First-ever 9I000 Futures Airmen summit held at Sheppard Air Force Base

  • Published
  • By Julie Svoboda
  • 82d Training Wing

It was a meeting of the minds as 9I000 Futures Airmen from across the service met to discuss the direction of the career field at the first-ever 9I000 Futures Airmen Summit on 30 October 2023, here.  Tech. Sgt. Michael Meyer, 82nd Training Wing Digital Integration Chief, planned the summit.

The 9I Futures Airmen program leverages the talents of enlisted Airmen who are prepared to step outside their current role, challenge the status quo and find innovative solutions to solve problems across the enterprise. The program functions like a fellowship that lasts for 2-3 years. Airmen in any Air Force career field from E3 to E8 are eligible to apply to the program if there is an available billet.

Senior Master Sgt. Brett Kiser, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Strategic Studies Group Senior Enlisted Leader, currently serves as a 9I Airman. An Air Transportation Specialist, also known as a “Port Dawg” by trade, recounted what spurred him to follow this path.

“What sparked my involvement in innovative efforts was solving a problem with damaging C-17 rails during loading operations which hold cargo pallets in place during flight,” he said. “On one of these mishaps, I'll never forget when a supervisor said, ‘That's just the cost of doing business,’ and I knew we needed to resolve this issue that has degraded our airlift capabilities for over 2 decades.”

He became interested in the 9I program after pitching his idea at the 2020 Air Force Spark Tank competition in 2020. For Kiser, the program’s emphasis on recognizing the value of the Air Force’s enlisted corps is paramount for future global power competition.

“The military has been accustomed to associate rank with competency or capability and that's just not true in today’s Air Force,” he said. “Specifically, on the enlisted side, there are many Airmen out there with master's degrees, PhDs, and unique skills that are doing incredible things and punching above their rank. That's where I enjoy seeing 9I000 Airmen like Tech Sgt. Meyer excel in roles and responsibilities that you would normally only see SNCOs doing. Really, the 9I000 career field unleashes the power of DAF’s enlisted talent which allows Futures Airmen to employ their true potential, drive innovative change, and enhance our warfighting capabilities.”

Although Meyer, who came to the 82nd TRW as a Weapons Instructor, has been in a 9I billet for a little over six months, innovation has been a driving force in his career since his time at Edwards Air Force Base in 2015 when the Department of Defense added innovation as one of the core pillars of the national defense strategy. He is a Certified Professional Innovator through Project Mercury, a partnership between Air University and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and one of three 9I000 Futures Airmen at the 82nd TRW.

He plans to use his knowledge and experience to improve processes at Sheppard.

“We are consolidating and standardizing and accelerating transformational efforts in the wing under the direction of Gen. Dietrich, so that includes dreaming and phasing models,” he said. “What the wing vision is, standardize flows and really just get everybody as a team to think about collectively what transformation means.”

According to Kiser, Airmen like Meyer who harness humility, creative thinking, and a bias for action embody the spirit of the Futures Airmen career field.

“A commonality I have noticed with 9I000 Airmen is their intrinsic motivation to improve the Air Force and that there is always a better way to do something,” he said. “These members have been successful by listening to their fellow Airmen, their supervisors and their leaders by developing effective solutions that are viable, feasible, and desirable to get after real problems. That collaborative team effort helps adoption and scalability by including the end-users and stakeholders in the process. Those with these characteristics are who we want and there are plenty of amazing Airmen out there already doing this”.

For Kiser and other 9I Airmen, maintaining the momentum of innovation and developing the next generation of Airmen is vital to the future of the Air Force.

“We're all treating this role as a once-a-lifetime opportunity to drive significant change across the entire Air Force and prepare us all for what's on the horizon,” he said. “So, we cannot let a day go by or go to waste. America winning the next Global Power Competition is the only priority.”