2019 at Wright-Patt: Education, technology, readiness and training

More than 80 members of the 445th Airlift Wing participated in an annual Agile Combat Support exercise April 5-7 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (Contributed photo)
More than 80 members of the 445th Airlift Wing participated in an annual Agile Combat Support exercise April 5-7 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (Contributed photo)

Throughout 2019, there were many significant milestones achieved by organizations across Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Here are some of the events, awards, advancements and other activities that contributed to the overall success of various missions:


• AFIT entered the category of High Research Activity for a doctoral university from the 2018 update of the Carnegie classification. AFIT is the only Department of Defense academic institution to hold this specific categorization. To qualify for the doctoral university High Research Activity classification, an institution must award at least 20 research-based doctoral degrees per year and report at least $5 million in total research expenditures.

• Lt. Col. James Rutledge, Ph.D., P.E., is AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management’s first permanent senior military faculty member. In this role, Rutledge can remain in the position as an active-duty lieutenant colonel until he separates, retires or makes full colonel.

• AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management awarded 234 advanced degrees March 21. The graduating class included 203 Air Force officers, two Air Force non-commissioned officers, eight Army officers, two Marine Corps officers and 15 civilians. The school also graduated three international students from Australia and Brazil. The Graduate School awarded 214 master’s degrees and 20 doctorate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math fields. One graduate received dual master’s degrees.

• AFIT welcomed 200 students from local schools to participate in the annual “Demo Days” in recognition of National Engineers Week. Sponsored by DiscoverE, a coalition of academic, industry and professional organizations, National Engineers Week is a nation-wide effort to celebrate and promote engineering. Universities across the country host engineering-related activities. AFIT students and faculty hosted hands-on demonstrations that showcased a wide range of the school’s facilities.

• About 130 students and teachers from nine local schools participated in AFRL’s 7th annual Full Throttle STEM at Eldora Speedway May 14. The students, who ranged in age from 9 to 18, showcased projects such as computer on a wall, hearing aids for children, as well as various gaming and virtual reality projects. The event culminated in RC and autonomous car races outside in the Eldora Speedway concourse.


• To improve aircrew safety and save lives, AFLCMC’s Agile Combat Support Directorate is fielding 12,000 new personnel locator beacons to aircrews in most fixed wing aircraft across the Air Force fleet. Known as the URT-46, the beacons are being installed in ejection seats and parachutes and are designed to help search and rescue teams locate aviators in the event they eject or bail out/exit their aircraft during flight.

• Scientists and engineers from AFRL highlighted technology advancements in 13 research areas in various stages of maturity during the third biennial Department of Defense Lab Day April 25 in the Pentagon center courtyard. DOD Lab Day is a showcase event to highlight the innovative work performed by scientists and engineers within the Defense Laboratory Enterprise, which includes defense laboratories, warfare centers and engineering centers across the world. The event presents an opportunity for the labs to display the groundbreaking work developed throughout the DOD to benefit the warfighter.

• AFRL along with research partners at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is working to change the shape of materials technology with a breakthrough development that could open up a new range of possibilities for the military and beyond. Through an Air Force Office of Scientific Research-funded basic research effort, the collaborative team developed a 3-D printed, polymer-based foam structure that responds to the force of a shock wave to act as a one-way switch, a long-sought-after goal in shock research.

• AFRL has developed liquid metal systems that autonomously change structures so they become better conductors in response to strain. Conductive materials change their properties as they are strained or stretched. Typically, electrical conductivity decreases and resistance increases with stretching. The material recently developed by AFRL scientists, called Polymerized Liquid Metal Networks, does just the opposite. These liquid metal networks can be strained up to 700 percent, autonomously respond to that strain to keep the resistance between those two states virtually the same and still return to their original state. It is all due to the self-organized nanostructure within the material that performs these responses automatically.

• On June 25, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket successfully launched AFIT’s Space Object Self-Tracker into low Earth orbit. The third of AFIT’s space systems to reach orbit, SOS was entirely designed, manufactured and tested by faculty, staff and students within AFIT’s Center for Space Research and Assurance. SOS is a hosted instrument on NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission spacecraft.

• The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a low-cost unmanned air vehicle, successfully completed all test objectives during a 71-minute flight June 11 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The test marked the second successful flight for the aircraft this year. The inaugural 72-minute flight was recorded in March. AFRL developed the low-cost unmanned air vehicle together with Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Inc. The joint effort falls within AFRL’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, which has the goal to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft.

• An innovative water decontamination technology tested at Wright-Patterson AFB was selected for further development. The Enhanced Contact Plasma Reactor completed a two-week field demonstration Sept. 25. The plasma reactor demo was funded by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center to identify potential cost-effective and sustainable environmental solutions for cleaning groundwater containing perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid. The Air Force announced the plasma reactor’s field demonstration Nov. 5.

Readiness & Training

• The 88 ABW participated in a base readiness assessment Oct. 7-11, which AFMC requires twice a year to assess how well a military base responds to short-notice, mass deployments. The readiness assessment kicked off with a deployment processing line, issuing Individual Protective Equipment and Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear to protect against chemical or biological agents. They then enacted a boots-on-the-ground simulated exercise at the Warfighter Training Center. Airmen demonstrated how well they knew how to act in a chemically contaminated environment and still perform Post Attack and Reconnaissance checks. Searching for simulated unexploded ordinance, performing self-aid buddy care to simulated casualties, coordinating communication routes, monitoring chemical or biological contamination and defending the compound against simulated enemy force actors were all accomplished.

• Thunderous smoke bombs activated, simulated attacks commenced, and Airmen scrambled to action as more than 80 members of the 445th Airlift Wing participated in an annual Agile Combat Support exercise April 5-7. 445 AW members deployed to a simulated bare-base location at the Warfighter Training Center to hone their skills.

• Quarterly Focus Week trainings offered free continued professional and personal development.

• Quarterly base-wide exercises saw emergency personnel and others actively responding to a range of installation-wide, as well as unit-specific, events.

• Wright-Patterson AFB supported an international search and rescue exercise with the arrival of an Australian aircraft and specialists June 2-7. A Royal Australian Air Force C-17A offloaded the Australian Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force’s 50 personnel and their gear June 1 to participate in the Shaken Fury 2019 exercise. Personnel from the 88th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 88th Operations Support Squadron, 88th Security Forces Squadron and 88th Air Base Wing supported the Australians’ arrival and unloading. After touching down, the Australian task force then traveled by land to the exercise site located at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana.