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Phoenix Spark Launches $59 million contract to enhance DoD digital talent pool, Travis AFB

An Airman sitting down at a laptop

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Eric Eash, 22nd Airlift Squadron flight engineer, codes an application May 12, 2021, at the Gonge Innovation Lab at Travis Air Force Base, California. Eash was one of the few students who graduated from the recent Software Development Immersive program, a 12-week software development course. He worked alongside officers and enlisted peers from the Navy, Army, Guard and Space Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chustine Minoda)

An Airman sitting down at a laptop

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Eric Eash, 22nd Airlift Squadron flight engineer, codes an application May 12, 2021, at the Gonge Innovation Lab at Travis Air Force Base, California. Eash was one of the few students who graduated from the recent Software Development Immersive program, a 12-week software development course. He worked alongside officers and enlisted peers from the Navy, Army, Guard and Space Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chustine Minoda)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Phoenix Spark, the Travis Air Force Base Spark Cell, recently launched a $59 million indefinite quantity contract to help create more digitally adept Airmen on June 16, 2021, at Travis AFB, California. The contract was built to enable the new “Travis Coders” team as part of the Tron Air Force & Airmen Coders software innovation network. Travis Coders will consist of both active and reserve service members aimed at building local software development, design, and management capabilities to enable Airmen-driven software education, projects, and experiments.

The contract was awarded by the General Services Administration to Galvanize, a technology and modernization bootcamp company that specializes in coding, data analytics, and cyber security implications for software. The objective of this contract is to create a training pipeline that educates and provides software development and data analytics certification for all Department of Defense service members, as well as any federal government employees.

“This contract is an exciting opportunity for us to continue our successful partnership with the DoD through a brand they trust and can depend on,” said Bill Blackstone, Galvanize’s executive vice president of military operations. “We strongly believe our objective-based education methods and world-class instructors will aid in the digital transformation of the military, allowing us to compete and win against our adversaries in a new digital landscape.”

The Software Development Immersive program is a 12-week course. According to Galvanize, they worked extensively with Phoenix Spark, Platform One, Tron, and AFWERX to build custom software engineering programs designed to teach service members the software development skills needed to contribute to their units’ unique missions. After successfully developing the program, Galvanize worked directly with GSA to build an indefinite quantity contract that the entire DoD could benefit from.

“The reality is, a lot of what is coming in the future has a lot more to do with digital and artificial intelligence,” said Maj. Eric Robinson, Phoenix Spark director. “If we want to have any hope of maintaining cyber relevancy on a global scale, we need to have people who can understand the digital arena and understand how it relates to the rest of the DoD.”

There is no previous experience required to apply to this program, but there will be an entrance assessment that will require knowledge of basic programming skills. The program provides assistance to help applicants prepare for and pass the test.

“The program gives you a better understanding of how software development works — how the DoD and the Air Force do software development,” said Maj. Jason Taylor, 14th Airlift Squadron director of staff and previous Software Development Immersive program student. “We actually built an app that deployed to a non-secure internet protocol router approved system. If you want to learn something that will allow you to expand your capabilities for the Air Force, this is a great course.”

According to Master Sgt. Eric Eash, 22nd Airlift Squadron flight engineer and a current student in the Software Development Immersive program, this class represents another level of innovation allowing Airmen the opportunity to solve AF problems by coding software and apps that directly address the issue.

“I definitely understand much more about coding than I ever thought I would,” said Eash. “The first few weeks were rough with an amount of information thrown at me that I have never experienced before — even in the toughest of high-level college classes or cross-training to become a C-5 flight engineer.

“Overall, it was a great course and great experience working with both officer and enlisted peers from the Navy, Army, Guard and Space Force as well as the civilian instructors who were knowledgeable and genuinely interested in helping us make a difference in the DoD.”

This is the first major “software education as-a-service” cohort model that has been launched for the DoD. In the past, similar DoD efforts had been designed based on a one-on-one model, often costing $400,000 per person to obtain basic digital capabilities for a single person. Under this new model, Phoenix Spark, Travis Coders, and Tron Air Force have joined efforts with other Air Force & Space Force units, Joint Special Operations Units, the National Geospatial Agency, and others to build a model that can drive the per-person cost down to approximately $20,000 per person.

“We don’t innovate because it’s cool, we innovate because it’s necessary to be competitive on a global landscape,” said Robinson.

For the application and more information, visit https://tron.dso.mil/learning/pathways/sdi/
and https://travisspark.com/

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