Major Micah McCracken, United States Air Force, knows impact doesn’t necessarily come from obvious places. As a Military Fellow within the National Security Sciences Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), his mission is to bring back current scientific research to senior Air Force leaders in the Pentagon to quickly advance the military’s ability to keep the nation safe.
“This opportunity bridges the gap between research and application,” said Maj. McCracken. “Working with academia and industry overlaps with national defense. How can this be applied to the nation as a whole?”
The Air Force sends officers to a variety of professional development programs to step outside their baseline experience, gain a different perspective, and find solutions for the Air Force. A fellowship at a national laboratory is one type of program that allows the officer to explore and discover research across the site. The Military Fellows program at ORNL brings officers and enlisted service members into the labs to understand how science can be applied to Department of Defense challenges.
With his previous work at the Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), Maj. McCracken knows researchers around academia and industry are working on technologies not in the purview of the Air Force but that answer mission challenges. Colleagues at RCO talked about highly about ORNL researchers and applications, inspiring Maj. McCracken to apply for the Fellows program
Additive Manufacturing has been the highlight of Maj. McCracken’s tour so far since arriving at ORNL in July 2021. When he toured the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, he saw how ORNL is on the leading edge of different techniques to make material stronger, cheaper, and more available for military applications.
During the remainder of his one-year tour, he hopes to get deeper into the nuclear applications for the military, though he is interested in seeing as much of ORNL as possible. He is hungry to find game-changing capabilities to share with senior defense leadership.
More than looking for a benefit to the Air Force, Maj. McCracken also understands the benefit to researchers to apply their findings. “People at labs want their research used. This [program] can bridge the gap between research and application.”