Digital Internship Program For Total Force Airmen
by U.S. Air Force Jordyn Fetter, AFWERX Public Affairs
In an effort to create a more streamlined pipeline for digital
talent inside the Air Force, the Department of Defense software
community created a Digital Airmen Internship Program that kicked
off in late May 2020.
Hannah Hunt, Kessel Run chief of staff, speaks during a Digital Airmen Internship webinar on April 24, 2020. The first iteration has 60 slots for military developers who will be virtually embedded with Air Force solution centers and programs ranging from 12 weeks to one year. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
The first iteration has 60 slots for military developers who will
be virtually embedded with Air Force solution centers and programs
ranging from 12 weeks to one year.
“One of the challenges the
Air Force faces is having a steady stream of digital talent on hand
to tackle various projects,” said Capt. Eric Robinson, 15th Wing
TRON director and Aloha Spark lead. “With the infrastructure in
place to manage this supply and demand of talent, we’re aiming to
consistently cultivate the skills we need in units across all
The idea for an
internship came to fruition after Robinson realized the challenges
presented by COVID-19 could be turned into an opportunity to develop
digital skills within the workforce.
“Many Airmen joined in a
time where they knew we needed digital talent and were told that
they would make a difference, yet at some point got stuck building
powerpoints, excel documents and formatting reports,” Robinson said.
“This is one step toward empowering those Airmen and providing them
the tools needed to usher the Air Force into the digital age.”
He then connected with Capt. Christian Brechbuhl, 16th Airlift
Squadron instructor pilot, Joint Base Charleston's director of
innovation, and Airmen Coders lead, to develop a plan for the
“Every day I talk to Airmen who are incredibly
motivated to learn and solve problems in their units using skills
outside of their normal career field, but when it comes to coding,
and doing it securely, units often don’t know where to start,” said
Brechbuhl. “Providing more opportunities like this for our teammates
regardless of your day-to-day job is an essential part of growing
our digital force. Throughout this experience, it’s been amazing to
see the investment into this project from commanders across the Air
and Space Forces and the excitement from applicants.”
will be tied in with real mission application teams, primarily
related to their Air Force specialty code, which started on June 1
for Kessel Run, TRON, LevelUP, Platform One, and Corsair Ranch, and
are scheduled to begin on June 8 for BESPIN.
will also provide interns an opportunity to work directly with
mentors in the Air Force software community early in their careers
while expanding their technical skills on projects that address
existing problems or opportunities.
In the past,
opportunities for Airmen to connect with this larger ecosystem were
limited to knowing someone who worked at a solutions center and
happening across project opportunities.
“If you look at all
the successful Air Force software factories, at the core of all of
these units, there is always a small group of Airmen that happened
to be at the right place at the right time and just happened to have
the right skill set,” said Maj. Rob Slaughter, DoD Platform One
director. “We want to build a future where success of software
initiatives doesn't rely on luck anymore. This internship program is
a giant leap in accelerating that vision.”
The intent is to
turn this into a long-term pipeline that can provide an end-to-end
solution for talented servicemembers to learn, build, and deploy
code across any mission set.
Once Airmen apply through the
central portal, they will be tracked for future career and
assignment opportunities inside of the software community.
“I’m incredibly excited to see opportunities like this become
available for our Airmen," said Chief Master Sgt. Denzil Hellesen,
Air Force Cyberspace Support career field manager. “We have an
amazing workforce with the aptitude, ability, and eagerness to grow
and apply digital skills to the mission. The innovation of this
internship is needed to drive the Air Force forward.”
who are onboarded through this process will also be provided access
to the Air Force’s digital Airmen community on a messaging group and
have the opportunity to work on an assignment of their choice that
are being provided by various organizations across the force.
In addition to the Air Force’s solution centers, other
organizations involved in this effort include the Airmen Coders,
AFWERX’s Spark Cells, Air Force Research Laboratory and more.
“Not only is this incredibly exciting for those who are looking
to develop their skills, but we need digital Airmen to be our
foundation if we have any hope of winning future digital
engagements,” Slaughter said. “Digital Airmen are the future of the
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