Last fall, NSIN (formerly MD5) Pacific Regional Director Matt Gratias told a group of airmen “We’ll go anywhere!” and he meant it.

The group was part of a new AFWERX Spark Cell – specifically from the Arctic Spark cell, based in Alaska.

MD5 is committed to bringing problem-solving solutions to our customers. In February, NSIN hosted a Boot Camp on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, just outside of Anchorage. The problem at hand? How to better manage access to the installation – no small matter for a base twice the size of the District of Columbia, with additional hazards ranging from blizzards to migrating moose. That said, MD5 is committed to bringing new kinds of problem-solving to those in service, wherever they are, so off we went.

Over the four-day boot camp, three dozen service members tackled the problem of managing access using applied human-centered design, under the careful guidance of a top teaching team from the University of California, Berkeley.

At the conclusion, teams pitched their ideas to Col Patricia Csànk, the base commander, Maj Thomas Cook, the Comptroller, and CMSgt Bradley Quam of the Security Forces.

At the close of the boot camp, Col Csànk noted the outcomes were important and noted there’s an audacity to innovation. “The best part was that I got to task every one of the teams with an action plan to implement their solution, ” said Col Csànk. “We’re here because more than a hundred years ago, someone nailed some canvass onto a frame and was audacious enough to get airborne, so you can’t tell me we can’t solve this problem.”