AUSTIN, Texas – The 75th Innovation Command, an Army Reserve unit based out of Houston, Texas, is dedicated to driving forward operational concepts and capabilities that will enhance future force readiness and lethality.
As a direct supporting unit to U.S. Army Futures Command, the 75th Innovation Command is able to leverage the unique skills, abilities and private sector connectivity of its citizen Soldiers to inform Army modernization objectives.
According to the Soldiers who make up the command, the opportunity to influence future outcomes is a consistently rewarding aspect of the 75th’s work.
“What makes me wake up and put on the uniform every day is I know that there exist technologies that can really save lives and help us continue to be a world leader,” said 1st Lt. Sandra Hernandez, a member of the 75th’s Autonomy and Robotics portfolio.
In her civilian career, Hernandez works as a business development and strategy analyst, furthering the work of a major auto manufacturer subsidiary focused on developing “everything from flying autonomous vehicles to personally owned autonomous vehicles to smart cities.”
Whether tackling projects at her company or in the Army, Hernandez enjoys promoting new ways of doing business, often with non-traditional partners, and identifying synergies between technological advances and organic needs.
Master Sgt. Marcus Woolfolk, a logistician with the 75th Innovation Command whose work fuels and sustains command activities, sees innovation as essential to “ensuring that we stay current and relevant on the battlefield.”
Woolfolk views investments in emerging technologies such as robotics as critical to gaining “the momentum and the advantage” required to deliver overmatch in the fast-paced and multi-domain operational environments of the future.
The private sector expertise and innovation insights of Soldiers such as Hernandez and Woolfolk frequently prove invaluable when it comes to evaluating novel solutions to Army challenges.
Earlier this month, 75th Innovation Command Soldiers gathered for a battle assembly in Houston that included an interactive Warfighter Feedback Forum. The forum provided an opportunity for Soldiers to assess and offer end-user feedback on new technology solutions pitched virtually by companies participating in the Army’s Expeditionary Technology Search.
In conjunction with the event, a number of the command’s Soldiers also reflected on what innovation means to them within the Army modernization context.
“Innovation to me means being on the cutting-edge of technologies,” said Maj. Kate Rubins, an Army microbiologist with the 75th and a NASA astronaut.
The core aspects of Rubins’ job as an astronaut – “exploring and seeing what we can do, what we’re capable of, how we use technology and how we really push the forefront of that in our exploration” – parallel the innovation work being done at the command.
For Cpt. Lauren Smith, an Army Health Services administrator and civilian management consultant, innovation requires an awareness of what capabilities are missing in a given environment, an understanding of how resources and tools in use could be improved and a certain level of comfort with acknowledging existing gaps.
“For innovation to truly happen, you have to be open,” Smith said, underscoring that taking on the risk of trying something new requires both vulnerability and a commitment to increasing efficiency.
“We need to be able to change with the times as they occur,” agreed Sgt. 1st Class Philip Seale, an Army Infantryman and Military Police member who also works for the Naval Air Systems Command’s Aircrew Systems program office.
“If we aren’t able to adapt and introduce the newest, latest, greatest thing, we’re going to fall behind the power curve as a warfighting entity,” Seale said.
The command, which works closely with the Office of the United States Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, has a history that dates back to 1943, when the 75th Infantry Division was first activated.
The unit, which fought in Europe during World War II, experienced a number of transitions over the ensuing years, eventually becoming the 75th Innovation Command in December 2018.
In addition to playing a key role in supporting Army Futures Command modernization aims, the 75th is part of a broader legacy of the U.S. Army Reserve, which celebrates its 114th birthday this Saturday.
Today’s Army Reserve force is made up of more than 189,000 Warrior Citizens, many of whom hold full-time jobs in addition to remaining available and prepared to serve the needs of the nation.
Reserve Soldiers are present in all 50 states and five U.S. territories, and their expertise in a variety of fields – from engineering to business to medicine – lends important insight into the Army’s work.
And while Reserve Soldiers maintain civilian careers in addition to executing Soldier-specific duties, the sense of service and purpose that comes with being a Soldier is ever-present for many, including members of the 75th Innovation Command.
“It’s not a job, it’s a way of life,” Woolfolk said.