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Airmen code:  Six teams of Airmen hung up their camo and dress uniforms to don hoodies and Star Wars apparel before traveling to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they work with civilian software coders to build combat applications.

The group of Hanscom Air Force Base Airmen are participating in the Air Operations Center Pathfinder project.

Their mission is to learn from today’s best tech experts, while delivering custom-built software to warfighters. They are already saving the Air Force fuel and they have reduced the time it takes AOC warfighters to develop targets by 85 percent, making combat operations more precise and lethal.

“Our mission here is to turn the Air Force into a software company that provides airpower,” said Capt. Brian Kroger, AOC Pathfinder program manager. He’s also leading a team that is revamping an app called the Joint Tactical Toolbox. Kroger’s comments reflect his unit’s goal to make Air Force software as responsive as the operating systems in your smartphone, in order to disrupt the adversary as effectively as Silicon Valley companies disrupt their competitors.

Kroger’s team is working with a company called Pivotal Labs, which provides people and space to teach Airmen how to code like the workers in Silicon Valley. Open workspaces found in Cambridge contrast with traditional government workspaces on base with closed cubicles and offices. Pivotal Labs employees, and the Airmen they’re teaming with, work on state-of-the-art computers and have a clear line of sight across the entire floor, increasing the chance for collaboration and innovation among people who don’t use hierarchical job titles.

“Our biggest challenge right now is the Department of Defense’s hiring and personnel system,” said Lt. Col. Jeremiah Sanders, who leads the AOC Pathfinder. “It turns out that in order for this type of work environment to function, you need to select personalities who work well in team environments, rather than people who meet specific education requirements. We thought technology was the hurdle, but it turns out we can learn to do this, and we do it fast. We’re only slowed by how quickly we can fund for more personnel and select the right people.” Read more

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Airmen code:  Six teams of Airmen hung up their camo and dress uniforms to don hoodies and Star Wars apparel before traveling to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they work with civilian software coders to build combat applications.