SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – Since 2003, software application developers at Scott Air Force Base have developed 18 applications that improved the speed of decision making for Air Mobility Command customers while transporting personnel and cargo to their destination more rapidly.
“If there’s a problem someone is having, we can make a software solution for it,” said Master Sgt. Barrette LaFrance, 375th Communications Support Squadron NCO in charge of Air Mobility Command application development support. “A lot of the applications have focused on information management, distribution, and calculations that are hard to do by hand but easy for a computer.”
For instance, LaFrance was one of the members who helped solve a problem that the tanker community had had for over 25 years. Whereas before they were using “white boards” to track receivers and tankers for refueling, LaFrance’s team created a program called Jigsaw that tells users how much fuel is available and tracks which aircraft can be refueled by what tanker.
Jigsaw, along with many other applications, increases efficiency, reduces man hours and saves money.
LaFrance said that while the unit has been developing software since 2003, they haven’t always worked in an “agile” style.
Agile software development is an umbrella term for a set of methods and practices that are customer intuitive and focused on delivering an efficient product to the customer. It is based on frequent communication during the development process, which helps the developers adjust the application to the customer’s needs.
LaFrance showcased that ability when he traveled to Pivotal Labs, San Francisco, California, as part of a DoD-level “agile software development” effort headed by the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley office called Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or more commonly referred to as DIUx.
The goal was to prove that the Air Force could solve real-world problems with software inexpensively and more efficiently using this “agile” style of development.
“Upon my return, we started to rework our software services flight to function in the same agile style as the San Francisco team did—and this transition is still ongoing,” said LaFrance. “We are maintaining contact with the DIUx teams to share news and best practices.”
By using an agile approach to software development, it increases the productivity and frequency of applications for the customers. With cross-functional teams working alongside each other they help train others in this approach. Practitioners of this approach can then reach out to one another to share ideas and help each other.
Master Sgt. Jacob Gicker, 375th CSPTS software development section chief, explained that they not only create software for AMC customers, but also for their parent unit as well—the 375th Air Mobility Wing.
For instance, the teams developed an app to assist with a system that signs visitors into the base, and another one was developed for the 375th Operations Group so that pilots have a better way to track their flying hours.