In the News

Small businesses demonstrate military technologies; interact with end users during annual Tech Warrior event

By Whitney Wetsig Air Force Research Lab


Thirty-nine small businesses participated in Operation Tech Warrior, a 10-day, 24-hour immersion event hosted by the Air Force Research Laboratory. The National Center for Medical Readiness hosted this annual event in Fairborn, Ohio from Sept. 18-28.


Under contract with the Small Business Innovative Research Office, the NCMR transformed itself into a fully functional deployment environment. Tech Warrior participants stayed on site in bare base conditions and received intense training in field, mobility and combat skills over a span of nearly two weeks.


 Participants formed a group known as the Warrior Squadron, which was open to all military and government civilians. Experienced instructors led the squadron through various operations and scenarios designed for military training and field-testing of various warfighting technologies.


The goal is to bring scientists and engineers closer to the warfighter experience by taking them out of offices and labs and allowing them to experience a realistic military environment. This field insertion provides S&Es with a better idea of how end-users utilize the devices they develop.


“It’s about exposing them to how our warfighters think,” said Christin Bararra, the director of Tech Warrior. She explained that, “They are building these really cool things, but maybe if they designed [their inventions] just a little differently, they would be more useful in the field.” That is a realization that often occurs during this practical experience, she said.


 The event offers technology providers a unique opportunity to demonstrate their devices and collect data based on experiments with end users.


“The warriors were able to really use [these devices], get their hands on them, get briefings on them and then provide feedback,” said Bararra. This year, the featured technologies ranged from infrared markers to small-unmanned aircraft systems, to an inflatable boat.


“You name it, they had it out here,” she said.


 IR markers, which create secret messages in the dark using the infrared spectrum and night vision devices, drew a great deal of interest.


 Ultimately, inventors benefit from end user feedback they gather at this event. In turn, they apply the lessons learned to make improvements.


 This year’s squadron training focused on construction, command and control, first aid, rescue operations, perimeter defense, land navigation and orienteering, basic weapons familiarization, driving and convoy operations and disaster response techniques.


“Everything that you see during the event is a real military device,” said Bararra. “The Warriors carry real weapons.”


While physical fitness tests are not required for registration, the website advises that participants should be reasonably fit to engage in all activities.


 Operation Tech Warrior culminated in a three-day Capstone Field Training Event with integrated technology demonstrations and testing. The Tech Warriors used the skills they developed in training to complete a series of exercises in combat rescue, disaster response and airbase defense.


“To me, Tech Warrior is family,” said Bararra. The event focuses on learning, she said. “You are able to share and be creative, and it’s pretty cool to see [all of this] happen in a short period of time.”