MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) —
Minot Air Force Base’s innovation cell, also known as Atomic Spark, brought another innovative solution to the mission.
Atomic Spark is an agency that accelerates grassroots innovations within Minot AFB, providing both a voice and conduit to turn powerful ideas into operational capabilities. The newest innovative solution brought forward to the cell … gloves.
“Innovation can start with any Airman; they are the subject matter experts and know how to solve the problems,” said Capt. Matthew Matuszak, 91st Missile Wing Atomic Spark director. “Atomic Spark helps refine and elevate the Airman’s idea so that it can be seen by a decision maker.”
With frigid winter temperatures that can reach 50 below zero, Airmen working outdoors are exposed to extreme weather. This makes gloves an essential item in the winter. The standard-issue gloves currently used by many Airmen may protect them from the elements but don’t offer the dexterity and movement needed to perform duties easily. A custom, heated glove was identified as a potential solution by the 54th Helicopter Squadron during a recent IGNITOR outreach project with their unit. Commercially-available gloves did not offer the right amount of dexterity, comfort and insulation required by the mission.
“You can’t effectively employ your weapon system or the hoist if you can’t feel your fingers in the winter,” said Staff Sgt. Mathew Brown, 54th HS flight engineer. “The previously issued version had some limitations, so it was determined that an improved glove was needed.”
These issues were brought to the IGNITOR group, a working group whose goal is partnering with Minot AFB units to identify feasible contractual, facilities or process improvement solutions to tactical problems.
The IGNITOR group saw the need for a custom heated glove opportunity that spanned several career fields across both the 5th Bomb Wing and the 91st MW. Atomic Spark brought the idea for custom heated gloves to base leadership and assisted with drafting the required documents to request innovation funds at the Air Force level. As a result, custom heated gloves are now being developed to not only help Airmen assigned to the 54th HS, but all base personnel working in extreme weather conditions.
“It can be difficult to get good training in ambient temperatures of 20 below zero or lower if you’re only thinking about how cold you are so anything that can help you focus on the task you’re accomplishing in the aircraft only makes you and your squadron better,” Brown said.
Minot AFB’s custom glove proposal was selected by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. as the recipient of a portion of his Momentum Innovation Fund. The next step in the process involved the 5th Contracting Squadron soliciting and awarding a contract prior to the winter.
The Atomic Spark and IGNITOR teams at Minot AFB have shown no signs of stopping their streak of innovation, having acquired over $45 million in Small Business Innovation Research funding in just under two years. These funds allow Minot AFB to identify small businesses that can provide solutions to the warfighter in a faster, more efficient manner.
“Atomic Spark is critical to Team Minot’s innovation goals, having been extremely successful obtaining Department of Defense innovation funds,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Kroft, 5th CONS commander. “The partnership between Atomic Spark and IGNITOR has been a key factor in turning Team Minot into a hotbed for innovation.”
Atomic Spark and IGNITOR have more than 40 projects currently in the works. Custom heated gloves won’t be the last innovation coming from Minot AFB as Airmen work hard to improve not only the base but the Air Force as a whole.