SSC Guardian begins Phantom Fellowship Program with MIT

  • Published
  • By Kevin Gonzalez, SSC Public Affairs
The Phantom Fellowship is a joint Department of the Air Force and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Artificial Intelligence Accelerator program.

It is an immersive 4-month program intended to bridge the digital divide by developing high-performing Air and Space Force professionals into future leaders and advocates of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

1st Lt. Conner Brown, A Space Systems Command Guardian is a member of the current iteration, which began on May 1 and runs through Aug. 31. Brown, a program manager with Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Polar program, is one of the 16 selected for Cohort V.

“The Phantom Fellowship appealed to me because it’s clear that the new frontier of international conflict is being developed through technology,” Brown said. “AI/ML allows for more precise decision-making and frees up crucial military resources.”

The program application process is highly competitive with the current cohort selected from over 500 officer, enlisted and civilian applicants. “I’m very excited about this opportunity and so grateful for the support of my command,” Brown said.

Selection criteria includes specialized experience with AI/ML, software programming, current area of AIA mission need and technical acumen.

Brown applied three times before his selection to the program. Showing his passion and resilience, he sought feedback for improvement each time, “I reached out to Phantoms and just immersed myself in continuous learning,” Brown said.

The AIA assigns Phantoms to work alongside MIT researchers on current programs that are implementing AI and ML. Within the AIA, there is the Space Domain Awareness project, which studies and monitors satellites orbiting Earth, and gathers intelligence about on-orbit objects. The SDA project also uses AI to allow satellites to adjust their flight paths to avoid collision with other objects, including space debris.

“I’ve enjoyed connecting with the AIA team and other Phantoms,” he said. “Everyone I’ve met so far brings a unique perspective, which is proving to be an invaluable network to support my efforts at SSC.”

The various career fields represented include cyber, acquisitions, contracting, public affairs, programmers and personnel. The Phantoms work remotely on projects and attend training at the DAF-MIT AIA in Cambridge, Mass.

“I appreciate that the program is a ‘flat’ organization, meaning, there is no hierarchy across ranks,” Brown said. “This format allows everyone to openly discuss solutions and provide insight from their diverse backgrounds and experiences.”
To learn more about DAF-MIT AIA visit the website: Applications for the upcoming cohort are due June 24, 2022, login to myPers to apply.