Meet our latest cohort of Defense Ventures Fellows

The future of defense is public-private partnerships
Defense Ventures is an 8-week fellowship that identifies emerging innovators from the Department of Defense and facilitates industry immersions at venture capital firms, incubators, and startups across the United States. Shift runs this program in partnership with AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Air Force, who created this opportunity for members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Space Force, Coast Guard, Reserve, National Guard and DoD civilians.

Companies who host Defense Ventures Fellows gain insight into the mission of the Department of Defense, new perspectives on the federal marketplace, and forge enduring relationships with the military members they host. 

This fall, these fellows will begin a journey to learn “what great looks like” in emerging technology and bring commercial best practices back to the Department of Defense. The Defense Ventures Program allows fellows to engage directly with the private sector, establish meaningful connections, and develop a more in-depth understanding of business models, dual-use technologies, and solutions to challenging problems. 

Visit to learn more about the Defense Ventures Program and how to apply.

Meet the members of Cohort Eighteen


Captain Judah Anolick is the Assistant Chief of Training and a pilot for the 70th Air Refueling Squadron at Travis Air Force Base. As an aircraft commander, Captain Anolick has led teams on global cargo and air-to-air refueling missions and, while deployed, commanded over 35 combat missions to support allied forces in the Middle East.

As the Assistant Chief of Training, Captain Anolick oversees the flying proficiency and deployment readiness of over 90 aircrew and manages all upgrade training for the squadron.

Captain Anolick has also been heavily involved in his Reserve Wing’s Innovation Team, Nexus Spark, taking over as Director in late 2021. He believes strongly in the potential for all Airmen to innovate in their individual workspaces and has worked hard to raise awareness of innovation resources and encourage the sharing of ideas at Travis Air Force Base.

Adept at technical analysis and passionate about teamwork, Judah graduated from Northwestern University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and Economics and an MS in Transportation Systems Analysis and Planning. He is an enthusiastic surfer and enjoys reading, playing guitar, and spending time with friends.

Shield AI

Captain Trennert Barillas Fogarty is a CV-22B Instructor Pilot in the United States Air Force, currently serving as the 1st Special Operations Group Commander’s Executive Officer at Hurlburt Field, FL.

He directs executive support and administrative oversight of 1,600 personnel within the USAF’s 2nd largest Operations Group. Captain Barillas Fogarty instructs execution of clandestine infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces into hostile or denied territory, flying the CV-22B “Osprey”.  

Trennert previously served as Flight Commander, 20th Special Operations Squadron where he was responsible for flight currencies, performance reports, and deployment readiness for 75 personnel as well as the implementation of a $45.5 million dollar training program. He has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan flying combat missions in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel.

Trennert earned his Bachelor of Science in Management with a minor in Spanish from the United States Air Force Academy.  He is currently pursuing a Masters in Joint Warfare from Air University.

Learn To Win

Austin “AB” Barkdoll is a First Sergeant in the United States Air Force with 14 years of active-duty experience, currently serving with the 87th Communications Squadron. He advises the commander and senior leaders on all matters concerning the health, morale, welfare, professional development, and readiness of 126 military and civilian personnel.

In this capacity, he provides guidance and leadership to personnel with an emphasis on innovation, continuous improvement, and mission accomplishment. Prior to his current position, Austin was the Process Improvement & Innovation Program Manager for the 305th Maintenance Group, encompassing 5 squadrons and 1,700 personnel.

Austin has supervised and directed maintenance and logistics professionals executing wing and major command-level innovation projects in support of a 9.6-billion-dollar aircraft fleet. Austin’s leadership duties also included the management of the Air Mobility Command’s largest airfield autonomous systems test and evaluation cycle, incorporating partnerships with the Federal Aviation Administration, civilian airports, and academic institutions.

Austin holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Technical Management with a concentration in Aviation Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He currently resides in Mount Laurel, New Jersey and enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, studying psychology, exercise science, and podcasting.

Refinery Ventures

Colonel Fernando Cruz is the Chief Operating Officer for the Office of Strategic Capital (OSC).  Established as a priority initiative by the Secretary of Defense in December 2022, the OSC is charged with developing, integrating, and implementing partnered capital strategies to attract and scale investment in technologies critical to national security.

Colonel Cruz has over 20 years of experience in research, development, testing, evaluation, and acquisition of advanced technology for the DoD.  He is a graduate of the French Test Pilot School (EPNER), studied in Russia as an Olmsted Scholar, and served as Executive Officer to the U.S. Ambassador to NATO in Brussels.  As a Program Manager, Colonel Cruz led a large multi-disciplinary team responsible for the development, production, fielding, and modernization of all C-130J Super Hercules aircraft for US and Allied fleets.  

Before joining the OSC, Colonel Cruz served as Chief of Staff to the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering – the DoD’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO).  In that role, Colonel Cruz led the implementation of the CTO’s vision to ensure the technological superiority of the US military, including advising on the investment, development, and application of the 14 critical technology areas deemed vital to US national security.

PCI Aviation

First Lieutenant James Dontis is a United States Air Force Aircraft Maintenance Officer with experience on F-16 Fighting Falcons, RQ-4B Global Hawk, and HH-60 Pave Hawk and Jolly Green II variants.

James currently serves as Maintenance Flight Officer-In-Charge of the 66th Rescue Generation Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, NV. In that role, he leads a 175-member team directing aircraft maintenance, fabrication, and inspections of a fleet of 18 rotary aircraft. James oversaw the reallocation of 13 pieces of local aircraft support equipment which negated a 2-year delay and erased $2.4 million in acquisition costs.

As a Wing Innovation Officer at Grand Forks Air Force Base, he led the team that founded the North Spark Defense Laboratory, securing Air Force Research Laboratory authorizations, which led to an Educational Partnership Agreement with The University of North Dakota. J

ames started his career as an enlisted Integrated Avionics Technician and was commissioned through the Air Force Officer Training School. James holds a Bachelor of Science, Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology from Eastern Carolina Polytechnic Institute, a Master Military Instructor certification, and a Certified Professional Innovator certification.

BMNT Partners

MSgt Dana Garrett is an Innovation Consultant assigned with ARCWERX, AATC in Tucson Arizona.  She serves as the connecting point for all Air National Guard wings and their innovation program.  Creating a culture of innovation throughout the entire Air National Guard enterprise.  

She assists wings in getting their Spark Cells up and running, getting the best education and training to them, and helps guide their projects through the appropriate channels and see them to the end.  Managing projects that get funded through Squadron Innovation Funds Campaign that ARCWERX hosts annually.  

Dana started her military career at the 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls, Oregon.  She transferred to the 162nd Wing and has spent most of her career there.  She has been in the Admin career field, as well as COMM and protocol.  

Dana holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Leadership from the University of Arizona.  She enjoys traveling the country, visiting and training Air National Guard members about the innovation program and getting their programs started, and watching how they excel together and the great progress that is seen throughout the process.  More importantly, she enjoys being able to come home to her husband and kids and share those experiences with them.

Lieutenant Commander James Howell, is the N21 Department Head, Fleet Intel/Crypto Readiness Officer, of the Commander US Pacific Fleet, for the United States Navy. James has served as the Intelligence Warfare Officer, responsible for 24/7 intelligence support to the Commander PACFLT and all subordinate operations, and as the N21 department head, responsible for all Training, Engagements, Administrative, Manning, and System requirements of the N2 and N39 staffs and responsible for PACFLT Intelligence and Cryptologic Readiness.

Prior to this role, James served as a Surface Warfare Officer on the USS Vicksburg (CG 69) and the USS Little Rock (LCS 9). While attached to the USS LITTLE ROCK, LT Howell submitted and was approved for a lateral transfer to the Cryptologic Warfare Community.  After completing the Information Warfare Basic Course and the Cryptologic Warfare Basic Course, LT Howell reported to the NSA/CSS Georgia.  

James initially enlisted in the Navy as a Nuclear Electronic Technician and was accepted into the United States Naval Academy where he received his commission. He has a Bachelors of Science in Astronautical Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy and a Masters of Science in Aeronautics specializing in Space Studies from Embry-Riddle University. He lives in Hawaii with his wife Liz and daughter Kaylee.

LCDR Howell’s current assignment is to Commander, US Pacific Fleet HQ, where James is married to LT Elizabeth Howell, a Surface Warfare Officer currently serving as the Combat Systems Officer onboard USS Wayne E Meyer (DDG108) in Pearl Harbor, HI.  In January 2019, Liz and James celebrated the birth of their first child, Kaylee Arya Howell.

Dr. Reid Melville is the Chief Innovation Officer for the Integrated Capabilities Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory.  He architects new approaches for technology exploitation that better address Air Force capability needs, including partnering with Tech Accelerators, sponsoring technology competitions, and crafting start-up-friendly contracting strategies.

In pursuit of transformational capabilities, he has orchestrated investment portfolios for vehicle tracking with commercial satellites, rapid remote re-supply, aerial aircraft re-arming, expeditionary energy solutions, and high-speed air platforms with vertical take-off.

Reid has worked in the Air Force Research Laboratory for over 30 years, as a computational scientist, as a branch chief, and as a technology strategy lead. In his career, he has overseen technology programs for aircraft ground collision avoidance, automated aerial refueling, airborne sense-and-avoid, and tube-launched unmanned air systems.

Reid holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University, an M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in Aeronautical Engineering from Stanford University.

Pallas Advisors

Verenice Mondragon-Jaimes is currently the lead Major Command Program Manager for AFWERX, serving as the connective point between AFWERX and Air Force Innovation leads, enabling interagency and joint partnership opportunities across over 15 organizations.

She also serves as the AFWERX Austin Hub Senior Engagements Lead, designing and facilitating events to foster teaming across the industry, academia, and Department of Defense members in order to accelerate dual-use technology transitions into operational capabilities.

Additionally, Verenice also serves as an enlisted service member in the Texas Air National Guard providing environmental intelligence to training and real-world contingencies since 2013. In her military career, she has led weather support for rotary search and rescue missions, multinational exercises in the Pacific theater, and led five teams in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Verenice holds a B.A. in Geography from the University of Texas at Austin with a focus in Geographic Information Science and Remote Sensing.

General Electric

Jack Morgenthaler is a U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer currently stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Current Operations briefer where he compiles and delivers daily Operations and Intelligence briefs aiding the four-star admiral in making real-time decisions in the world’s most dynamic area of operation.

Jack has a career track record of high performance at each command. He has previously been stationed on warships based out of Sasebo-Nagasaki, Japan and San Diego, California with several deployments completed throughout the Indo-Pacific and Central theatres.

As a communications officer, he led a division in the upkeep and operation of equipment dealing with internal and external communications, cyber security, and ship self-defense and weapon systems. As the ship’s Navigator, he demonstrated sound judgment and decision-making with the responsibility for the safe navigation of the ship by utilizing and working with a multitude of organic sensors.

Jack is a former graduate of the United States Naval Academy with a BS in Economics where he also played Varsity Men’s Lacrosse earning Patriot League Academic All-American honors. He is a current online MBA candidate in Cohort 15 at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California set to graduate spring of 2024.

Learn To Win

Lieutenant Timothy Myland is an active-duty Naval Aviator with nine years of experience.  He is currently an instructor pilot at VFA-106 flying the F/A-18 Super Hornet.  His primary role is to mentor and instruct the future fleet of F/A-18 aircrew.  

His secondary role is in training, where he works in strategy development to optimize and adapt the fighter syllabus for the future.  In this billet, he is also responsible for training detachments and operational planning that ensure aircrew complete the fighter phase on time.  This involves organizing and coordinating the movement of F/A-18 aircraft and personnel every six weeks on detachment.  He also holds a tertiary role as a subject matter expert on the Joint Mission Planning System software that integrates with the F/A-18.  

He previously completed multiple deployments with VFA-87 onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt as a fully qualified strike-fighter pilot.  His work at VFA-87 included a leadership role as a division officer, overseeing a 50-person team, and an operational role where he was responsible for maintaining readiness for the squadron during his second deployment and return to home port.  Prior to joining the Navy, Tim worked in sales for a Google contractor.  

Tim is soon starting his M.B.A. at Duke University and currently holds a B.S. in Business and Engineering from Drexel University.

Regent Craft

Commander Michael "Nordy" Nordhausen is a Defense Innovation Unit program manager working on autonomous maritime systems. As the only active duty Coast Guard Officer assigned to DIU, he also develops and facilitates all collaboration between the DIU and the Coast Guard, including the Coast Guard’s first projects with DIU and the Service’s first use of “Other Transactions” for prototyping and procurement.

Nordy is a career Response officer with 19 years of military service, and has executed or supervised various missions including search & rescue, law enforcement, and maritime security.

His operational tours include five years on numerous Coast Guard cutters, with time on patrol boats and polar icebreakers (including one Antarctic deployment), and two command cadre tours at Maritime Safety & Security Team Seattle. He was a Congressional Liaison from 2015-2017, and enjoyed working on a small high functioning team that coordinated all communication and interaction between Congress and the Coast Guard.

Nordy holds a bachelors in Civil Engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco.

Lieutenant Colonel Alex Quinia is a force modernization officer in the United States Air Force, currently serving with the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.

As a portfolio analyst, Alex is the primary advisor to the Service Acquisition Executive for the planning and execution of 65 nuclear weapon programs totaling $44B, and as a program element monitor, he was the primary advocate for the budget defense to Congress for air-delivered nuclear weapon and legacy fighter aircraft programs. During this period, Alex deployed to the Middle East, where he directed 100 multi-capable Airmen through 8 installation exercises to refine coordinated crisis response for 8,000 personnel in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and the World Cup.

Prior to this assignment, Alex led a selectively-manned team of 39 maintainers responsible for the sustainment of 304 unmanned aerial vehicles and 176 ground control systems, where his team achieved the #1 mission-capable rate in the Air Force.

Alex earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy and holds multiple graduate degrees from the University of Southern California, Webster University, and Air Command and Staff College.

Bunker Supply

Dr. Jenna Roueche is the Acquisitions Program Management Phase I Lead at the Open Topics Branch of AFVentures/AFWERX. She has a strong background in the Air Force and acquisitions and is responsible for leading the $126M Department of the Air Force, Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs Phase I portfolio.

By working to close critical capability gaps for the warfighter, Dr. Roueche is helping to ensure that small businesses are developing innovative technologies that have real-world applications and the potential for commercialization.

Jenna served in the Air Force as an Air Reserve Technician overseeing Civil Engineer operations plans and nuclear, biological, and chemical detection, warning, and reporting activities. Following her role as a Contract Negotiator overseeing a research and development contract portfolio worth $575 million, Dr. Roueche' assumed the position of Chief Engagement Officer at the 309th Software Engineering Group. In this capacity, she spearheaded an acquisitions program in collaboration with the Secretary of the Air Force aimed at achieving performance at the speed of relevance.

Jenna has a Bachelor of Science (B.S) degree in Physical Education and Recreation, a Master of Education degree in Exercise Science, and a Ph.D. in Behavioral Medicine.

Firehawk Aerospace

First Lieutenant Jack Tremblay is the Lead Engineer and Space Force Launch Commander in the Second Space Launch Squadron performing Mission Assurance and on-console operations for SpaceX Falcon 9 flights from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.

Additionally, he redesigned Space Force Mission Assurance processes using automation, data analytics, and machine learning to prepare Space Systems Command for an unprecedented and exponentially increasing launch cadence across the United States. In his 2 years in the position, he has directed engineering for the first national security mission using a reused booster, NASA’s DART, and the first cross-coast launch operation, among others.

Jack has also worked for Lockheed Martin Rotary Mission Systems and General Dynamics Electric Boat. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Clarkson University, and is getting a Master’s degree from Purdue University at the Elmore School of Electrical and Computer engineering researching fields and optics.


Master Sergeant Jon Unangst is an intelligence and special activities specialist with extensive experience conducting high-risk, high-return projects while also leading cross-functional, international teams to develop unique solutions for complex problem sets. Jon cultivates understanding across boundaries in order to explore novel opportunities for team success.

Jon began his Air Force career as a linguist, attending the Defense Language Institute for two languages with subsequent assignments leveraging both National level and Air Force sensors/platforms supporting a spectrum of analytic requirements to include adversary capabilities, counter-terrorism, international crime and narcotics, and threat warning for US and coalition forces. During this period Jon served as mission supervisor, instructor, evaluator, and subject matter expert, and also within the curriculum development and standardization/evaluation functions.

Leveraging language and cultural perspective coupled with a passion for collaboration, Jon transitioned to special activities with a decade of service split between supporting special operations and strategic requirements in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Jon managed complex relationships, balancing government and regional interests so that partnerships could strengthen and stabilize diverse communities.


Lieutenant Brent Wilken is an active-duty Logistics Readiness Officer in the United States Air Force. As Flight Commander of Air Terminal Operations at 436th Aerial Port Squadron, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Brent has played a critical role in overseeing the safe and efficient transportation of over 120,000 tons of cargo, as well as over 10,000 passengers, on more than 4,000 air missions annually.

In addition, Brent has been a leader in the base's Sparks Cell (Bedrock), where he has guided Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) projects, Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) projects, Educational Partnerships Agreements, and Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, helping to foster innovation and collaboration across a range of industries.

A prior-enlisted Security Forces member, Brent was previously stationed at Joint Base Andrews Maryland, Kleine Brogel Air Base Belgium, and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station Colorado. Brent was selected by Air Force Space Command for the Scholarship for Outstanding Airman to ROTC and commissioned through the Reserve Officers Training Corps program.

Brent earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Clemson University and will graduate with a Master’s of Science in Business Analytics from Duke University in May 2023.


Major Christian Wollenburg is an active duty officer who has served in a variety of assignments and multiple overseas deployments, most recently as the chief of intelligence requirements management in Kabul.  He is currently assigned in the National Capital Region.  

Christian previously served as a cyberspace operational planner and intelligence planner for Army Cyber Command. Operationally he has led an infantry platoon and served as a Counter-Improvised Explosive Device team chief and squadron intelligence officer in Iraq. He also commanded a military intelligence company in southern Afghanistan.  

Christian is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York where he earned a B.S. in Engineering Management. He is a graduate of U.S. Army Command and General Staff School, as well as, U.S. Army Ranger School, Airborne, and Air Assault schools.