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News | Sept. 27, 2021

The Young Punch; Airman invents munitions tool

By Senior Airman Jordan Smith 673d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

So often people hear that innovation is the key to success, and one U.S. Airman is taking innovation to the next level with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s Arctic Spark Lab.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Young, a 3rd Munitions Squadron munitions support equipment maintenance crew chief, invented a grease cap applicator he calls the Young Punch, which is a tool that allows a smooth and damage-free application of grease caps on specific munitions support equipment, which have to be removed for annual inspections.

One day, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Justin Crawford, the 3rd Munitions Squadron munitions support equipment maintenance production supervisor, brought Young to the Arctic Spark Lab as a way to inspire the young Airman to get involved and volunteer.

“The idea came to mind when one day Tech. Sgt. Crawford brought me up to the Arctic Spark Lab to show me around and get me involved in volunteering,” said Young. “When we got to the lab he introduced me to Master Sgt. Michael Offenbacker, who was managing the lab at the time. He gave me a tour of the lab and as he was describing the 3D printer and the possibilities, I was in la-la land thinking about how I could use it to improve my work section.”

Young added that the printer sparked a thought—maybe he could 3D print a part that could keep him and his peers from beating up grease caps.

The grease caps on MHU-141 trailer and 20MM Universal Ammunition Loading Systems are designed to seal the bearings inside the four wheel hubs, protecting the inner components from corrosion that would be caused by exposure to the environment. Originally, the grease caps would be hammered on, resulting in indentation and uneven application and subsequently decreasing the life of the grease cap.

He explained the idea to Crawford, who liked it and they set a time with Offenbacker to design the prototype.

The first prototype of the Young Punch was created with ABS plastic and took 12 hours to 3D print. It is still in use today.

“As a supervisor, I challenged him to think outside the box to find new and innovative ways to do the job,” said Crawford. “I gave him the time he needed to learn the software, build the prototype, and function test it. I pitched it to leadership who were thoroughly impressed with the idea. From there we routed the paperwork that would allow the shop to add it as part of their tool kit and use it for daily operations. The biggest challenge was getting the final approval documents routed through each required level. Outside of that, the tool is a very basic and simple concept that solves an easily overlooked issue at a very low cost.”

The invention of the Young Punch has contributed to the overall health of the unit by saving man hours and long-term costs within the process of replacing, painting, and ordering grease caps.

“The reviews of Airmen in the shop are that it does help save the grease caps and helps protect their hands when hammering on the cap,” said Young. “Overall, it makes life easier for us in the maintenance bay.”

Over the last few years, the Air Force and now Space Force have shifted their focus heavily toward innovation and creating a more diverse and inclusive environment across all ranks.

“In the Noncommissioned Officer Academy, we talked about the National Defense Strategy quite frequently, and one of the reoccurring topics was innovation,” said Tech. Sgt. Clifton Harrison, a 703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron resource advisor. “In the NDS it mentions, ‘New commercial technology will change society and, ultimately, the character of war.’ It ends the paragraph by stating, ‘Maintaining the Department’s technological advantage will require changes in industry culture, investment resources, and protection across the National Security Innovation Base.’ That being said, it’s vital we have more like-minded individuals leading the way and finding creative, innovative ways to accomplish our mission. Our adversaries are looking for any edge over us, and as shown in this case, it doesn’t take a high-ranking member or subject matter expert to be innovative and change the way we operate, to help us keep our superior edge. I hope this inspires other members to speak up and share their ideas.”

All ranks are responsible for different components of each career field, and together can provide a wide range of ideas and points of view on how to foster efficiency and simplify processes to accomplish the mission.

“Innovation comes with many challenges and roadblocks,” said Crawford. “Persistence and determination is key to overcoming those obstacles. If you have an idea or a solution to a problem that you believe in, and you get told ‘no,’ don’t let your idea die there. Be that squeaky wheel and keep searching until you find that ‘yes.’ You may need to make some adjustments along the way, but don’t give up. And for my fellow supervisors, challenge your Airmen to think of better ways to do things. And most importantly, listen to your Airmen. They see things from a different perspective, and who knows, they may surprise you with some of the things they come up with.”

Young is currently working through the process to attain a patent for the Young Punch.

Since the Air Force debuted the Air Force Special Operations Command in 2017, around 70 Spark Cells have launched around the world. The JBER Arctic Spark team can be found on Facebook at JBERArcticSpark or via email at Other locations can be found at AFWERX website,