New program allows soldiers to innovate from the bottom up

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U.S. Army Maj. Evan Adams pitches his idea of a new mobile app to manage training areas on bases in real time on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, at Fort Campbell, Ky. Adams, who is assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, won round one of the competition. The Shark Tank like competition is aimed at sourcing new ideas from untapped areas of the Army. (U.S. Army via AP)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In combat, U.S. Army Maj. Evan Adams is a tank officer responsible for leading intricate cavalry and reconnaissance operations. But more than a decade ago, he was a graphic design major in college, a skill he put to use in a new Army effort aimed at gathering innovative ideas from within.

On Wednesday, the 18th Airborne Corps announced Adams as the winner of their inaugural Dragon Innovation Challenge. Amid government red tape and military bureaucracy, the “Shark Tank” like competition hopes to harvest new ideas from the bottom up.

Col. Joseph Buccino, spokesman for the 18th Airborne Corps, sees this as a way of unlocking hidden, untapped talent.

“Our soldiers see inefficiencies in their daily lives and, in many cases, develop solutions,” he said.

The challenge plans to address various shortcomings across the Army. Soldiers have submitted ideas to an online platform detailing solutions for tackling issues such as unit morale, ammunition storage and the behavioral health provider shortage.

The first round of the competition asked soldiers to address the challenges associated with training and shooting ranges on base. The current software used to do so is more than a decade old.

Of 84 initial submissions, Adams’ idea for a mobile application to schedule and manage gun ranges and land on Army installations across the country in real time took the top spot.

Adams’ app will be built and tested across the 18th Airborne Corps’ seven installations. They hope to see the first phase of the rollout completed within 160 days.