ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
The Air Force Reserve Command launched a feature on the new Air Force Connect mobile application in December allowing Reserve Citizen Airmen access to information and online tools on the go.
In typical Reserve fashion, Reservists are leading the way with the help of Col. Tri Minh Trinh, director of the AF Connect team and Senior Master Sgt. Timm Huffman, chief, content management and training of the AF Connect team. Innovation is in the Reserve’s DNA, coming from the diverse experiences Reserve Citizen Airmen like Trinh and Huffman bring to the mission.
According to Trinh, the AF Connect app has its roots in the Reserve’s RIO Connect app.
“In 2016, while we were exploring how to integrate Geospatial Information System technology into RIO Connect at a conference at Joint Base San Antonio, we came across Capt. Liaquat Ali and Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Vincent Mancuso who helped us accelerate the RIO Connect app development,” Trinh said.
Trinh and his team then partnered with app developers as well as the AFRC Cyberspace, Technology and Information office to incorporate a mobile Common Access Card to gain access to secured Department of Defense and Air Force websites.
“From this evolution, we submitted AF Connect through the Airman Powered by Innovation program and made it as a ‘wildcard’ as one of the six finalists to compete at the February 2018 Air Force-wide Spark Tank competition,” he said.
They were able to develop a demo and proposed integrating more than 250 agencies and wings under the AF Connect app’s “Favorite” button. The team discovered the active duty Air Force, the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve independently had a variety of different apps for their respective Airmen.
“Funding, acquisition, approval and implementation processes were all different and cumbersome across and within the three components,” Trinh said.
“We needed an out-of-the box app that could meet all our current total force requirements and be able to make user interface and experience enhancements quickly. The current app developer has been servicing the academic community for the past decade. So, we are benefiting from all the prior and current enhancements that are still being made today but also from another sector besides the military.”
While challenges outside of the team’s control such as mobile friendliness and conduciveness of government websites are negatively impacting the user experience, Trinh said he believes as the mobile user base increases, the voice of the customer will drive progressive improvements in the mobile space.
With the AFRC Favorite on AF Connect, Reserve Citizen Airmen now have access to a number of resources such as command news, information about services available to Reservists and their families, contact information for various Reserve units, agencies and organizations, social media feeds, religious texts and fitness tools. While there are many things currently on the AFRC Favorite, AFRC plans to implement more enhancements throughout 2019.
“The biggest benefit to Reservists is that the app consolidates the information they need to manage their careers and perform duty into a package they can access from their mobile device,” said Huffman, who oversees the content management and training for USAF Connect. “Being able to receive push notifications about important news and updates is also a huge plus.”
Based on recent analytical user feedback, the majority of AF Connect users feel they get relevant information in a useful format from the app, believe the app helps them to be more engaged with their Air Force career and life, and that the app is easy to use and performs reliably.
The AF Connect team plans to include all Air Force units in 2019.
“Not bad for a bunch of Reservists leading the Air Force into the future with mobile apps technology,” Trinh said.
The AF Connect app is available for download in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.