724th AMS Airmen place third in AMC Spark Tank

  • Published
  • By Capt. Emma Quirk
  • 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing
The Base Deployment Expeditor placed third of 17 competitors in the 2022 Air Mobility Command Spark Tank competition on Oct. 29, 2022.

The Base Deployment Expeditor is a ready-now deployment process that allows joint air mobility end users to quickly and efficiently scan, edit, save, and print required documents to more efficiently transport cargo.

The innovation was submitted by Capt. Danny Plunkett, operations flight commander, and Master Sgt. Daniel Burkhart, operations superintendent, both assigned to the 724th Air Mobility Squadron located on Aviano Air Base, Italy.

Plunkett and Burkhart attended the 2022 Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium to present their idea in front of AMC Spark Tank judges, share the innovation with other attendees on the industry hall floor, and accept their award.

BDE is a free and simple base-level process that all Department of Defense units can implement by consolidating existing deployment documents in one accessible location on Microsoft Teams or any similar web-based file system.

Once uploaded, the required deployment documents get linked to cargo increments using a unique quick response code, more commonly known as a QR code.

When scanned, joint inspectors and increment monitors can also access, edit, save and print correct documents at the deployment line.

Once cleared to deploy, the cargo is inspected and the documents are saved to the online database so increment monitors always have access to an approved package.

The idea started when Burkhart realized he and his team were re-doing paperwork and processes to deploy an approximately 20-year generator that they had already deployed “countless times” before.

"The generator hasn’t changed between deployments," said Burkhart. "Airmen shouldn't have to re-invent the wheel for deployment documents when the root cause is scattered continuity."’
BDE is designed to reduce the occurrence of frustrated cargo, or cargo put on hold, for administrative reasons.

“Current processes require aerial porters to leave the flightline to correct and retrieve proper paperwork,” said Plunkett. “Frustrated cargo creates a domino effect of problems which slows the mission and ultimately wastes Airmen’s time by duplicating work.”

In 2021, when the unit sought to identify and define the problem, they extracted manual paper copy information and compiled digital report cards. Through this collection they assessed that 87 percent of cargo delays were due to administrative issues.

The 724th AMS conducted an internal proof of concept and then began working with 31st Fighter Wing maintainers to implement a local solution.

The U.S. Air Force Aerial Port of the Future initiative is actively developing digital systems, with a similar purpose as BDE, using artificial intelligence to keep records, but these systems are still being tested.

“A permanent and sophisticated answer is on the way, but it’s not here yet,” said Plunkett. “Instead of waiting for it, Burkhart and the team set out with this off-the-shelf and efficient solution. What it needs now is advocacy and buy-in from leaders, joint air mobility customers, and aerial porters across the globe.”

While talking with other mobility professionals at A/TA, the pair was happy to discover that the 621st Contingency Response Wing, located on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, already implemented the idea within their unit.

“Our efforts in spreading this free and easy idea are being accomplished today and being tested by various units across the Air Force, we would like Wing Commanders and installation deployment officers to take this idea and shape it into what works best for their units to create a network of BDE users throughout the Joint air mobility system,” Plunkett added.

Besides continuing to create BDE into a global network, the innovation also requires improved connectivity allowing air transportation specialists the ability to access the QR links from anywhere, anytime.

“Innovation is a foundational piece of our wing’s ability to craft war-ready Airmen, drive deliberate transformation, and execute Rapid Global Mobility,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jeremiah Grisham, 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing command chief. “The Base Deployment Expeditor is an excellent example of how Airmen are identifying and solving problems at their levels to drive us toward our desired end-state, NextGen AMOW.”

Spark Tank is an innovation competition providing a platform for Airmen across the Air Force to present their project, receive feedback, and compete for resources needed to scale the idea.

Watch the pitch here!