I'm Joanna Guy, lead associate in Booz Allen's Global Defense Sector, and this is Master The Mission with Kenny Smith. Today, I'm joined by Kenny. 25-year, senior leader in the Air Force, fighter pilot, and fifth generation warfighter. Now, Kenny is a senior leader in Booz Allen's Global Defense Sector, where he focuses on Accelerated Readiness, delivering innovative training solutions to warfighters. Kenny, I'm honored to chat with you today. Thank you for joining me. I'd like to dive in by asking you to tell us a little bit more about your career journey and what led you to Booz Allen today. Hi Joanna, thank you for the opportunity to talk with you today. Yeah. So I am originally from Virginia. I grew up in Fredericksburg, went the college at UVA. Go Wahoos! Join the Air Force, went to pilot training and fortunate to do some pretty interesting things. Spent half my career overseas doing, flying fighters as well as being a planner and stuff in Korea and things like that. Had the opportunity to command a couple of times and work for some senior leaders in the Air Force and as well as senior leaders on the Joint Staff. I retired out of command, out of Nellis Air Force Base and decided to move back home and move back to Virginia. And I was fortunate enough to have been a Booz Allen client when I was on active duty on a couple, couple of occasions, reached out to some colleagues that I knew in the firm and was fortunate to get hired by the firm. And it's been six years as of this month and just-- just excited to be here and be a part of it. Just a fantastic team. Well, we're excited to work with you and it's incredible to see the solutions coming out of your team. And we will dive into that. But I'd love to pull the thread of lineage and legacy a little bit. Your father, Quentin Smith Jr., rose to the rank of colonel in the Air Force, just as you did and received a Distinguished Flying Cross. What was it like having a dad as a pilot, and how did that impact your aspirations? So I love telling the story about my father. I was five years old, in kindergarten and my dad was in the Reserves. And then Captain Quentin Smith came to pick us up from school to take us to go-- we're going to go up to the place he was going to go fly, go hang out, but as a family weekend for that thing. My dad walked in, in his flight suit, and I was like, That's really cool. I want to do that. And, I was kind of hooked at that point. Took me to see the Thunderbirds, when I was a little later, I got a chance to meet, uh, now, General, then Captain-- Lloyd Fig Newton, first black Thunderbird pilot. And they actually were friends in Vietnam. And, uh, my dad got a chance to meet him as well and just hooked. So it's been in my DNA, has been my blood from a very, very young child. Drew pictures, uh, showed to my dad, you know, put my dad's flight suit on, put my dad's helmet and things like that. And it's always been a part of me. It's one of the truest things I've ever done in my life. And it's led you to a distinguished career yourself. You've trained 250,000 warfighters before you retired, and you did joint training at Nellis Air Force Base and the red flag and green flag exercises, which you described as the Rose Bowl of training. Through that depth of experience, what do you think makes training effective? Yeah, it was, that was an amazing experience at Nellis. That, that's the crown jewel of training as far as I'm concerned. We did a lot of, we had a lot of folks come through that soldiers, sailors, guardians, airmen, Marines, joint coalition. We're doing about 250 to 275,000 a year going through our program. And it really showed me what, what's in the realm of the possible. There's a phrase that we use about Nellis, as goes Nellis, so goes the Air Force. I would argue, as goes Nellis, so goes the joint community and how all those different capabilities and different, warfighters are out there, how they synchronize to deliver one integrated solution, for, for the nation. Typically when folks go through the training programs that we have out there at Nellis and the other place that we're connected to with the Army and and the Navy that are out there, they're going to war as soon as they leave us. And so that, like they're left with their last setup before they go out the door, to go to go to some deployment someplace. So we want to make sure that we, push them really hard and make sure they're ready to go. And it was really exciting to see just some amazing, amazing individuals do some amazing things while I was there. And now at Booz Allen, you're working on integrating real time analytics and data into both mixed reality and virtual reality training devices and also into operational platforms. Why do you think that real time data is so important in training and particularly to pilots? Yeah, absolutely. The, the challenge that we're going to have with technology as we integrate more and more things into the cockpit and I would argue to any any type of training, any type of weapon system, whether its a ship or a tank or things along those lines, there's more and more information that's available. The analog systems of old that we had back in the 40s and 50s, and even my airplane and the F-16 had a lot of information that was available. But the information size of that, side of that thing is just getting more and more complex, petabytes of information that are available. And so being able to capture that data and be more, have more positive control, capture, curate, analyze, and disseminate information to be able to not have to relearn lessons learned, to be able to accelerate, accelerate learning through the process, accelerate readiness through the process. To achieve better capabilities faster is critical in that space, and imagine that information is going to be a big part of that. As a fighter pilot, can you speak to some of the data that would be captured on a platform like an F-16 or incomparable training platforms? And can you speak a little bit to x ray, which is the Booz Allen solution coming out of your team to provide integrated analytics for real time training? You know, absolutely. So, you know, as-- let's use the F-16 as a base point going forward. So the F-16 had various sensors there were all in the airplane, so it had a radar, had a targeting pod, had radios, radar warnings, to receivers. And as my job as the pilot to kind of fuze that data to make it look and smell right and be able to make decisions on behalf of the joint commander to go employ or support folks on the ground or things like that. And the fifth generation environment, same kind of sensors, but now all of that data is going to get fuzed and is going to, you know, displays are going look a little different. And it's going to present one picture, but still lots of information that's going to go out there. In a sixth generation environment, same kind of things, but now I'm going to have other supporting assets that are out there, drones or things like that, to get all that data fuzed together. So that's the data environment we're describing. Very, very rich, very, very in-depth, and positive capture of that data throughout the process is going to allow us to make decisions, again, faster, better, not relearn things. And that's really get to the heart of what XRAE about. So XRAE stands for Extended Reality Analytics Engine. It's basically a data capture, a data analytics tool that we are today applying into immersive tools. We have plans on growing into other areas as well, but we're basically allowing, taking the data that's coming off of the platform and having positive custody of that data as it's going through the process and giving better feedback to the trading audience whether that's the actual student themselves, we're trying to make the instructor's life easier because as an instructor, I know in the back seat of an F-16, training people was hard, to watch everything and to capture everything, there's just too much information to capture. And so, be able to take that information and make it more palatable for the student, the instructor pilot and even the enterprise. Because now I can help the enterprise make better decisions. Again, we talked about earlier with the issue of relearning lessons learned, right? So, we go out and do everyone has to go through the same process or they make the same mistake every time. We don't need to make that mistake over and over again. We can actually use that data to get better processes, better ways, cheaper ways, faster ways of training and building readiness. That's incredible. And as someone who has trained thousands of warfighters, do you perhaps have an anecdote about training a warfighter who's been in the cockpit, and would you have had a tool like XRAE, perhaps the training would have been accelerated? Sure. So I had a student, this is a long time ago. I love the story. Where, she was wonderful. She was fantastic. When I was doing pilot training back in the day, she was fantastic, great, vibrant, intelligent, doing very, very well. But she was having a lot of trouble flying formation. And so she was flying a very old airplane, it was the same airplanes that I flew in pilot training, it's the same airplanes that my dad flew in pilot training. So we knew how to fly formation in this airplane. So we go out the fly that day and I show her all the techniques and things that are going on like this, how we do it, whatever, make small movements, you know, fly at least not doing crazy things. You don't need to do crazy things. And she just couldn't do it. She was struggling. And just so happened, we're in a maneuver and I look down and I can see what her problem is. And it was something that I would have never have dreamed about, like no one would ever do, make this type of control input to fly formation. So I was trying not to yell at her, but I did. Because I was like, I got it! I know what the issue is. And, wow, she got it. She was perfect. And the standard for pilot training is three feet away from the airplane to be, you know, in control and be stable at three feet. She actually stable two, I'm like, hey, we need backup. This is a little too close. But she was really, really comfortable because now she was making that error. Had I had data, had I had some type of data capture to come off the airplane or another instructor to see that she was making that input, that, again, wonderful student, fantastic student. They all make mistakes. They'll have a call of challenges. Had I had data, I could have taken that data and gone, Hey, you're making this input. Don't do that. Keep, keep your feet here, Keep your hands here. Look this direction. It sounds like pilots are dealing with so much in real time, and that's the importance of training. And I want to ask about the aspect of capturing biometrics as well as real-time data off the platform. What role does biometric capture play in improving a pilot's performance and helping them to get the full picture to optimize performance? Sure. Yeah. So now we're getting to the human, right? So we've been talking a lot about the machine at this point. So how do I collect the data from what the machine is telling me that's going on, now I'll look at the person, right? And we all bring our own way of doing things, our own habit patterns, our own life experiences, and that drives how we actually perform. One of the things that I look for when I'm training pilot is are they listening to me when I'm given instruction? Are they talking, right? If they stop doing those things, I can tell they're stressed, right? So can I take the human performance side of things, the heart rates pupillometry in the eyes, just basic communication. Are they saying things appropriately? We expect them to be stressed. We expect them to be, to make mistakes. How can we help them deal with that stress? Some techniques to, you know, that I know that athletes use to be able to manage their stress and stuff like that. That's way, that's ways biometrics can be used to get a better read on where people are on their training, on their training journey. In your experience, building out XRAE, working closely with our human performance team here at Booz Allen, how do you see Booz Allen as driving a differentiated solution and training for clients? Booz Allen is great data. We understand large data sets, weâ€™re the largest provider of AI, for the Department of Defense. We understand that environment and you can't have good AI until you have good data and we know what we're doing in that space. And so I think Booz Allen is going to bring a differentiated position that we understand that the data fabric, it's a quilt, right? So if I'm out there and I'm flying at Nellis like a different airplanes that are out there, I've got different comm systems on the ground, different radars, different capabilities, cyber, because we did, you know, multi-domain command control, multi-domain operations there. So space, cyber, land, sea, the whole nine yards. How you can imagine information? You need a provider that understands what big data looks like, and Booz Allen has that in spades. How do you define success for yourself, and in training thousands of warfighters throughout your career, what is the greatest leadership lesson that you would pass to emerging warfighters? Leadership is hard. It's really hard. If it was easy, anyone could do it, right? Leadership is really, really hard. And so for me, what leadership looks like is finding what people are great at, what they're passionate at, and leveraging that passion to just do great things that motivate people to do great things, right? So I really as a leader, I want to connect with the individual. I want to see what makes your heart sing. What like, what are you passionate about? Because I need a diverse team. I need diverse backgrounds, I need differing perspectives because the enemies are gonna do some weird stuff to me, right? And I need to know, â€œHey, how do you see it? How do, how am I going to see it? I need to merge those capabilities. And once I merge those teams together, if I'm successful as a leader, we can like make magic and people will follow these to a brick wall if you get it right and then do it right. One piece of parting advice for warfighters, especially who are starting on the brink of using new technology, innovation, AI, day to day in conflict, what advice do you have for the next generation of warfighters? Keep doing great things. I've been blessed to work with some of the most amazing people in uniform. Whatever challenges we present to our nation are, I am very, very confident that our warfighters are going to do a great job. Be ready to embrace that technology, be ready to embrace the data. You're, you're being asked to think and react differently in an environment that we haven't been in since World War Two. You start thinking about China is going to do and the challenges that we're going to have in the Pacific with the tyranny of distance and how we're going to be distributed and spread out, we're going to be very, very reliant on the individual, the individual warfighters to merge together, to be able to meet the mission that we're going to ask them to do. I'm very, very confident they'll be able to do it. Just be ready for the data that's coming, be ready to manage that information appropriately. And I know, I sleep very, very well at night, that I know our warfighters are ready to go and they're going to protect us. Thank you, Kenny. Thank you for your leadership here at Booz Allen and in your distinguished career in the Air Force, it's been an honor talking to you. If listeners out there would like to learn more about Booz Allen's Accelerated Readiness Solutions, please visit us at our Helix Center for Innovation in downtown D.C..