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MacDill meets ‘Shark Tank’

Mark Parker



Army Sgt. Mickey Reeve, 24, won the inaugural Innovation Oasis at MacDill Airforce Base. All photos courtesy of U.S. Central Command, Twitter.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) recently hosted the first Innovation Oasis from its headquarters at MacDill Airforce Base in Tampa, with a deployed soldier winning the competition for his anti-drone training simulator.

Billed as a Shark Tank-style contest for the military, the Innovation Oasis showcased solutions to problems servicemembers submitted for possible implementation. One of the television show’s former stars, investor Kevin Harrington, joined a panel of judges that included top executives from Google, SpaceX and NASA, and CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla.

Sgt. Mickey Reeve, 24, won the competition Oct. 14 for a training simulator prototype he built on an eight-year-old laptop while in a tent in the Arabian desert, as reported by Stars and Stripes. According to a CENTCOM release, Reeve, an infantryman assigned to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, landed in Tampa just one day before the Innovation Oasis.

“For us, this program is about building a culture of Innovation across all of CENTCOM,” Kurilla said in a statement. “It’s about finding those great ideas hidden from view inside a squad, trapped inside of a ship, locked down in a cubicle in one of our bases or tucked away in an aircraft hangar.”

Reeve (right) received the Distinguished Meritorious Service Medal for winning the first Innovation Oasis. Additionally, leadership granted him a four-day pass, and he will attend the military school of his choice.

Reeve’s software – which he built in his spare time on the weekend – simulates every counter-Unmanned Aerial System (c-UAS) in the U.S. military’s inventory and incorporates scenarios for any drone system anywhere in the world. According to his pitch video, he came up with the idea after identifying a gap in training capabilities.

The c-UAS trainer, Reeve explained, will serve as a universal system that teaches troops how to shoot drones out of the sky before they pose a threat. He said current anti-drone training “is not entirely conducive to real life” and

“It was amazing just to come here to Tampa to represent my unit and present my idea,” he said. “The unmanned aerial system is the improvised explosive device of today’s fight.”

Seven judges selected Reeve’s idea from among five finalists. Air Force Capt. Kendra Kirkland, stationed in Tampa at MacDill, developed an artificial intelligence-based personnel accountability system. Maj. Matt Goyette, a U.S. Army reservist, created a supply system that utilizes blockchain technology.

Army Lt. Col. Ferdinand Bacomo presented his idea of restructuring medical support teams for combat situations, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Larson fabricated a new pallet loader. According to the event website, program officials selected the five submissions most likely to improve operations, policy and the lives of troops.

“We want to unlock, embrace and then uplift those ideas,” said Kurilla. “And then implement them across the entire organization.”

CENTCOM received over 160 submissions, and spokesman Col. Joe Buccino relayed the challenge of only selecting five to present in Tampa. “The difference between the fifth-best submission and the seventeenth-best submission was negligible,” he said in a release.

Each finalist had 10 minutes to present their innovation, followed by a 20-minute question and answer session. Judges evaluated the concepts based on originality, scalability and overall presentation.

Members of the Army’s 35th Infantry Division conducted counter-unmanned aircraft systems training with a “drone buster” in Kuwait. Photo courtesy of Task Force Spartan, Twitter.

Reeve received the Distinguished Meritorious Service Medal for winning the first Innovation Oasis. Additionally, leadership granted him a four-day pass, and he will attend the military school of his choice. According to the release, he will also participate in a media tour through New York City and Washington, D.C. next month.

“The winning innovation will support our troops in harm’s way,” said Reeve. “Unmanned aerial systems are the primary threat to our forces and partners in the Middle East.”


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