Air Force Academy Cadets innovate at AFCENT’s Task Force 99

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Daniel Brosam
  • Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) Public Affairs

Four U.S. Air Force Academy cadets traveled to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to participate in research and innovation at Task Force 99 as part of the academy’s Cadet Summer Research Program (CSRP).

TF 99 is the cornerstone of Ninth Air Force (AFCENT)’s approach to U.S. Central Command’s intent of building a Culture of Innovation by using commercial and government off-the-shelf technology and partnering with Academia, Industry, and coalition members in order to solve operational problem sets.

Cadets 1st Class Ameen Khan and Thomas Lickert, both electrical and computer engineering majors, Leah Watson, a mechanical engineering major, and Avery Taylor, an aeronautical engineering major, were selected to research and support TF 99 for the summer.

According to their website, the USAFA CSRP provides opportunities for cadets to solve relevant problems, learn through real-world application of classroom principles, and build lasting collaborative relationships while participating in research at the various military, government and civilian facilities throughout the world.

“One of the main things you learn out of this program is how to actually get into the design process and how to find solutions to real-world problems,” said Watson. “At the academy, you want to help each other but it’s also hard because you’re trying to get that grade, but here there’s no competition – everyone is working together and using teamwork to solve a problem.”

During their time here, the cadets contributed to projects related to technology development, operational planning and problem solving, allowing them to apply their academic knowledge to real-world scenarios.

Additionally, the cadets were directly involved in addressing real-time challenges faced by the U.S. Air Force, developing an understanding of the complexities involved in problem-solving and honing their ability to develop practical and effective solutions.

“I don’t think our adversaries are holding back with their innovation, so I think we need to match that pace,” said Lickert. “Task Force 99 really emphasizes that with the rapid asymmetric warfare because they are working to solve problems for today.”

TF 99 is the AFCENT complement to USCENTCOM’s NAVCENT Task Force 59 and ARCENT’s Task Force 39. These task forces create a technology acquisition, development and evaluation ecosystem that allows increased awareness and faster decision-making across all domains and to place cutting-edge tools in the hands of warfighters in timelines measured in months rather than years.

The U.S. Air Force Academy sent us their best and brightest this summer,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Smoker, TF 99 commander. “Their efforts have directly contributed to TF 99’s continued success, and their efforts have furthered our initiatives to keep AFCENT on the technological edge.”