WASHINGTON — Before going on deployment this summer with his Massachusetts Army National Guard unit, Sgt. Mickey Reeve had little idea he’d be on a world tour just a few months later talking about innovation in the military.
However, that’s right where he found himself after winning the U.S. Central Command’s Innovation Oasis contest this fall for his counter-unmanned aerial system training software.
The tool simulates U.S. military c-UAS operating systems allowing operators to train with adjustable scenarios and locations. The customizable trainer can be used by teams to sharpen reaction time, refine engagement drills and streamline communications.
“This tool will potentially have the ability to influence operators to become more proficient at their jobs, which could positively impact the mission and save lives,” Reeve said. “I think it is going to be a massive benefit to our organization.”
For CENTCOM, the contest was a way to find a practical idea that could help the joint force and inspire change across the command.
“This program is about building a culture of innovation across all of CENTCOM,” said Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of CENTCOM. “It’s about finding those great ideas hidden from view inside a squad, trapped inside of a ship, locked down in a cubicle in one of our bases, or tucked away in an aircraft hangar. We want to unlock, embrace, and then uplift those ideas and then implement them across the entire organization.”
Reeve came up with the winning idea while assigned to the Prince Sultan Air Base counter UAS team. Noticing a training gap within their simulators, he used his programming background to find a solution.
“I’m somebody that’s always had that work-oriented mindset, and I’m always craving that next thing to do,” he said. “This was a great opportunity for me to provide that outlet and to work on a solution that I found for my base.”
After seeing flyers for Innovation Oasis, he decided to enter and spent hours refining a functional prototype for his pitch. Thanks to the help from those around him, the Interim Platform Agnostic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System Trainer was born.
“My team did a fantastic job of supporting me the entire way,” he said. “None of this would’ve been possible without them.”
CENTCOM awarded Reeve the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for winning Innovation Oasis. He was also given the ability to attend the military school of his choice during the calendar year.
Following the selection, Reeve went on a tour of Washington, D.C. and the Middle East to promote not only his idea, but innovation throughout CENTCOM. The hope was that hearing Reeve’s journey would inspire other service members.
“The ideas are out there and they’re good ideas,” he said. “We have a tremendous talent pool throughout our organization.”
Army Futures Command’s Software Factory will work on bringing Reeve’s idea to the field.
With the success of the first Innovation Oasis, CENTCOM is already planning for another contest this spring with the hope it will be even bigger.