The open landscape and rolling hills of Ohio provide ideal locations to gaze toward the sky and ponder existence beyond Earth’s atmosphere. With 23 amateur astronomy clubs in the state, the allure of viewing the polar caps on Mars or the seven groups of rings around Saturn may seem unmatched. Afterall, with natives such as John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, and Judith Resnick, one could say that Ohioans are always looking upwards. That one, however, is not Sarah Ricketts. She and her team at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton are more focused on looking down at Earth.
Ricketts is a program manager within the Advanced Technologies Division of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance/Special Operations Forces (ISR/SOF) Directorate (AFLCMC/WI) at Wright-Patterson. Two of the programs she oversees, Technology Development and Edge Data, ensure combatant commanders have the information gathering and targeting capabilities to make informed decisions and eliminate threats on the battlefield. The third program under her management, AgilePod®, is the premier ISR family of pod carriage systems.
“The AgilePod® program utilizes Information Transfer Agreements to allow Industry partners to build their own ‘Air Force Designed’ AgilePod® carriage systems and fill them with their own components for either DoD efforts or commercial developments,” says Ricketts. Through Information Transfer Agreements (ITA) such as this, Ricketts has witnessed the expansion of technological growth among Department of Defense (DoD) collaborators. “I look forward to seeing some of these programs become programs of record,” she adds.
Ricketts also leads AFLCMC/WI’s Office of Research and Technology Applications, or ORTA, which is responsible for developing collaborative interactions with industry, academia, and other government entities through an Air Force program called Technology Transfer and Transition.
These interactions are backed by legal agreements such as ITAs and Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA).
Ricketts develops and manages CRADAs to support the ISR sensors developments for both the Next Generation Sensors and the Advanced Battle Management Systems research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) initiatives. There are nine active CRADA's with DoD collaborators under her direction which may not all seamlessly connect, but are viewed as building blocks for technological advancement.
“The greatest success of our technology development is to keep the collaborators apprised of Air Force ISR and SOFs technology gaps we are attempting to address and ensure they are of overarching programmatic goals,” Ricketts states. She maximizes all opportunities to participate in a collaborators’ technology demonstrations and, in return, welcomes their participation during Air Force technology demonstrations.
Partnership, teamwork, and learning are well-known concepts for the former Air Force officer, whose background entails behavioral science and acquisitions. “The highlight of this job was coming into something that I have not done before in my career,” explains Ricketts. “The ORTA position has been a learn-on-the-job experience. There was no real formal training to prepare someone for every scenario but I have a great team that has assisted me in all challenges.”
Ricketts does reveal one challenge she has not been able to receive assistance with. “I joined the Air Force to see the world and got stationed in Ohio…here’s the kicker, I’m from Indiana!” Perhaps the ex-Hoosier can look up to the Ohio sky and find a shooting star to make a wish upon; surely, though, her teammates would rather she stay grounded in Dayton.
To learn more about the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance/Special Operations Forces Directorate, please visit https://www.aflcmc.af.mil/, or e-mail Sarah Ricketts at firstname.lastname@example.org.