Bedrock: Dover AFB’s innovation foundation

  • Published
  • By Roland Balik, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Dover is one of about 40 bases in the Air Force that have Phoenix Spark labs where Airmen can meet to discuss processes, propose ideas and find solutions to resolve problems.

The terms “Phoenix Spark lab” and “innovation lab” are interchangeable, sharing the same goal: empowering Airmen to develop ideas to support the warfighter at home station or downrange. Dover AFB’s innovation lab was officially chartered in January 2019.

“We chose the name ‘Bedrock’ because, at the core of it [the lab], it’s the foundation of all the different avenues. Whether it’s Continuous Process Improvement, Spark innovation or Airman Powered by Innovation [now known as IdeaScale] or any of the other programs that fix problems for Airmen, we just want to be the foundation for all of that,” said Capt. Patterson Hill, 436th Airlift Wing chief of innovation.

Bedrock is comprised entirely of volunteers from every group on base. These driven change agents thrive on improving processes and solving problems – whether their own or those of others.

“The idea of having an innovation lab here came from a lab participant idea … modeled after the lab located at Travis Air Force Base, California,” said Lorraine Kmiec, 436th Force Support Squadron management analyst and lab volunteer.

During a recent base visit March 18-21, Maj. Gen. Sam Barrett, 18th Air Force commander, along with Chief Master Sgt. Chris Simpson, 18AF command chief, met with the lab volunteers of Bedrock to discuss innovation initiatives.

Col. Joel Safranek, 436th Airlift Wing commander, informed Barrett and Simpson that “Dover pursued 10 ideas last year, which about a third of them stalled out, a third are still ongoing, and a third were successful.”

A committed investment of resources is paramount to keeping Bedrock solid and the innovation spark alive. Acknowledging that not all innovations will be successful, senior leadership embraces failure as a stepping stone for success, minimizing fears of retribution due to failure and empowering innovators to experiment with minimal inhibitions to their creativity.

“We’ve got to accept the fact that there will be failure,” said Safranek.

Many people have heard of “entrepreneurs,” but perhaps not as many people have heard of “intrapreneurs.” Intrapreneurs spearhead innovation within sizeable organizations, acting as catalysts or “sparks” for product development and marketing. They are change agents who drive growth and optimization for large companies – no small feat.

“Airman intrapreneur, Dover’s foundation” is Bedrock’s mission.

Bedrock welcomes all to participate in establishing Dover’s innovation foundation. For information on how to get involved and submit or vote on ideas, visit

On the left, Chief Master Sgt. Chris Simpson, command chief, and Maj. Gen. Sam Barrett, commander, both from 18th Air Force, listen to Lorraine Kmiec, 436th Force Support Squadron management analyst, on the process and status of the wing’s Innovation Lab March 20, 2019, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Kmiec and current members of the wing’s innovation team briefed Barrett and Simpson about completed, current and future innovation team projects. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)