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 Fifteen

Decisive Point

Gavin Aydelotte is an active duty Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer serving as a Nuclear Disablement Team member at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He has held several leadership positions in Alaska, Korea, and Kansas.

Through several relocations during his career, Gavin has overcome language barriers across service branches and international partners to cultivate mutually-beneficial relationships. Most notably, Gavin, under the Comprehensive Military Agreements, advised on the partnerships with the Republic of Korea and Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea to de-mine sections of the Demilitarized Zone and led a wholistic review of the Republic of Korea Counter-Weapons of Mass Destruction capabilities alongside the Department of State, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, United Kingdom, Australian, and US Joint-Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal Partners.

Gavin lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his dog, Aurora, and is transitioning into the Army Reserves in July 2023. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Management from Case Western Reserve University and has earned his Lean Six Sigma Black Belt; and will complete his PMP, CompTIA ITF+, and Security+ in 2022. He enjoys learning, traveling, and fitness.

Insight Partners

LtCol Michael Baird is an instructor at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Joint Military Attaché School and has spent 19 years in the combat aviation and intelligence communities as a fighter pilot, special operations pilot, and military diplomat.

In addition to revamping the school’s cybersecurity curriculum to reflect the realities of ubiquitous technical surveillance that these personnel will expect while serving abroad, Michael helps to teach the navigation of cultures, languages, ambiguity, and resource constraints to foster cross-cultural relationships specifically in the interest of ensuring senior decision-makers and the US policy-making establishment are well-informed. Michael has over 2,500+ hours of flight time in the U-28 and F-16 and has served as an Air Attaché at the US Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine and as the Senior Defense Official at the US Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

He speaks Ukrainian and Russian, and in addition to completing a prestigious fellowship in Lviv, Ukraine as an Olmsted Scholar at the Ukrainian Catholic University of Lviv, Michael has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a Masters of the Arts in International Relations from the University of Oklahoma.

Pallas Advisors

Alissa Bookwalter is the Chief of Staff for the All Domain Common Platform (ADCP) at Kessel Run. In her role, Alissa leads over 300 technologists on the development of cohesive, standardized processes, next-generation talent management initiatives, digital transformation & culture change, and developing/fostering relationships across government, academia, and the tech industry.

Alissa also serves as a Director of the Federal Military Family Workforce Network (FMFWN).  FMFWN is the first government-wide affinity group for federally employed, military-connected family members and is supported by the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative and the Interagency Veterans Advisory Council. Prior to Kessel Run, Alissa worked as the Deputy Director of Talent Management at the United States Digital Service at the White House. She also led a team supporting Congressionally mandated Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) research and clinical services at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Ft. Belvoir Intrepid Spirit One center.

Alissa holds a Master of Education degree from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, a Bachelor of History degree from Westminster College, an Executive Certificate in Project Management from Georgetown University, and an Executive Certificate in Entrepreneurship from Syracuse University.  She lives in Washington, DC, with three adorable cats, and one crazy dog.

Decisive Point

Colonel Sean “Sonny” Cantrell is the Deputy Director for the Department of Defense’s Middle-East and Africa Regional Center (MARC) in Washington, DC.  The MARC is a team of 400+ members, vested with keeping national decision-makers informed about these volatile regions via AI-enabled modeling and predicative assessments.  

Sean has held a wide range of positions in the Air Force, from serving throughout the world as a military attaché, to leading the Air Force Directorate of Special Projects, responsible for bringing critical R&D from modeling-to-the-field at the speed of business. Initially, he served as an Air Force Special Warfare Officer but after sustaining combat injuries was selected for a graduate fellowship in analysis and strategy.  Subsequently, he served on the Secretary of the Air Force’s strategic advisory team - Air Force CHECKMATE.  

Sean has assignments at U.S. Embassies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Romania, and Croatia, and in 2018 he was appointed by Secretary of Defense James Mattis as Defense Attaché to the Czech Republic.  While Defense Attaché to the Czech Republic, he led the largest defense acquisition in U.S. – Czech history, for a fleet of U.S.-manufactured helicopters.  Additionally, he is proficient in Russian, Spanish, Croatian, Romanian, and Czech languages.

JetBlue Ventures

Captain Mitch Cochell is currently serving as a Technical & Research Program Manager at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He is the Program Manager for a $98M simulation training environment developed by AFRL and operated for the Special Operations community to enable human performance research. He has grown the customer base for this technology and garnered over $8M in additional funding to support the program’s development. In this role, he has gained extensive experience in strategy development, stakeholder management, and technology/product maturation.

Mitch began his career as a Technical Program Manager on the V-22 Joint Program Office at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. During his time there, he managed multiple programs centered on innovations of the communication systems used on the MV-22 and CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft.

Mitch resides in Dayton, Ohio with his wife and dog. He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management and has an MBA in Finance from Missouri State University. In his free time, he enjoys finding new places to travel and coaching with the Air Force Rugby Team.


Shana Echevarría enlisted in the US Air Force and joined the Chaplain Corps at the height of the war on terror. As a Religious Affairs Senior Enlisted Leader she specializes in crisis counseling, disaster response, design thinking, facilitation, project management, and community relations. Shana leads multiple cross-functional teams to build up the human performance of Airmen and Sailors assigned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Her focus is to increase the spiritual resilience (grit) of military members and their families across the state of Hawaii.

Before her current assignment, Shana was at the Pentagon Chief of Chaplain's office executive team. She was the lead government policy author for a $45M operation. She directed 30+ global team members and projects valued at $100K or more. As a consultant, she advocated and implemented the creation of 90+ positions of Chaplains and Religious Affairs Airmen embedded in high-risk units across the Air Force, Project True North.

Shana is a project management student at Embry Riddle University, she speaks fluent Spanish and is originally from Perú. She strives to create teams of limitless innovators that can maneuver through ambiguous problems by focusing on psychological safety, decision making, and weaponized creativity.

Senior Chief Ed Guck has spent his entire military career of 18+ years in Special Operations, being assigned to SEAL Team 10, Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training Command (NSWATC), and Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG), where he currently works.

Ed has fulfilled roles as a lead Medic, High-risk Sniper Instructor, Supply Department Head, Sniper & Reconnaissance Team Leader, and Operations Chief/Vice President.  He has a background with testing and developing end-user products on the battlefield as well as acquisitions, and has extensive use with mission-planning software and geospatial computer programs such as Quick Terrain Modeler (QTM), Digital Globe, and Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK or TAK). Ed is passionate about seeking growth, mentoring teammates around him, and fostering a culture of positivity and progression.  

During his time in service, he completed a BA in Security Management from American Military University.  Ed is from Minnesota and currently resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He has three children, and enjoys being active in the outdoors.


Major Austin Jester is the Chief of Tactics at the 22d Airlift Squadron, currently stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California. Major Jester is a C-5 pilot. In his current position, he identifies and implements the tactical expertise required to operate a $308M aircraft in combat operations. He is the interface between multiple agencies to develop and execute training programs to prepare a 239 member squadron in combating new and emerging threats.

Before serving as the chief of tactics he was the director of compliance & inspections where he oversaw adherence to 100+ checklists. Additionally, he was responsible for and recognized as a subject matter expert for continuous process improvement and automation efforts across multiple agencies.

He is a graduate of The University of Minnesota with a BS in Business and Marketing Education and is currently working on obtaining a Master of Arts in Executive Leadership through Liberty University. He lives in Sacramento, California and enjoys the wonderful outdoor activities that Northern California offers.


Major Korey Kasper, MD is an active-duty physician board-certified in sports medicine and family medicine. He is currently stationed on Joint Base San Antonio- Lackland, TX where he serves as medical director for Trainee Health Clinic of the 59th Medical Wing as well as the VIPER Sports Medicine and Human Performance Program for the 37th Training Wing.

Korey is also a team physician for the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program and an assistant professor in the School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.  He serves as medical director for the Trainee Health and Fitness/Readiness division of the 59th Medical Wing’s Science & Technology Diagnostics Research Program; his own research pursuits focus on improving operational outcomes by advancing human performance and the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries.

Korey, born and raised in Wisconsin, currently resides in San Antonio with his wife and four young children.


Commander JD Kristenson leads all transformation efforts for the Navy’s force posture and maritime operations in the Middle Pacific region. JD has served as an Olmsted Scholar (Beijing, China) and as a Speechwriter and Special Assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.

His professional affiliations include The George and Carol Olmsted Scholar Program, the John L. Thornton Center of the Brookings Institution, the National Committee of US-China Relations, the China Maritime Studies Institute of the Naval War College, and the National Defense University’s Counter-Weapons of Mass Destruction Program for Emerging Leaders. He co-authored the book, The Naval Officer’s Guide and is currently writing an anthology, the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet.

He is a graduate of the Navy Nuclear Power Program, The University of Nebraska—Lincoln, The Defense Language Institute, Tsinghua University, and Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. JD lives in Hawaii and is studying for his private pilot’s license.

Learn to Win

Major Pablo M. Kruger is a Tactical Air Control Party Officer currently stationed in Germany. He coordinates the integration and application of the Tactical Air Control Party Weapon System’s capabilities to provide precision strike, joint fires, and multi-domain command and control in support of United States European Command and worldwide multinational contingency operations.

Pablo has led Airmen in multiple overseas contingency operations and has directly advised Target Engagement Authorities on the execution of Close Air Support, including directing kinetic engagements in support of strategic objectives as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller. At his two most recent assignments in Korea and in the European theater, Major Kruger has been at the forefront of the automation of sensor-to-weapon system data relay and in the agile employment of Command and Control capabilities.

He graduated from the University of Nebraska with degrees in International Relations and Political Science, and commissioned through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Marque Ventures

Lieutenant Travis Ledwith is an Information Warfare Officer (Naval Intelligence Officer) in the Navy Reserve attached to U.S. Sixth Fleet. He currently holds a staff position with Commander, Naval Information Force Reserve (CNIFR) as a Training Program Lead responsible for optimizing virtual education delivery across the entire spectrum of Information Warfare community specializations.

In addition to his work in the Navy, Travis is an Independent Advisor to multiple growth-stage companies in industries ranging from commercial construction to artificial intelligence. Prior to his current roles, he held a variety of entrepreneurial technology and marketing leadership positions inside both large multi-nationals (IBM, Aon) and early stage ventures in the United States, Europe, and Asia. He has been a lecturer, speaker, and published contributor on topics related to emerging technology, digital transformation, and consumer behavior.

Travis holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) jointly issued by Columbia Business School, London Business School, and The University of Hong Kong and a B.A. from the University of Georgia (Art History). He lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife, newborn son, and two miniature huskies.

Squadra Ventures

Riley Mistrot is an analyst at the Department of Defense (DoD) assigned to Joint Force Headquarters – Department of Defense Information Networks (JFHQ-DODIN), a component command of USCYBERCOM. She is focused on supporting JFHQ-DODIN’s mission to secure, operate, and defend DoD’s complex federation of 15,000 classified and unclassified networks, information technology equipment, tools and applications, and weapon system technologies and data, to include mobile devices, Internet access points, platform information technology, industrial control systems/supervisory control and data acquisition (ICS/SCADA), and the cloud environment.

In her prior role at the National Security Innovation Network within the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Riley supported outreach to DoD offices, academia, early stage start-ups, and venture capital firms globally. She has previously worked at the Department of Homeland Security and the American Enterprise Institute.

Riley is also a Security and Strategy Seminar Fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Society, chairs the Wake Washington Young Alumni Committee, and is a participant in the Council on Foreign Relations Young Professionals Briefing Series.  Riley graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wake Forest University with honors in Political Science and International Affairs and Arabic. She is currently training for her first Marine Corps Marathon.

Marque Ventures

Captain Bryce W. Mitchell is an Air Force Intelligence Officer serving with the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. In this role, he focuses his efforts on understanding how U.S. adversaries are employing emerging technology for defense purposes.

Prior to this, Bryce served in the United Kingdom as the Deputy Branch Chief for East Africa Counterterrorism Analysis at the U.S. Africa Command. He oversaw the production of intelligence on African violent extremist groups for senior U.S. policymakers, while also supporting targeted counterterrorism operations in Somalia. Bryce also served in South Korea, where he oversaw the command and control of all high-altitude aerial intelligence collection operations in the Korean theater. In this role, his team supported multiple engagements, including the Trump-Kim Summit at Panmunjom.

Bryce holds an MA in International Affairs, with a concentration in Espionage and Surveillance from King’s College London. He also graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with a BS in International History. Bryce has interned as a research assistant in the Office of Secretary (ret.) Donald Rumsfeld and in Congress with Congressman Adam Kinzinger. Bryce’s writing is published in the Air Force’s Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs. Outside of his professional endeavors, Bryce enjoys mountaineering, and cycling, and is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Regent Craft

MSgt Warner E. Paredes is the Contingency Airfield Operations Section Chief and Innovation Manager at 53d Air Traffic Control Squadron, Robins AFB, GA. Warner leads contingency air traffic control operations and planning at 53d Air Traffic Control Squadron, Robins AFB, GA.  He is responsible for developing Air Traffic Control and landing zone tactics, techniques, and procedures related to the deployable systems and navigational aids in support of austere training and clandestine environments.

Warner graduated technical school as a Distinguished Graduate and continued to earn recognition as Senior Airman Below-the-Zone. He continued to hone his Tower skills at multiple stateside and deployed locations earning him Watch Supervisor of the year honors. He developed personally and professionally while stationed overseas and returned to the US to achieve his first radar facility certifications. He received the first contingency Landing Zone Safety Officer certification in Syria and led Tower operations supporting Joint Coalition efforts to take back the Raqqah, the last ISIS stronghold in the region. He later served as a Host Nation Liaison to the Spanish 11th Air Wing and focal point to building partnership capabilities between Spain and United States Air Forces Europe.

Warner has received certifications in  Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Design Warfare, and Professional Manager prior to completing his AFWERX fellowship. Werner was born in Washington D.C., and is the first native-born American in his family. He grew up in South Florida before enlisting at the age of 18.


Major Ivan S. Slater is the Staff Director for Military Communications and Position, Navigation and Timing at Space Systems Command and has spent 16 years in the weapons and aircraft acquisition, space acquisitions, and flight test communities. He currently executes strategy, planning, and coordination on behalf of the Program Executive Officer for a 22-program portfolio acquiring space and ground systems for the Department of Defense.

Ivan has led many initiatives to include designing an innovative program strategy for semiconductor development. Additionally, he developed the funding and fielding strategy for an urgent, real-world threat, developing courses of action within months of the initial need. Arriving at Space Systems Command in 2018, Ivan took on the leadership role of delivering a ground system and awarding a software development contract, increasing the survivability of a high valued asset. Transitioning to satellite production, he led a 100-member team completing assembly, test, and operations for a strategic communications satellite and successfully launching the space vehicle. He then led a 28-member team evaluating technical proposals, briefing the Program Executive Officer on the award recommendation.

Ivan lives in Los Angeles, CA and holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a master's degree in business administration.