SCHRIEVER SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. --
The only two Reserve Citizen Airmen to attend the “Supra Coders” course are both part of the 310th Space Wing’s 4th Space Warning Squadron at Buckley Space Force Base, Colorado.
The intensive three-month course teaches students to become full stack developers, people who can perform front and back-end coding for developing software. The course is followed by a three-month internship with one of the Air Force’s innovation hubs.
“Our warfighting capabilities are reliant on software and communications,” said 2nd Lt. Felix Zhang, a section chief for the 4th SWS and recent graduate from the Supra Coder course. “By having the ability to create in-house software we can tailor programs to meet specific needs of any organization, which provides us with exponentially more adaptability, agility and security.”
Senior Airman Emily Hosoya, a 4th SWS data system operator and a graduate of the first Supra Coder course held last year, is working on one of these applications to meet one of those specific needs designed the Airman Comprehensive Assessment—a feedback worksheet between supervisors and their Airmen that lays out the groundwork for performance expectations, personal goal-setting and concerns.
“We are calling it 360 Feedback,” said Hosoya. “It will allow supervisors to send requests for anonymous feedback to members of their wing about subordinates. There are people supervising dozens of Airmen and it can be difficult to know each of them well. They may only see them when they are on their best, or worst, behavior. Being able to reach out to others who interact with them regularly can help them get a better picture.”
Any application supra coders develop is sent through Platform One, an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform that serves as the central repository for all the applications developed within the Air and Space Forces. It checks the efficacy, security and functionality to mitigate cyber security vulnerabilities.
“The Platform One pipeline runs, understandably, very hefty security checks on all these programs, which is why we use TDD (test-driven development).” said Zhang.
TDD is a programing style designed to minimize any software bugs by following a methodology centered on frequent testing throughout the development process.
Zhang says he took the course thinking of his position as a leader now and in the future.
“I see this as a way of future-proofing our digital space and I feel it is important for me as a leader to understand this language even if down the line I won’t necessarily be developing the software,” he said. “If someone comes to me with an innovative idea and I don’t understand the language (of coding), there could be missed opportunities.”
The Supra Coder course is open to officers and enlisted members. Applicants will need to take a competency test and have approval from their commander to participate.
“The course does a very good job at teaching you to think like a developer,” said Zhang. “It’s less didactic and more explorational. The course focuses more on problem solving and learning ‘how to learn’ than rote ‘this is how you build x.’”