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NC State Leads New UNC System Partnership With Military

Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie, UNC System President Peter Hans, NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson, Vice Chancellor Mladen Vouk and Capt. Dave Giralt attend a signing event to formalize an educational partnership agreement. 

The University of North Carolina System has signed an Educational Partnership Agreement with the XVIII Airborne (ABN) Corps, with NC State as the lead institution. This partnership will strengthen the UNC System’s existing relationship with the military and allow for new opportunities to encourage and enhance education, research and innovation in STEM and other disciplines. 

“We don’t have a monopoly on concepts; there are some great ideas in academia, and we’ve already found some amazing ideas here at the UNC System,” says Lt. Gen. Erik Kurilla, commander of the XVIII Airborne. “For us, this is about tapping into those ideas, expanding our network of innovation, and building opportunities to bring dynamic change to our troops.”

NC State has partnered to improve our nation’s defense and security consistently throughout its history. With a demonstrated track record of defense consortia leadership locally and globally, the university enables rapid innovation by bringing together academia and industry and applying their strengths to defense and security issues. 

Additionally, the UNC System has executed a number of agreements with military commands located in the state and with other Department of Defense organizations in support of national security. These partnerships have been mutually beneficial, putting technology and knowledge into the hands of warfighters while providing opportunities for UNC students, faculty and researchers to apply classroom knowledge to pressing real-world challenges.

“We are honored to partner with the XVIII Airborne Corps on important research initiatives that advance the national security mission,” says UNC System President Peter Hans. “Our 16 universities bring a deep bench of educational and scientific talent to ensure positive outcomes.”

We’ve already found some amazing ideas here at the UNC System.

In 2020, the UNC System worked with members of the North Carolina congressional delegation to secure $8 million in the FY2021 defense appropriations bill for the “Pathfinder Airborne” program to support an innovation partnership between the 82nd Airborne Division and UNC System, with NC State as the university lead. The efforts are to focus on soldier-led research and innovation to support the 82nd Airborne Division’s unique mission of conducting joint forcible entry operations and being deployed worldwide within 18 hours of notification. 

The 82nd is a subunit of the XVIII Airborne Corps. A corps is the highest level of command that can provide operational direction for actual combat. Current active corps are I Corps at Fort Lewis, Washington; III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas; and XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

NC State has already begun undergraduate student-based projects and professionally focused training programs for soldiers as a part of the agreement.

“Our military-friendly faculty and students bring an eager research mindset to this partnership,” says NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson. “They demonstrate this adaptability every day as well as their ability to focus on major national security issues.”

Discussions with Brigade Combat Teams from the 82nd ABN Division are underway to find other ways the UNC System can support soldiers. Areas of initial interest include:

  • Wearable technologies to help monitor, predict and maintain peak soldier performance
  • Collaborations to share the latest technologies in 3D printing
  • Applying predictive analytics to manage and optimize airspace requirements for airborne platforms
  • Additional student projects to develop an application to manage paratrooper jump logs and track equipment during field deployments