Maryland Air Guardsman wins Air Force-level innovation award

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Christopher Schepers
  • 175th Wing

A Maryland Air National Guard Airmen was awarded an Air Force-level award for innovation that helps improve efficiency and operational readiness at the 175th Wing.

Capt. Kerry Guy, the 175th Wing base contracting officer, was named the Air National Guard’s General Larry O. Spencer Innovation Award winner for his work as the officer-in-charge for the wing’s Spark Cell.

“When I was told I won this award I was definitely surprised because I see the capability and intelligence that we have at this air wing, and that is reflected on the Air Force as a whole and I just try to be a conduit,” said Guy. “I am proud of this achievement but humble enough to understand there are a lot of smart people that helped me receive this honor. I am part of the team that makes innovative ideas come to life. It feels like a wing award based on the potential that we have in human capital we have at the 175th.”

Guy leverages his contracting experience to turn the innovative ideas of Airmen into reality by expertly navigating the procurement process so the wing can receive funding.

“Kerry is the most forward-leaning contract officer I have ever worked with and always finds a way to ‘yes’ to meet his customers’ requirements,” said Maryland Air National Guard Maj. Brian Vickers, 175th Civil Engineer Squadron deputy commander. “He successfully navigates the paperwork and bureaucratic regulation to get things done and does not let the small things get in front of what the warfighter needs. He has a positive attitude and is very much a get it done Airman.”

The 175th Wing’s Spark Cell was established in January 2022 and boasts over 60 members across 15 squadrons. The wing has secured over $2.9 million for projects aimed at innovating work processes.

The largest project to come out of the Spark Cell is Cyber Winter Studio, a data automation and unit readiness platform that ingests, normalizes, and correlates disparate data sets, forecast modules, and automated resource posturing. The system is currently being tested at 15 Air National Guard wings with potential to be a system used Air Force-wide.

“We are happy with where the [Cyber Winter Studio] program is and we see the growth potential for it to be an enterprise-wide solution,” said Guy. “With the proper funding, partnerships, and working groups we can scale this program to be bigger than what we initially thought.”

Another local innovation program is the addition of a 3D concrete printer to the 175th Civil Engineer Squadron tool chest, which will enhance the engineering capabilities at home and abroad.

“Kerry was instrumental in procuring funds for this innovation project,” said Vickers. “This project is currently a 175th innovation project only but is growing very quickly with the ultimate goal of becoming a fielded [equipment to be issued] across all Air Force civil engineering.”

Guy and the 175th Wing Spark Cell team are excited to keep moving forward on other solutions by striving to live by its motto, “Empowering Innovators, Accelerating Results.” They have multiple projects in the works that he says can be “force multipliers” for capabilities at the wing, including an exoskeleton that is designed to help Airmen sustain movements during manual labor and a robot dog with a sensor to read the topography of the ground for engineering projects.

“We are extremely fortunate to have incredible Airmen getting after new ideas through our innovation team led by Capt. Guy at the 175th Wing,” said Maryland Air National Guard Col. Richard Hunt, 175th Wing commander. “Our Spark Cell is a great example that the best solutions to Air Force challenges come from those closest to those challenges. Capt. Guy and his team have done all the heavy lifting and we look forward to the positive impacts their innovative projects will have on the Air Force.”

Guy will now compete against other award winners from the other branches. According to Vickers, he has a chance to do well at the next level because of the continuity the National Guard offers.

“I think Kerry has the potential to serve the Department of Defense’s entire innovation ecosystem in a far greater capacity than being our base contracting officer because of the experience that he has with the 175th Wing but also his depth of contracting knowledge and get-it-done attitude,” said Vickers. “Because we don’t PCS, we can go from ideation to prototyping to fielding to enterprise rollout without moving, so we don’t necessarily lose focus on the innovation progress.”