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Banshee lessons enhance operational mission

Banshee trainees, First Lt. Dylan Brown (center left) and First Lt. James Hanley (center right), present a joint capstone pitch during the virtual wrap up event for the third Banshee training program cohort Dec. 4.

Banshee trainees, First Lt. Dylan Brown (center left) and First Lt. James Hanley (center right), present a joint capstone pitch during the virtual wrap up event for the third Banshee training program cohort Dec. 4. The program, a partnership between Hanscom Air Force Base, MassChallenge and the Air Force Research Lab, is part of a two-year pilot project designed to help participants incorporate innovative ideas and approaches into their daily work. (Courtesy photo)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – The third iteration of the Banshee training program culminated in a Dec. 4 virtual wrap up event focused on how trainees will turn what they’ve learned into actionable ideas within their units.

The program, a partnership between Hanscom, MassChallenge and the Air Force Research Lab, is part of a two year pilot project designed to help participants incorporate innovative ideas and approaches into their daily work through virtual training and engagement opportunities with experts and entrepreneurs.

The third cohort, comprised of 30 trainees and 14 auditors from the Digital Directorate; the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate; the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems; and the 66th Air Base Group, as well as National Guard and Army personnel, participated in training sessions throughout the month of November.

The capstone event, held via Zoom, kicked off with remarks from Maj. Gen. Michael Schmidt, program executive officer for C3I&N, Steve Wert, PEO for Digital, and Lt. Col. Zachary Lehmann, the materiel leader for CROWS.

“This the most important kind of training,” Schmidt said. “Having these relationships with people inside and outside the Department of Defense is huge in terms of our ability to deliver capability to our warfighters.”

First Lt. Dylan Brown, the government engagement lead for Detachment 12’s Kessel Run and a Banshee trainee, said the program reinforced the importance of taking a collaborative approach when solving acquisition challenges.

“I think the Banshee program drives home the realization that there are a lot of opportunities for us to work together across the enterprise and use fewer dollars to solve more problems or even solve one big problem for everyone in the Air Force,” he said.

Fellow Banshee trainee and systems engineer for the Cloud Hosted Enterprise Services Program Management Office, Matthew Reyburn, agreed that programs like Banshee help broaden the trainees’ perspectives.

“We had folks with a lot of different backgrounds in the program and I’m glad that I got to know about the innovative things they’re trying to do, particularly the contractors,” he said. “I learned a lot about the Small Business Innovative Research Program and other contracting vehicles from them, and having a program that links me to these experts really helps.”

Christian Melton, senior partnerships manager for MassChallenge Boston, said the overall goal is to see “actionable outcomes” as a result of this program.

“We want to see our Banshees understand the innovation ecosystem, understand how to engage non-traditional [companies] and be able to find those top technologies that are going to make an impact now for our warfighters,” he said.

Hanscom leadership challenged the trainees to be “Banshee ambassadors” and “proactively infuse” their respective units with the ideas gleaned during their experience.

“I want you to take risks. I want you to lean forward. I want you to really supercharge your teams as you re-enter normal business,” said Wert. “Don’t fear failure.”

Reyburn is already exploring ways that he can use his experience to enhance the CHES mission. He said the information he gathered is particularly valuable as he tackles a Digital Engineering-focused project that would create digital twins of the CHES network infrastructure in a systems modeling language.

“I don’t have a full solution yet,” he said, “But after Banshee, I have a much better argument for how we could go about accomplishing this idea. The training helped me figure out which tools and language I need to use within my work to get the technical solutions that will help the enterprise overall.”

The program has also helped Brown improve his team’s operational strategies.

“We’re working to modernize the way we do market research. During the training program, there was a MITRE-led discussion about demystifying the DOD’s innovation ecosystem and it helped inform how Kessel Run’s engagement group now approaches making connections with industry and other DOD innovation organizations,” he said.

Both trainees agreed that the skills, tools and connections they gained from their respective Banshee experiences will help them in tangible, mission-enhancing ways going forward.

“I hope this program continues to thrive, because it’s definitely value added for the DOD,” Reyburn said.