FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The 82nd Airborne Division hosted its inaugural Innovation Drop Zone competition, March 29, 2023, at the Airborne Innovation Lab at Fort Bragg. The Innovation Drop Zone is the culmination of an ongoing collaboration and partnership between the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command and the 82nd Airborne Division.

The event featured six groundbreaking projects developed into viable products over a six-month period. Each finalist team in the Innovation Drop Zone competition presented a unique problem statement, innovation solution and prototype created through this innovative partnership.

“I expect guns and leaders to the front in order to apply pressure to relieve friction and that’s exactly what our paratroopers are going to do today,” said Maj. Gen. Christopher LaNeve, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Panel members included Maj. Gen. Christopher LaNeve, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division; Command Sgt. Maj. Randolph Delapena, command sergeant major of the 82nd Airborne Division; U.K. Brig. Gen. Neil Den-McKay, deputy to the commanding general of plans for the 82nd Airborne Division; Mr. Zeke Topolosky, chief of the Technology Transition Office at the Combat Capabilities Command Army Research Laboratory; Dr. Ronald Reago Jr., director of the C5ISR Center’s Research and Technology Integration Directorate; Dr. Anne Marie Petrock, senior research scientist for Warheads Technology in the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Armaments Center; and Mrs. Meridith Fonseca, director of research and development at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Force Modernization Center.

The winners of this competition are 1st Lt. Christopher Bruce and Spc. Dimitry Boylan of Delta Company, 2-504 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team. They created the flip down keypad display unit holder, which is an attachment that provides an efficient way to secure the end user device while allowing the user to operate it with one hand.

“Participating in this competition was an incredibly rewarding and humbling experience,” said Bruce. “While developing our project, we realized our product could solve a problem the entire division was facing. We hope our experience shows paratroopers that they can make a positive impact on the division and create innovative solutions with the resources available to them.”

The team received an Army Commendation Medal, a four-day pass, attendance to a school of choice within each paratrooper’s MOS and a $500 team cash prize along with the first 82nd Airborne Division Innovation Cup for 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

The competition is part of the division’s transformation efforts that work to accomplish three tasks:

Command-directed “you will go figure this out” problem solving;

Modernizing by integrating and helping to create informed requirements with developmental partners; and

Facilitating a paratrooper raising their hand and stating, “I have this problem, I want to solve it for all paratroopers.”

This is taking care of our piece of the Army by providing the paratrooper the opportunities, facilities and skills necessary to develop tangible and actionable solutions to the contemporary problems faced on the drop zone.

“Today is a historic day in the division,” Maj. Gen. LaNeve stated. “Inside this division we are trying to transform as fast as possible; based off lessons learned from Ukraine, lessons learned over the last 20 years, and taking a look forward as best as we can to train how we will fight.”

The next Innovation Drop Zone will be held Sept. 6, 2023. For more information about the 82nd Airborne Division Innovation Drop Zone or the Airborne Innovation Lab check out the Airborne Innovation Lab website.

Story by MAJ Deirdra Johnson

Photos by SGT Robert Whitlow

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