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Through the Lens: NextGen tech allows Airmen to be in two places at once

  • Published
  • By Capt. Emma Quirk and Senior Airman Joshua T. Crossman
  • 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing

Have you ever wished you could be in two places at once? The 725th Air Mobility Squadron, located at Naval Station Rota, Spain, is making it possible.

Cyber and maintenance personnel assigned to the 725th AMS have collaborated with our industry partners to experiment with HoloLens, an augmented reality headset, as a tool to increase capability for deployed Air Mobility Teams and geographically separated units.

The 725th AMS demonstrated the technology to 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing leadership, the 725th’s parent wing, during Exercise Mobility Guardian 2023 on July 6, 2023. During the demonstration, an air ground equipment maintainer at NAVSTA Rota was able to interface with a communications Airman who was deployed to Australia with the 521st AMOW’s AMT supporting MG23 operations.

“This is next level,” said Col. Dan Cooley, 521st AMOW commander. “This was the one of the most impressive innovations I have seen. These Airmen are on to something that has massive scope for the wing and far beyond. This technology allows us to keep our footprints small during Agile Combat Employment operations while ensuring we have the right people on the job at a moment’s notice.”

The two members, nearly 9,000 miles apart, executed a mock equipment inspection to showcase the idea and development to Cooley, Chief Master Sgt. Jeremiah Grisham, 521st AMOW command chief, and a room of observers.

“With the HoloLens, we’re able to leverage the expertise of one individual with the talent and hands of another at a distance of thousands of miles,” said Grisham. “The quality is so clear you can even read a manual.”

As a part of the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center’s enterprise-wide Next Generation AMOW, or “NextGen AMOW,” initiative, the wing is organizing, training, and equipping these small AMTs consisting of aerial port, maintenance, and command and control functions to deploy to locations in areas beyond established nodes.

“This relatively inexpensive resource allows for collaborative audio and visual communication with augmented reality features that can connect home station subject-matter-experts with front-line Airmen to provide real-time assistance, which can exponentially expand the technical capabilities of a single Airmen beyond their primary Air Force Specialty Code,” said Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Sewejkis, 725th AMS maintenance superintendent.

AMTs may deploy alongside contingency response forces to provide base operating support or to a location with the necessary infrastructure in place to support mobility operations. Though an AMT is a highly capable force package, their footprint is intentionally small in order to be easily maneuverable and leave minimal impact to home-station operations. The HoloLens alleviates the risk of these small teams needing a specialized capability in a moment’s notice and not having it.

“Simply put, this is how we propel the Multi-Capable Airmen concept to an unimaginable level,” added Sewejkis. “Although our initial focus is the Aircraft Maintenance and Aerial Port communities within the AMOW, I am convinced this initiative can impact operations in numerous functional areas across the enterprise.”

The 521st AMOW, headquartered at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, consists of nine squadrons operating out of 19 locations, or nodes, across three geographic theaters spanning 5,000 miles. After a successful showcasing, the wing has begun purchasing HoloLens for all of its squadrons in an effort to increase capabilities across the AMOW. Soon, the Airmen of the 5-2-1 will all have the capability to look through the lens.