Yokota AFWERX team seeks to invest, innovate, inform

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Natalie Doan
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Twenty members from Yokota Air Base attended the Defense and Security Equipment International (DSEI) Japan exhibition on March 16, in Tokyo, to seek out new, cutting-edge technology in a trip organized by YokoWERX, an AFWERX spark cell at Yokota that helps innovative Airmen bring their ideas to life.

With 66 countries represented, DSEI Japan is the largest defense exhibition in the country, attracting 178 companies vying for international business opportunities in the Asia-Pacific market.

Yokota representatives spoke with numerous exhibitors and learned about technology that could advance the installation’s ability to accomplish its mission as the premiere airlift hub in the Indo-Pacific region.

“There was some amazing technology for humanitarian efforts, forward deployment, and augmented combat capabilities,” said Master Sgt. Sarah Hubert, 374th Airlift Wing religious affairs superintendent and YokoWERX member. “We're definitely going to reflect on the products back at YokoWERX.”

For YokoWERX, DSEI Japan served as an opportunity to expose Airmen to new technology as it aims to fulfill three lines of effort—invest, innovate, and inform. By investing its resources to attend conferences like DSEI Japan, the spark cell hopes to inform the base populace of new technologies that could deliver innovative solutions directly to their workplaces.

“We don't always know what's out there,” said Hubert. “So we might think we need one technology, but this event shows us capabilities that we may not be exposed to or may not be able to find so easily.”

On average, YokoWERX attends one trade show per quarter and appears at large base functions such as Liberty Fest, where they set up a booth and interact with potential like-minded innovators.

Recently though, the spark cell made an appearance at the 2023 AFA Warfare Symposium in Colorado, where the YokoWERX team won the 2023 Spark Tank Championship on March 8. Their idea centered on the employment of augmented reality to prevent accidental damage to underground infrastructure during construction.

For Hubert and the YokoWERX team, the win represented a substantial payoff after months of hard work.

“It was a very long and hard process,” said Hubert. “We went from 235 ideas from across the Air Force, to six finalists. Then, out of those six finalists, we ended up with a win. It felt good to bring it home for Yokota.”

Continuing into 2023, YokoWERX hopes to generate their award-winning idea and expand it across the Air Force. They will also implement “Project Kinetic Cargo Sustainment,” another idea pitched by Kadena Air Base members at the 2023 Spark Tank Championship, which uses new digital processes to accelerate airlift operations by reducing cargo processing times.

Air transportation specialists at Yokota will begin training on this new system as early as April or May this year.