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Airman uses Banshee experience to boost innovation efforts

Banshee program participant John Frias, Foreign Military Sales Qatar Air Defense Operations Center program manager and the FMS Division’s innovation officer, walks with Capt. Matthew Ruden, chief innovation officer for Program Executive Office Digital, at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Sept. 24.

Banshee program participant John Frias, Foreign Military Sales Qatar Air Defense Operations Center program manager and the FMS Division’s innovation officer, walks with Capt. Matthew Ruden, chief innovation officer for Program Executive Office Digital, at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Sept. 24. The Banshee program, a partnership between Hanscom, MassChallenge and the Air Force Research Lab, is designed to help participants incorporate innovative ideas and approaches into their daily work through virtual training and engagement opportunities with experts and entrepreneurs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – An acquisition professional here is leveraging his recent Banshee training program experience to expand innovative efforts within the Digital Directorate.

John Frias, a Foreign Military Sales Qatar Air Defense Operations Center program manager and the FMS Division’s innovation officer, participated in the fourth Banshee cohort, which wrapped up on Aug. 5. The program, a partnership between Hanscom, MassChallenge and the Air Force Research Lab, is designed to help participants incorporate innovative ideas and approaches into their daily work through virtual training and engagement opportunities with experts and entrepreneurs.

Frias said he took this training opportunity seriously and he intends to dedicate the time and effort needed to apply what he learned within his specific program.

“Personally, I’m gathering feedback from experts in the FMS intelligence office to see if we can find an innovative approach to automate their data collection and review processes,” he said. “As I learn more about what the current process looks like, I think it could be very helpful if there were some type of digital layer or application that could receive all of the data, instead of having one person try to review and dissect it all.”

The Banshee program also gave Frias a better understanding of and appreciation for the Greater Boston innovation ecosystem.

“I think Hanscom is positioned very strategically with all of these research companies and education institutions nearby,” he said. “The tech industry is growing exponentially here, so I think it’s very smart of the Air Force to partner with players like MassChallenge and other groups promoting these young, innovative teams with new technologies.”

In addition to connecting with the innovation ecosystem here, Frias also learned about key Air Force-wide efforts, such as AFWERX and AFVentures.

“Innovation is something that is very relevant and inevitable when it comes to the future of the Air Force and the sooner we have experts in that field, the better,” he said. “I was really interested in learning about how we can identify mission-specific needs that small businesses can possibly help solve.”

Shortly after completing the Banshee program, Frias was selected to serve as an innovation officer for his division, a role that allows him to use and strengthen the skills he developed during the training.

“I’m working closely with the Digital innovation director, the Hanscom Innovation Team and other working groups,” he said. “I have a supporting role and I’m trying to help pinpoint opportunities for collaboration.”

Capt. Matthew Ruden, chief innovation officer for Program Executive Office Digital, said he was happy to hear Frias’s division nominated him as their innovation officer.

“Anyone can be an innovator, but what makes John special is his drive and determination to do things differently that have an impact,” Ruden said. “The Banshee program was a great opportunity to stoke the fire inside John, and it gave him more resources to be successful.”

Frias agreed that his Banshee experience reignited his passion for innovation.

“I feel a sense of urgency to bring awareness to other program managers and encourage them to be a part of innovation right now,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do with the Banshee program, identify people who are willing to take on innovative ideas and move them forward.”

The next iteration of the Banshee program is scheduled for November 2021.