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BOLT CELL: Take a look inside the innovation center at MacDill Air Force Base

May is Military Appreciation Month
Posted at 9:50 PM, May 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-01 21:49:59-04

TAMPA, Fla. — May is Military Appreciation Month and it's a time to honor not only the service, but the sacrifice people in our military make. Southwest Florida has strong ties to the Armed Forces so all month long, Fox 4 will bring you stories about active duty service members, veterans in our community and the military's next generation.

These are the men, women and families who give so much every day for our country.

About 140 miles north of North Myers is MacDill Air Force Base, which is home to thousands. Each branch of the military either work or live there.

The base is known for the 6th Air Refueling Wing, specializing in providing fuel for aircraft mid-flight.

However, there's more than what you see high in the sky.

"The Air Force is powered by Airmen, but ruled by innovation," said Master Sergeant Leon Bono, the Wing Innovation Office senior enlisted leader.

He's talking about Bolt Cell, kind of like a think tank.

"It's the innovation center at MacDill AFB," said Senior Airman Jack Richardson.

"Bolt Cell is really just solving the problems and challenges that people bring," said Staff Sergeant Jamar Jackson.

They have about five to six active problem-solving projects with about 15 to 20 on the waitlist.

Some are classified, so they cannot talk about it.

But others Fox 4 got exclusive access to, such as a corrosion testing rack.

"Due to the humidity in the air and the salt water, the breeze, everything that comes off the tends to increase the amount of rust that we could potentially build up," Bono explained.

They're using different paint and materials to see what combination of what metal and covering would prevent corrosion the best.

In a room inside Bolt Cell is where the gears turn for Richardson, a Tampa native.

"No good idea comes without suffering," Richardson said.

He's trying to find a way to make things a little easier for Airmen working on the KC-135s at MacDill.

"There are probably about 100 tools that you have to check out," he explained. "It would be so much easier if you could just check out a trailer and just go outside."

Bolt Cell's innovation goes beyond the flightline, kind of.

"So virtual reality is basically a stand in for actually going out to the jet, accomplishing whatever task it is," Jackson said.

He's in charge of the virtual reality project. With it, he says Airmen can continue to train without potentially stopping other Air Force missions.

"You are still missing that tactile feel, but the point of this is to get that muscle memory, the repetition of going through that action," he explained.

Those are just a few projects happening inside Bolt Cell. Beyond the job are men and women who made the decision to join the military.

"I knew I just wanted to join the Air Force," Bono said.

Richardson felt the same way.

"I joined because my dad and my mom both served and so did my grandparents, so I call it my own little family business a little bit," Richardson said.

They are serving to protect our country, and they are taking the Air Force's mission to aim high, fly, fight and win. SERVING TO PROTECT OUR COUNTRY…

"You've only got so much time on this earth so why not do something you love doing right," Jackson said.