Data as a weapon system: the foundation of tomorrow’s training squadron

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Matt Tarnowski
  • 97th Training Squadron Commander

Launching a new database may not be as exciting as launching a new aircraft.  However, when systems fail, aircraft cannot launch and the mission is impeded. That’s because today, our aircraft depend on zeros and ones as much as the jet fuel in the tanks. The student training mission at Altus Air Force Base revolves around a single critical component: the data. Behind every student’s training line number are hundreds of data points that verify the 97th Air Mobility Wing’s ability to deliver exceptionally trained Airmen to project combat power around the globe.

The future of training starts with data. Every test, simulator, or flight is comprised of thousands of data points currently captured in separate locations. Each event creates the context of a training mission. In essence, everything in the training environment is interconnected from push-ups to check rides. Harnessing the power of these relationships is key to harnessing our data as a weapon system. 

Last November, the 97th Training Squadron implemented Air Education and Training Command’s first cloud-secured student database to execute the 97th Air Mobility Wing’s student training experience. This database was aptly named the Next Evolution of Student Training Data or NEST’D. The capabilities it provides will unleash the wing’s mission data as a weapon system for the first time. The training squadron of the future will operate its data to predict challenges and solve problems. A powerful database is informative. Through a training mission lens, it’s a weapon system.

Like trading in a car, the journey to a new database started with the old one. In May of 2020, the legacy platform broke down on a weekly basis or more. Partnering with the 97th Communication Squadron and the 97th Contracting Flight, a secure and compliant path to a new database was created. The 97th TRS leadership knew that the future of our data would have to implement elements such as predictive analytics and artificial intelligence. To do that, they found a low-code customizable system that could first structure the data in a resilient cloud network ecosystem. Today, the 97th TRS is swimming in a truly resilient “data lake.”