Army’s opens ‘Dragon’s Lair’ to all military services

The U.S. Army soldier innovation program dubbed “Dragon’s Lair” is set to open to U.S. service members across all services and units.

Army 1st Lt. Mahdi Al-Husseini, assigned to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, pitches his presentation on artificial intelligence pilot performance feedback at Fort Bragg, N.C., Sept. 27, 2021. Al-Husseini was one of seven soldiers taking part in Dragon’s Lair 5. The program was established in October 2020 to help increase innovation across the XVIII Airborne Corps. (Army photograph by Sgt. Marygian Barnes)

Last November, the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., initiated the Dragon’s Lair program, a “Shark Tank”-style competition in which soldiers from across the Army pitched their innovations to a panel of civilian tech experts and military leaders.

The XVIII Airborne Corps has run five “episodes” of the program since.

For Episode 6, scheduled for Dec. 6 at Fort Bragg, the competition will solicit innovations from the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force, and Coast Guard.

The program has become a popular point of entry for soldier-driven innovations and was even mentioned by Army Secretary Christine E. Wormuth during an Oct. 14 news conference at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C. “The Dragon’s Lair program on Fort Bragg is so important, as it allows soldiers to bring new ideas to the command,” Wormuth said.

Dragon’s Lair has introduced a new mobile application for organizing and coordinating land and ranges; easier methods for moving generators around a motorpool; and change to the Army’s policy on sexual harassment assault and response prevention. Military leaders hope opening the program to all units and military services will introduce even more innovations.

“Good ideas reside everywhere across the military,” Army Col. Joe Buccino, producer of Dragon’s Lair, said of the new episode. “Innovations are not limited to soldiers; service members across the force solve for inefficiencies in their daily lives. We want to uplift and resource those innovations.”

Army Maj. Ben Hall, assigned to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), presents his concept for modernizing the arms room using a digital system tied to a soldier’s identification card, called the Automated Arms Room System, during Dragon’s Lair 5 at Fort Bragg, N.C., Sept. 27, 2021. The program was established in October 2020 to help increase innovation across the XVIII Airborne Corps. (Army photograph by Sgt. Marygian Barnes)

To submit an idea for consideration for Episode 6, service members must register on the Dragon’s Lair website [https://unum.nsin.us/xviii-airborne/ideas?page=1&sort=3], provide a description of their innovation, and explain the inefficiency that’s being addressed. While the website requires creation of an account, it does not require a common access card and can be accessed on a civilian computer, laptop, iPhone, or android.

“The more information submitted, the easier it will be for the Dragon’s Lair panel to ‘see’ the innovation,” Buccino said. “The innovation can be anything from a new policy for quality of life to a tech-based product — and everything in between. It’s the full spectrum of the idea. This is unbounded innovation.”

Innovations must be submitted by noon on Nov. 15 for consideration to move forward to Dragon’s Lair. From there, the Dragon’s Lair panel, a group of 17 leaders at Fort Bragg, will select seven ideas to move forward to the program. The Army will send these 15 innovators to Fort Bragg to make their pitches to a panel of experts and military leaders.

At Dragon’s Lair, each service member will have 10 minutes to present his or her innovation, followed by 20 minutes to answer questions from the panel. Following this, the panel will determine which ideas will be accepted for Army implementation. Service members whose ideas are accepted for implementation will be awarded an Army Meritorious Service Medal, a four-day pass, and a slot in the U.S. military school of their choice.

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