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Georgia on My Mind

By Eric F. Spina

Warner Robins, Georgia, sits 613 miles from Dayton, but after a quick trip there this week, it truly feels like it’s “just around the corner.”

The U.S. Air Force and University of Dayton Research Institute have transformed a former Publix grocery store in the middle of Georgia into a sophisticated Advanced Technology and Training Center (ATTC) and made it a home for 31 talented local researchers and engineers who are developing and testing breakthrough technologies for the Air Force.

Alongside UDRI colleagues — Vice President for Research John Leland, Director of Business Development Sukh Sidhu, and Sustainment Technologies Division Head Brian Stitt — I toured the new ATTC just outside the gate of Robins Air Force Base. It was my first visit to Warner Robins, located about 100 miles by car from Atlanta, and it reminded me of Dayton with its quality of life and storied history of military aviation.

When I met General John Kubinec, commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, other base personnel, the mayors of Warner Robins and two other nearby cities, and community leaders, it felt like meeting old friends. I also had a chance to chat with UDRI employees, and their talent, excitement about working on advanced technologies that matter for the nation, and enthusiasm at being part of UDRI and the University of Dayton brought me such joy.

UDRI Executive Director Allan Crasto and his team have worked hard to extend UDRI’s work with the Air Force to bases where technologies they have developed for advanced manufacturing can be applied directly to aircraft sustainment. UDRI researchers in Dayton work seamlessly with the staff at Warner Robins. The two-way flow of technical information and breakthroughs in additive manufacturing, cold spray technology, and other technologies needed to sustain the life of critical Air Force equipment is remarkable — it is, indeed, as if Warner Robins is next door to Dayton.

The U.S. Air Force is stepping outside the box by energizing collaborative operations off base where researchers and ideas can more easily mix to spur greater innovation and faster results. The Air Force and UDRI established the first ATTC on our campus, quickly followed by this one in Georgia. Soon, UDRI will manage another ATTC at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. The success of these innovative collaborations has garnered attention for the University at the highest levels of the Air Force.

During my whirlwind trip, I was particularly impressed with how UDRI is building community connections in Warner Robins and neighboring towns. Whether with four-year colleges, veterans’ transition centers, nearby middle and high schools, or economic development associations, UDRI is adding value to the Warner Robins community. This reflects so well the charism of the Marianists that the leaders of UDRI have focused on building community as central to being part of the local community.

But it’s not just UDRI leaders who espouse this philosophy. UDRI employees in Georgia do, too. For the technical excellence of the Warner Robins ATTC and the Marianist spirit of the staff, we owe a debt of gratitude to Site Leader Russ Alford, a longtime Air Force C-5 chief engineer who joined UDRI upon retirement. Talk about a perfect fit for UD!

I look forward to a long, fruitful collaboration with our friends in Middle Georgia. This is a community whose values are similar to those of Dayton, with hard-working people who care about their families and their co-workers.

It’s a place that feels like home.

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