Readiness through innovation

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christopher S. Sparks
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The U.S. Air Force has fostered a culture of inspiring and recognizing innovation. In turn, Airmen have been implementing and creating ideas to improve and moderate their work centers. These innovative ideas drive process improvement, reduce resource usage and streamline capabilities.

Staff Sgt. William Riddle, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal NCO in charge of training, has embraced that culture of innovation through his implementation of a 3D printer to create in-house training aids.

Riddle’s efforts significantly reduced the training aid costs by over 96 percent and reduce time of acquisition.

“Buying inert ordnance training aids from the U.S. is very expensive,” Riddle said. “A decent year’s worth of ordnance training for a flight of 25 Airmen cost about 60,000 dollars.”

Having a 3D printer here has given the 48th EOD flight the capability to locally source their training aids. In addition, they are able to source aids for the entire 48th Fighter Wing resulting in an increase of training ability in wing wide exercises.

“We’re providing better ordnance recognition training for the wing as a whole because of our more diverse library,” Riddle said. “Not only are we producing a training stop gap for the wing, we’re also producing better trained EOD technicians to deploy to wherever else we need to go.”

For his efforts Riddle was awarded the 4th quarter Innovation and Transformation Council award by the 48th Continuous Process Improvement office. This gave him the opportunity to brief his idea at the United States Air Force Europe Air Forces Africa’s Innovation and Transformation board along with Liberty Wing leadership.

“Staff Sgt. Riddle highlights the creative and innovative mindset of the wing,” said Master Sgt. Angelo Lowrie, 48th CPI superintendent. “It’s been impressive what he’s been able to accomplish through his own grit.”

Not only does this innovation save the 48th FW money and increase training capabilities, it increases the level of safety for Liberty Wing EOD technicians by expediting operational procedures.

“We’re cutting down the time it takes for our EOD technicians in a deployed location to work on a possibly live munition,” Riddle said. “This increases safety because it means less time being deployed resulting in less time in danger. They can do their job and come back home safely.”

Riddle has also passed down his knowledge of how to program designs into the printer to his fellow Airmen in his flight, allowing anyone from his shop to take a finished design and program into the machine to begin printing.

“It’s very user friendly,” Riddle said. “I can take anyone who hasn’t done any 3D printing and give them a 5 minute tutorial and have them printing with ease.”

Using the freedom the U.S. Air Force has given Airmen to innovate, Riddle was empowered to improve overall readiness, capabilities and operational currency for the 48th EOD and Liberty Wing.