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New Airborne Innovation Lab to tackle soldiers' day-to-day problems

Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte
U.S. Army /
In this July 11, 2018 photo, paratroopers from different units across the 82nd Airborne Division compete for the Gavin Cup at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Fort Bragg-based 82nd Airborne Division has opened an unusual new lab focused on solving day-to-day problems that crop up for soldiers.

Lieutenant Colonel Kyle Kirby will head the Airborne Innovation Lab. He says the 82nd also is appointing innovations officers in units across the division to help soldiers identify and solve problems, either on their own or with the help of the lab and its equipment, including tools like 3D printers.

"Anybody in the division can submit a problem for us to consider and be able to take on to find a solution, or to help them frame it and solve it themselves," Kirby said.

The idea is to tackle micro-level problems that major military research facilities might not prioritize, said Kirby. For example, soldiers recently came up with a stronger, higher-capacity ammo bag for machine guns.

The lab is part of a new approach to building a culture of innovation across the division, which will include training soldiers in problem-solving. This is the second of four innovation labs that will be in different divisions across the Army. The first innovation lab was started by the Kentucky-based 101st Airborne Division.

According to the 82nd's lab website, soldiers have access to resources that include: laser cutting and woodshop tools, robotics kits, electronic workstations, and sewing machines, along with a "space for facilitating design thinking workshops and project collaboration."

Paratroopers can submit their ideas for issues to address through an online portal.

WUNC's Laura Pellicer contributed to this report.

Jay Price has specialized in covering the military for nearly a decade.
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