U.S. Central Command hosted its first “Shark Tank”-style innovation competition in Tampa, Florida, on Friday, giving service members the chance to present creative ideas to the CENTCOM commander and a panel of experts.

Sgt. Mickey Reeve, 24, was chosen as the competition’s inaugural winner for developing a training software that simulates every counter-unmanned aerial system in the military for scenarios all around the globe.

Of more than 160 ideas submitted by service members and civilians to the CENTCOM Innovation Oasis, five finalists were chosen to showcase an original concept meant to “improve operations or enhance the quality of lives of our troops,” according to a CENTCOM release.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to present,” Reeve said ahead of the competition in an interview with Military Times. “This is truly an honor to be selected for this, and my real excitement is that this has the potential to affect change throughout CENTCOM,”

Reeve, an infantryman with the Massachusetts National Guard’s 1-182nd Infantry Regiment, developed his idea during the time he spent stationed at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, with the counter-UAS team.

His hope, he said, is that this innovation would give the military the ability to practice battle drills and other scenarios that may otherwise be impossible in the operational environment.

“Currently, the training we have isn’t conducive to real life ... so I developed the program that I’m hoping to use as a jumping off point towards developing better training tools for counter-UAS teams,” Reeve said earlier this month.

Reeve and the four other finalists, whose ideas ranged from a blockchain supply system to a fabricated pallet loader, presented to a panel that included CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla and an actual former “Shark Tank” judge, Kevin Harrington.

“This panel represents the cutting edge in innovative thought across multiple sectors: the defense industry, Silicon Valley, academia, U.S. government, and the tech industry,” CENTCOM spokesman Col. Joe Buccino said in a press release. “We have a NASA administrator, one of Forbes’ ‘30 Under 30,’ and the leading executives in disruptive tech.”

Reeve was awarded the Distinguished Meritorious Service Medal for winning the competition.

Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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