AI facial recognition among eight finalists for AFIMSC’s inaugural ‘Innovation Rodeo’

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  • By Steve Warns, AFIMSC Public Affairs

Lt. Col. Carlos Hernandez first had the idea of implementing artificial intelligence facial recognition at Air Force installations in 2017.

“We had a perceived uptick in gate runners at different bases worldwide,” said Hernandez, futures and concepts division chief and section commander at the Air Force Security Forces Center at JBSA-Lackland. “I just kept thinking about our processes and the approach we’re taking in responding to these types of situations.  As such, I started to wonder if we could approach the problem from a proactive lens rather than reactive.”

When the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Innovation Office partnered with AFWERX to launch a “Call for Innovation” campaign in January 2019, it provided a perfect opportunity to submit the idea.

“With the current innovation push at all levels of the Air Force, I wondered if this idea was worth sending it to AFWERX to see what industry had already developed,” Hernandez said.

The month-long campaign received 122 submissions and more than 2,000 online votes. Hernandez’s idea is one of eight finalists chosen to participate in AFIMSC’s inaugural “Innovation Rodeo” March 1 in San Antonio.

“Our senior leaders have committed to participating in weeklong events, where it’s all about the Airmen and their ideas,” said Marc Vandeveer, AFIMSC chief innovation officer. “We want to transition those ideas into the innovation ecosystem and AFWERX challenges so we can get those ideas into prototype and then the implementation phase across the I&MS enterprise.”

Hernandez wasn’t the only one with the idea to use facial recognition.

Col. Jeffrey York, 31st Mission Support Group commander at Aviano Air Base, Italy, noticed an increase in the use of facial recognition at points of entry in the United States and several European countries. Aviano members frequently have to travel internationally, he said.

“When we were looking for ideas to improve access control and assist defenders, the idea of leveraging the technology of facial recognition used for border security seemed to be a natural area to explore,” said York, who submitted the idea but said the idea was a collaborative effort. “Aviano was facing the same challenges and concerns as other bases with respect to base security and the risk of unauthorized access.”

Lt. Col. Jesse Goens, 31st Security Forces Squadron commander at Aviano, will present the idea at the rodeo.

Other finalists chosen were:

• Virtual Visitor Control Center/ Visitor Kiosk, submitted 2nd Lt. DJ Smith, 502nd Communications Squadron, JBSA-Lackland; Steven Dews, 502nd SFS, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Texas;  Tech Sgt. Brian Lawley, 802nd SFS, JBSA-Lackland; and Senior Master Sgt. Alvin Arguello, AFSFC.

• “What’s Up” App, submitted by Col. Houston Cantwell, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado, who will be accompanied by a USAFA cadet.

• Supply Inventory Management System App, submitted by Master Sgt. Nicole Haun, 87th MSG, JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, who will be accompanied by two contractors.

• An app to assist in contracting officer representative duties, submitted by Roger Westermeyer, Air Force Installation Contracting Agency enterprise sourcing support director, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Lt. Col. Karen Landale, 773rd Enterprise Sourcing Squadron, will present on behalf of Westermeyer.

• Leverage existing Geospatial Information System AI learning for facility roof inspections, submitted by 2nd Lt. Alexander Bow, 627th Civil Engineer Squadron, JB-Lewis McChord, Washington; and Capt. Gregory Hege, Air Force Central Command, Al Udeid, Iraq (Qatar?). Hege is deployed, and Bow is partnering with 1st Lt. Tim Sobieski, 627th Air Base Group, JBLM.

• Self-adjusting wide area detection using unmanned ground vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles, submitted by John Shackell, AFSFC.

• Emergency airfield lighting system auxiliary motor upgrade, submitted by Senior Airman Jordan Pitts, 319th CES, Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.

Hernandez believes in his pitch to the panel.

“If the opportunity to speak and defend your idea arises, you need to step up and just do it,” he said.

Even if Hernandez’s idea isn’t chosen, he believes it’ll be implemented in the future.

“Technology advancements make it too hard to ignore,” he said.

This is one in a series profiling the 2019 AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo finalists. For more on the finalists and rodeo results, visit