaissance and operational command and control.”

He continued with a story about the largest combat air drop since the invasion of Panama in 1989. He asked the audience to go back in time to the initial invasion of Iraq and visualize the problems associated with getting forces into the northern part of the country.

Simply stated, “we had a problem,” said Allardice.

The solution was an airdrop, so on March 26, 2003, 1,000 Army paratroopers jumped from 15 C-17s.

“The capabilities STEM-skilled Airmen brought to the fight enabled an armada to join in a single point in time,” said Allardice. “Great American Airmen were studying the weather – science; using GPS and night-vision goggles – technology; were able to operate in austere locations – engineering; and had planned over 140 possible routes – math.”

The Air Force’s competitive edge depends on a continuous investment in STEM education in order to elevate its capabilities in the development and employment of air and space power to an unequaled level.

“We have a legacy of innovation,” said Allardice.

From being able to drop humanitarian aid to a specific point with our Joint Precision Airdrop System, to impressive medical advances which result in a 98 percent survival rate for wounded warriors that get to a field hospital within the first hour of injury, the Air Force continues to design, develop and adapt new technologies, he added.

“We leverage new technology today to reduce our fuel consumption,” Allardice noted. “Every day around the world, we implement new, more fuel-efficient ways of doing business: from loading cargo more precisely and removing excess aircraft equipment to flying more direct routes to destinations.”

Because of the changing demographics of the American population and the increasing technical complexity of the Air Force mission, STEM skills are of high value. The Air Force has several emerging requirements where STEM competencies will be critical to include space operations, unmanned air systems, and operations in cyberspace.

“We need Airmen who understand it all comes down to the basics,” said Allardice. “The result is a force capable of dealing with the development, fielding, employment and sustainment of systems.”

Allardice closed by thanking all of the teachers and mentors in attendance for their ability to “inspire, enable and empower our future,” he said. “It takes educators like you to keep them (students) focused.”

 




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