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LRAFB unveils new Herk Werks innovation lab

Little Rock Air Force Base leadership cut a ribbon to officially open its new innovation lab

U.S. Air Force Col. John Schutte, 19th Airlift Wing commander, along with Chief Master Sgt. Steve Hart, 19th AW command chief, Col. David Allen, 189th Maintenance Group commander, and Chief Master Sgt. John Chilcote, 314th AW command chief, officially open the Herk Werks innovation lab during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, April 16, 2021. The lab serves as a space and opportunity for Airmen to come together and collaborate with one another while also exploring new technologies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin)

An Airman demonstrates a 3D printer

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Damiene Roberts, 19th Communications Squadron network management, explains the process and benefits of 3D printing to Col. John Schutte, 19th Airlift Wing commander, during the grand opening of the Herk Werks innovation lab at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, April 16, 2021. Along with 3D printing and other equipment, the innovation lab also features tablets and smart screens where demonstrations and meetings can be held for LRAFB Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- The 19th Airlift Wing opened its new “Herk Werks” innovation lab during a ribbon-cutting ceremony, April 16.

The newly completed Herk Werks space is now available to Team Little Rock Airmen, and is intended for Airmen who have an innovative idea to make their work centers operate more efficiently.

“We hope this is a space where Airmen want to gather and really make a difference in innovation for the Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Steven Grow, 19th Contracting Squadron commander. “This is a great place for networking; if you’ve got a great idea but you don’t know how to get it across or present it to leadership that is what this lab is for. This can be a space that helps us achieve our goals on a number of levels.”

The innovation lab is an initiative born from similar projects from around Air Mobility Command and the Air Force at-large. Its purpose is to create a space and opportunity for Airmen to come together and collaborate with one another while also exploring new technologies. In a sense, it gives Airmen the opening to pursue personal and professional growth while improving the mission of TLR.

“This aligns us with the Air Force and its push for innovation,” said Grow. “We have been in contact with Dover AFB, McGuire AFB and Travis AFB which have facilities a lot like this one and are already plugged into their local population to help shape the mission. We are taking their best practices and putting it to work for us here in hopes it will inspire future Airmen to be more successful in the challenging times we find ourselves in.”

The innovation lab features a myriad of devices to include tablets and smart screens to allow for demonstrations and meetings to be held, as well as whiteboards along the walls so that questions or ideas can be left for others to answer or tackle.

Moreover, it also has capabilities such as 3D printers, app building and software development tools, and eventually will include digital electronic stations and equipment to create, adjust or design products to improve Herk Nation as a whole as the program progresses forward. 

Grow said that Herk Werks will support not only tangible ‘widget-type’ innovations but is a place where processes can be analyzed on the white boards and collaboration opportunities between units and functions can happen. 

“Increased speed and cooperation in the large organizations in which we serve can also contribute mightily to innovation,” Grow said.   

He also added that his hope is that an innovation ‘club’ that develops from this new facility.

 “We want Airmen to get excited about meeting like-minded Airmen that really want to tackle problems -- Airmen that want to jump into something that might be difficult and hopefully have some fun doing that at the same time,” he said.

Herk Werks will be open for limited hours of operation between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Once cameras are installed in the facility, the lab will move to 24-hour operations.

Herk Werks is located in Building 650 on base, which is directly behind the Auto Hobby Shop and Wood Skills Center. If you are interested in using the space and helping build a culture of innovation for Team Little Rock, please contact Marcus Meeks at (501) 987-6710 for authorization to utilize the resources available.