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Warrior Panel connects research to warfighter

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Axt (left), director of staff with the 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Hopfensperger (center) and U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Barret Williams, combat controllers with the 24th Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Florida, participate in an Air Force Research Laboratory panel at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, June 20, 2019. (courtesy photo)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

More than 60 scholars participated in the Air Force Research Lab Munitions Directorate’s 10-12 week internship program here this summer.

The interns whose academic levels ranged from high school to doctorates spent their time focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related topics in the lab.  For most, it was their first DoD internship and for many, their first internship ever.

A highlight of the interns’ time here was the first-ever Warrior Panel, held at the Doolittle Institute in Niceville.  Air Force Special Operations Command combat controllers, Master Sgt. Christopher Hopfensperger and Tech Sgt. Barrett Williams and Lt. Col. Eric Axt, 33rd Fighter Wing director of staff were the panelists.

The panelists spoke about the need for technology to be high functioning, sleek, agile and dependable.  The AFRL scholars listened to their perspectives about how technology is essential for success of a mission and about how the warfighter opts for a simpler, dependable technology.

“It’s not often you get to see the impact of your research on the warfighter,” said Kelsey Johnson, a sophomore at the University of Alabama and AFRL intern. “I really enjoyed hearing their responses to our questions.”

One of the examples of AFRL technologies positively affecting end users is the Android Tactical Assault Kit.  Special operators initially used it during deployments.  Now, it is a staple of Eglin’s security forces, fire and rescue and explosive ordnance disposal missions.

The panelists provided examples of technology advancements that would benefit the warfighter right away such as longer radio battery life and unified communication between DoD branches.  They also stressed end user involvement in the preliminary development stages to ensure design and capabilities meet warfighter needs.

The Warrior Panel stemmed from brainstorming sessions on how to relate the AFRL scholars work to the larger picture of advancing warfighting technology.

To request an AFRL scholar follow this link to register.  For more information about the program, call 850-883-1881 or email at afrlscholars@usra.edu.