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Space Delta 5 team wins $7,500 prize toward unit innovation in USSPACECOM competition

By Lt. Col. Mae-Li Allison Combined Force Space Component Command Public Affairs

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A team from Space Delta 5 recently won a substantial cash prize after competing in the inaugural “Develop, Innovate, Visualize, Execute” competition, a product of the “Designing Space” innovation event sponsored by Air University in collaboration with U.S. Space Command. 

During the five-week virtual DIVE competition, which began Nov. 10, service members from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Space Force, U.S. Army and allied nations innovated concepts to both explore and answer the question, “How do we develop space warfighting leaders?”

The five teammates in Space Delta 5, guided by an assigned mentor, developed a plan called Operational Warfighter Now or OWN. The plan incorporates sending space operators on temporary duty trips for five days to their supported units immediately after completing initial space training at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

“The OWN concept will help to close the gap between the end-user and the space operator, increasing levels of communication and appreciation for one another’s mission,” said Capt. Mark Mendez, a Space Delta 5 team member who works in the combat operations division of the Combined Space Operations Center. 

Six teams competed for an opportunity to win $10,000 towards prototyping their concepts for real-world implementation. Upon the conclusion of the competition on Dec. 18, USSPACECOM announced the Space Delta 5 team won the second-place award of $7,500.

“I’m extremely proud of our team’s talent and what they accomplished,” Col. Monique DeLauter, Space Delta 5 commander, said. “We have some of the brightest and most innovative thinkers here who know that to be ready for conflict we must be bold and innovative. That’s just what this team embodied with their idea, and their concept can truly be implemented right now for an immediate impact on space warfighting culture.”

Although the cash prize will be well-used toward making their concept into a reality, each Space Delta 5 team member received other rewards from this experience that will last a lifetime.

“This entire DIVE process was very interesting to me and I plan to continue to use it throughout my life and career,” said 1st Lt. Luke Byrom, Space Delta 5 team member who is an electromagnetic interference duty operator. “It really forced me to look for solutions to problems from the emotional side, and allowed me to open up my way of thinking about and solving problems. Our team’s idea tries to take in this emotional way of thinking to solve the problem of creating a human connection between the end warfighter and the space operator.”

Fellow teammate 1st Lt. Moriah Brock, who is a section chief at the 614th Combat Training Squadron and lead electromagnetic interference duty officer staff instructor, echoed Byrom’s sentiments.

“This competition took a different approach than most,” Brock said. “We started analyzing people’s emotions, then created concepts based on why they might have felt that way. It was refreshing to be in an environment with fellow members from my organization where rank was not a factor, and have the ability to freely express our ideas with no judgement.”

Brock said this experience inspired her to continue listening to those around her in order to fully understand the problem before diving into a solution.

“The best thing I took from this process was realizing not all problems are clear until you ask the people affected,” Brock said.

Another highlight of this competition was an unorthodox approach the competition organizers took to fostering a creative atmosphere for innovation.

“This competition was different from anything I have experienced, and it was not what I was expecting,” said Capt. Kaion Smith, a Space Delta 5 team member who is also the deputy program director at the 614th Combat Training Squadron. “We had four seminars, four hours each, which provided us with tools.”

Smith compared these tools to the methods used by the karate instructor character Mr. Miyagi in the movie "The Karate Kid." 

“The tools we learned during those four seminars developed the muscles of creative thought,” Smith said. “At first, the frustration throughout the groups was evident; folks even questioned the purpose of the exercises. Little did we know that we were absorbing information and challenging each other to not use prescribed solutions to solve the problem.”

The entire competition was conducted virtually, which allowed participants to not only safely collaborate during a pandemic, but also gave flexibility for those working shift-work to support the 24-hour space-mission requirements.

“We were able to overcome the challenges of not being able to talk face-to-face by creating a video to present our idea, which limited the issues of having multiple people take turns presenting as well as other technical issues,” Byrom added. “The benefit of having this course in the virtual format was that it allowed myself to take part as I am on crew; having the flexibility to join through Zoom allowed me to better work the course into my rotating schedule.”

Enthusiasm and diversity of thought and backgrounds undoubtedly contributed to the Space Delta 5 team’s success, as well.

“Three members of this team are from the 614th Combat Training Squadron,” Lt. Col. Krista St. Romain, the 614 CTS commander, said. “When volunteers were requested, each enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity to make a difference.

“What I am most impressed with and think should be highlighted is the true diversity of this team: a federal civilian who is a retired U.S. Air Force space officer, two U.S. Space Force lieutenants, a U.S. Space Force captain and a U.S. Air Force acquisitions captain with prior-enlisted service,” St. Romain added. “Sharing and understanding their unique experiences, personalities and perspectives are what led them to success. This is a perfect example of how powerful diversity and drive can be when it comes to innovation.”

Lt. Col. James Peterson, DIVE event lead, said by creating this competition, USSPACECOM “wanted to create an environment where people can unleash their creativity.”

By all accounts from the Space Delta 5 team, USSPACECOM did just that and should continue this successful first run of the DIVE competition.

“If this opportunity comes again, I would highly encourage it for anyone interested,” Brock said.

The Space Delta 5 pitch at the DIVE competition can be viewed here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=msd6_GNnZk8&feature=youtu.be