The Naval Reserve is developing a mobile app to make it easier for reservists to report to work using a solution that will come in handy if they ever activate the entire select 50,000-member reserve.
The idea for the app came from Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Calhoun’s own experience with mobilization in 2020 had him wondering if technology could streamline a dreary administrative process and ease the burden on sailors scattered across the country without easy access to a reserve center.
Calhoun, spurred by a similar app from its civilian customers, developed the idea of a mobile app, compatible with all operating systems, that would allow reservists to show up and mobilize more quickly, especially if they there was a mass mobilization on short notice. He submitted it as part of the Naval Reserve’s inaugural “i3 Waypoints” innovation challenge and presented his idea – “Leverage Mobile Technology to Streamline Mobilization” – to a panel at Fort Meade, Md., on June 28. .
Out of 107 submissions received by the Naval Reserve this year, only five finalists were chosen to pitch their idea in person. Calhoun was one of them, and his idea won over the panelists – including Vice Admiral John Mustin, Chief of the Naval Reserve and Commander of the Naval Reserve Force – and he was the winner. .
The Naval Reserve is “already coming out” of the app design, Mustin said when announcing the winner. “His idea of adding mobile technology to our distributed activation process helps us achieve our goal of mobilizing the entire selected reserve force of 50,000 in 30 days if needed.”
The command began i3 Waypoints “as a way to accelerate transformative ideas from across the Navy directly to the highest levels of the Naval Reserve, without filters or bureaucratic barriers,” according to the service. The name comes from an “approach to invention: innovating something entirely new, improving something already established, or integrating several ideas, products or processes that render the first completely obsolete”.
Naval Reserve personnel are working on the requirements for the app to be built and tailored to the Navy’s specific needs, Calhoun said, “so when the call comes in, everyone is ready from day one.”
When Calhoun mobilized in 2020, he had to go to Expeditionary Combat Readiness Command in Norfolk, Va., where most reservists went to begin their mobilization process. While it wasn’t far for him, it was for many other reservists.
Now, as part of Mustin’s changes to the Reserve Force, reservists can simply go to their local Navy Reserve Center, regardless of where they’ve been before. Now, the addition of an app on a smartphone will make this process easier as each reservist will be able to complete and submit the necessary paperwork faster.
“How we mobilize now is slightly different from how we mobilized in previous years,” Calhoun said in an interview, particularly when mobilizing larger groups of reservists rather than one or more some. “When it comes time to marshal the full force, it’s something that can’t be done in just a few places anymore.”
The Navy activated 1,300 reservists — medical and medical support personnel — over a two-day period at the start of the military’s COVID-19 pandemic relief mission in the spring of 2020, Capt. Colette Murphy said. These reservists assisted personnel approximately 48 hours, USNS hospital ships Comfort and USNS Mercy and other COVID hotspots.
Amid the pandemic, COVID-19 has impacted public shipyards with the loss of available workers, prompting the Naval Reserve to mobilize an additional 1,300 reservists to fill these ship maintenance jobs. This program, called Surge Main, is “a capability that only exists in the reserve force,” Murphy said.
The 2020 mobilization exercise that Calhoun had participated in was the planned proof of concept for the “distributed activation” of the Naval Reserve implemented in 2021. planes to places like Norfolk to mobilize,” he said. she declared.
For years, the Naval Reserve maintained the ability to mobilize 3,000 reservists in a month. But officials expect the requirement to cover larger-scale mobilizations in the future, so the simplification of the mobilization process and enforcement suggested by Calhoun would be welcome if many reservists were to be activated in same time.
“How else do you get 50,000 people through a system that was, for 20 years, capable of mobilizing 3,000 for the year… And now you need 50,000 in a month?” Murphy said. “We were already working on it, then Jonathan had a brilliant idea. He pushed us further down the pitch very quickly.
Calhoun served as an active duty surface warfare officer for five years, and he has been in the Reserves for eight years, working at the US Fleet Forces Command Maritime Operations Center in Norfolk, Virginia.
The idea for the app surfaced after her mobilization from January to October 2020 and her service aboard the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB-4) as chief of deck duty and reserve officer in charge. During a reserve mobilization exercise, he had to fill out and hand in a lot of paperwork typical of what he would have to do during a real mobilization.
The process, he said, was “very tedious and redundant in nature. For each form, you had to manually enter your name, address, date of birth, etc., then save it, email it back, and then communicate back and forth with Navy Reserve Center personnel. to make changes or updates or changes with each form.
“It certainly took a long time,” he added. Some sailors who did not have access to a laptop computer with a CAC-enabled device at home to access emails and other documents “were forced to travel to a Navy reserve center to use a Navy computer to meet all requirements”.
Calhoun thought about these administrative challenges while working his civilian job in banking and working with companies that do business with the Department of Defense. One day, while sharing his recent mobilization experiences, he said, he learned that a company was already using a mobile app used by some federal agencies that could ease the mobilization headaches experienced by sailors.” by moving the majority of those administrative requirements that are currently performed”. on CAC-enabled computers to a mobile device.
“Something that every sailor, especially our young junior sailors, has with them 24/7, every day of the week,” he noted.
The app the company used made it easy to fill out forms and communicate via group chats. He envisioned something similar, “anything to streamline communication between a group of people, and the transfer of information and data that doesn’t require being on a military installation and having to fill out and attaching forms from scratch”. Forms could automatically populate information on different documents quickly, updates can be made quickly, and leaders would have a better view of their force’s readiness.
Security and encryption infrastructure has already been built into the technology due to the sensitivity of the information being transferred. “I don’t see why we can’t put the same level of security in place to ensure that people’s personal information is protected throughout the mobilization process,” he said.
So Calhoun wrote up a plan and submitted the idea to i3 Waypoints. Chosen as a finalist to pitch the idea live, he sought out people who helped refine his delivery for the three minutes he would have to sell the panel — which included Mustin — on his idea.
He slightly exceeded this time. During the 10-minute Q&A, the panelists peppered him with questions. How would you implement this? How much time does it take to do this? What are the macro benefits? “It’s certainly hard to answer those questions on the spot when the lights are on,” he said. He was encouraged by a panelist’s comment: “Why don’t we already do this?”
The other four 2022 finalists and their ideas are:
Lt. Brian Adornato with Naval Sea Systems Command, Surge Maintenance Sacramento, Calif.: Create a new category of personnel: civilian technicians.
Cmdt. Bobby Hsu, Director of Naval Staff of OPNAV: Official Naval Reserve YouTube Channel.
Cmdt. Scott Mericle, Naval Reserve C2F L5: Improving Active-Reserve Transition. Includes the idea of retaining the email addresses and ID cards that reservists have when transitioning from active duty.
Cmdt. Sarah McGann, Navy Personnel Command (PERS-9) and Lt. Josh Didawick, OPNAV L1: New Policy for Reserve Retirement Education Across the Career Continuum.