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Developing Software, Developing Airmen
by U.S. Air Force Capt. Benjamin Aronson
March 7, 2024

The 850th Spectrum Warfare Group, Detachment 1, is responsible for developing Electronic Warfare (EW) software capabilities for the warfighter and commanders, but the unit also is developing the young Airmen who make up the team that build and designs this software, sometimes from scratch.

Airman First Class Kaden Langston, 850th SWG Det 1, software designer, enlisted a year and a half ago from Crestview, Florida, to follow his interest of developing his software skills for a potential future in video game design even though his family never owned a computer.

March 4, 2024 - U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Kaden Langston, 850th Spectrum Warfare Group, Detachment 1, software designer, in front of his detachment logo in San Antonio, Texas. The mission of the detachment is to experiment, measure, and learn with fully-kitted teams to deliver Electromagnetic Spectrum Warfare mission focused software. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo courtesy of Airman First Class Kaden Langston.)
March 4, 2024 - U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Kaden Langston, 850th Spectrum Warfare Group, Detachment 1, software designer, in front of his detachment logo in San Antonio, Texas. The mission of the detachment is to experiment, measure, and learn with fully-kitted teams to deliver Electromagnetic Spectrum Warfare mission focused software. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo courtesy of Airman First Class Kaden Langston.)

“I never owned a laptop, never owned a computer, never took any type of classes or anything related to it [software development],” said Langston. “Tech school was kind of where I got my first real taste of what I got myself into.”

Langston did not know that the Air Force had opportunities for software-based careers, but after talking with a local recruiter and family friends who work on Eglin AFB, he enlisted and was assigned the 1D731P Air Force Specialty Code, focusing on data operations.

After completing BMT, Langston went to Keesler AFB, MS, to learn the fundamentals of programming, then onto San Antonio, TX, where he took an additional eight-week course on agile software development fundamentals.

This is where his approach to problem solving was noticed by instructors and he was selected for additional training where he focused on software development fundamentals and best practices.

Langston now serves as the sole-software designer on one of the project teams working on the Spectrum Warfare Request Manager (SWARM), a software program that tracks requests for Electromagnetic Warfare support and attack capabilities by warfighters to Air Operation Centers.

“The things that you're able to create as a developer is awesome, so is the impact that you're able to make,” said Langston. “I didn't expect for me to have kind of this role where I'd be working so close with everybody and have huge impact on a product that's going to affect how multiple AOCs run their non-kinetic process.”

Working on SWARM is the third EW-software project Langston has worked in his short career since being assigned to the 850th SWG, Det 1. His work has afforded him the opportunity as a young Airman to work alongside and brief programs to leadership, providing him a senior-leader viewpoint he can convey to his team.

While serving on the team in San Antonio, Langston hopes to continue sharpening his skills and pursue further trainings and formal educations paths in software.

According to Langston, the opportunities and career paths offered by the Air Force have launched him ahead of his friends who are pursuing software careers in the civilian sector in terms of training, experience, and work.

“My friends that are going after computer science degrees on the civilian side, that's four years to get that degree and then more experience to be put on any product team and you’re definitely not going to have a leadership role starting out,” said Langston. “Whereas a year and a half, almost two years in for me, I'm traveling to the Pacific to AOCs and being able to do something that's going to impact their whole non kinetic request process. I just think it's pretty cool how huge it is. How much bigger it can be?”

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