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 Nineteen


Ryan currently serves as a leading member of Kessel Run (the operational name of Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Detachment 12), a hybrid acquisition and software development unit that uses DevSecOps to deliver war-winning software capabilities.

Ryan has worked in a number of leadership roles in this organization. As its first Design Director, Ryan helped scale Kessel Run from 150 to over 1300 people. In his current role is Service Design Portfolio Lead in Kessel Run’s All Domain Common Platform (ADCP), he leads teams focused on improving the developer experience at Kessel Run.

Ryan has been working in the field of design for 14 years across various organizations. Prior to Kessel Run, Ryan worked at IDEO, led a consumer research startup from pre-launch to profit in 12 months, and started The Climate Mobilization, a policy-focused 501c(4) organization with over 40,000 members. He also worked at Draper Labs, an MIT spinoff R&D lab where his work centered around shared tools for shared situational awareness tools for Special Operations Forces, Augmented Reality, and co-adaptive human-computer interaction. Ryan has also mentored startups through the Masschallenge startup accelerator.

Ryan earned his Bachelor’s in Sociology from Wesleyan University and his Master’s in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University. He is based in San Francisco.

Marque Ventures

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew DeBerry leads values-based product initiatives in AI and cybersecurity.  He works across sectors to identify future capabilities impacting regulated industries, social trust, and safety.  

As a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves at USCYBERCOM, he works with acquisitions initiatives across VC firms, start-ups, Defense Innovation Unit, CDAO, and joint program management offices.  His focus is on commercial prototypes, production contracts, and industry partnerships.  

Andrew’s service builds on a civilian career in commercial tech with AI and cybersecurity product initiatives.  He mentors start-up founders and venture capital firms across high growth areas, including generative AI, 5G, mixed reality, and enterprise SaaS.  This builds on experiences leading teams at Microsoft, T-Mobile, Amazon Web Services, and responsible AI at Meta.  As a joint officer, he served as a DGS flight commander in Korea, undercover fusion cell officer for a surge pursuing Osama bin Laden, strategic planner for EUCOM/AFRICOM, engineering program leader for NGA, and founding member of DIUx.  

Andrew studied aerospace engineering, public policy, ethics, and Arabic at Notre Dame and the American University of Cairo as a Boren Scholar.  He completed Masters in National Security Strategy, International Relations, and MBA on a Wharton-Lauder Fellowship.

Stealth Start-Up

Captain Nick Evangelista is an Air Mobility Liaison Officer (AMLO), Aviator, and Senior Fellow with AFWERX. In his role as a liaison, Nick coordinates between the joint staffs of two senior Generals to ensure the safe and effective global operations of aircraft. He also leads a multidisciplinary team that provides support to 20 operating locations across 17 time zones and manages $10 million worth of assets.

As a Senior Fellow with AFWERX, Nick is deeply involved in the emerging Advanced Air Mobility space and the government's SBIR/STTR early-stage funding program. Currently, he is leading a major line of effort for the expanded due diligence process and is building a public-facing program to help small businesses protect their intellectual property and technology from external risks.

Prior to his current role, Nick flew 1,000 hours as a Navigator on the C-130H in the Pacific and participated in multiple joint exercises with partner countries, where he gained valuable experiences and knowledge in complex planning processes and international collaboration.

Nick holds a communications degree in Advertising from The Pennsylvania State University, and currently resides in Austin, TX.


James Foutz is an Operations Research Analyst in the United States Air Force driving efforts across the Analytics and IT Support teams within the AFWERX Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

James currently works out of the AFWERX location in Austin, Texas where he leads teams in building out the organization's data architecture, as well as facilitating the implementation of multiple enterprise systems to support the transitioning of commercial technologies into the Department of the Air Force.  

Prior to joining AFWERX, James spent seven years in the water and energy industry where he managed multiple projects implementing Enterprise Resource Planning and Business Intelligence solutions. In addition to his civilian career, he has served as a Weather Forecaster in the U.S. Air Force, first on Active Duty and most recently as a member of the Texas Air National Guard, where he has supported operational missions to Pacific Command (PACAF), U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE), and Central Command (CENTCOM).

James holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management Information Systems from Lamar University. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and three daughters, attending Austin FC matches, and going to as many concerts as possible.

Marque Ventures

Captain Madeline “Maddy” Goncalves is a finance professional with six years of active duty experience in the U.S. Army, including two deployments in direct support of Special Operations.

She has executed over $1 billion in government appropriations across the Indo-Pacific, Africa, and Middle East in support of defense operations and national security priorities. Her unique finance experience includes founding and serving on innovative, cross-functional teams to counter terrorist financing in East Africa and the Middle East.

Currently serving as the Controller for the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Bragg, NC, Maddy directly manages a $110 million annual budget and provides financial planning and analysis to maintain operational readiness for 110 aircraft and 2,000 personnel.

With a Bachelor of Science in Business Economics and a Master's degree in Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing in progress, Maddy is always striving to expand her knowledge and skills. She is excited to transition to the Utah National Guard to serve as the Counter Threat Finance officer for the 19th Special Forces Group, where she can continue to make a meaningful impact.

Ryan Gunst serves as a technology program manager for Naval Information Warfare Command where he is responsible for the prototyping and experimentation of capabilities for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. His work focuses on the agile acquisition and integration of developmental and dual-use technologies for defense applications.

Ryan also serves as an intelligence officer in the Army Reserve. Prior to his current assignment, he served as an intelligence task force commander in Afghanistan. Before that, he served as the prototyping and experimentation lead for the Department of Defense’s 5G program where he managed the rapid acquisition of prototype 5G networks for defense facilities throughout the United States. Prior to working on 5G, Ryan led Navy enterprise services and data center operations. Ryan has also served in staff roles as a research and development advisor to the Navy staff and as director of operations on the Army staff.

Ryan is a distinguished graduate of the Army War College where he conducted research on the implications of cryptocurrency and U.S. financial power. He has earned a MS in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University and a BS in biology from The Citadel. Ryan lives with his wife and children in the Charleston, South Carolina low country and they travel frequently to Asheville, North Carolina where they enjoy spending time hiking the trails of the Great Smokey Mountains.

Hermes Robotics

Major John “Wes” Holsinger is the Chief of Innovation for the 552 Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base and an Instructor Air Battle Manager onboard the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). With over 3,000 flying and instructor hours, he has extensive operational and combat experience on the USAF and NATO AWACS.

He also served as an Air Liaison Officer (ALO), providing close air support expertise for the 1st Armored Division.  As an ALO, he deployed twice as a Detachment Commander for the Air Support Operations Center for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and also for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) in Iraq and Syria.

Wes recently stood up the SPARK innovation cell at Tinker AFB providing Airmen a platform to collaborate on warfighter solutions with local and state organizations, community maker spaces, universities, and the larger Air Force innovation ecosystem. He believes every Airmen is a potential intrapreneur and has additional skill sets and a passion that the DoD can benefit from.

Wes holds a Bachelor of Science in International Business Administration and a Master of Science in Human Relations. He enjoys traveling with his family, snowboarding, Crossfit, and watching his 3 children play sports.


Colonel Bradford “Brad” Hughes is a former Master Army Aviator and UH-60 Maintenance Test Pilot with multiple combat and humanitarian relief deployments. He is an entrepreneur directing operations for an on-demand helicopter charter company serving Central Texas.

Brad also works as a Technology Transfer Consultant providing clients with intellectual property management and market-based recommendation about patenting, marketing, and licensing.

Brad transferred to the Civil Affairs branch in 2018 and was appointed a 38G Military Government Specialist with a 6F (Transportation) skill identifier. He currently serves as the Government Function Specialty Chief for the 351st Civil Affairs Command in Mountain View, California.

Additionally, Brad is a certified Gender Advisor (GENAD) where he leads efforts within the command to mainstream gender perspectives into Planning, Operations, Activities, and Investments.

Marque Ventures

Major Jose Machuca is currently serving as a project planner for United States Air Forces - Cyber, assigned to Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. In his current role, he directs analysis and planning efforts for operations in support of United States Cyber Command and the United States Air Force.

Prior to his current position, he commanded a 53-member cybersecurity intelligence unit, where he was responsible for executing persistent surveillance and threat characterization for the Air Force Information Network. Throughout his career, he has served as an Air Force officer in various areas of operations, including Europe, the Middle East, and Korea.

Jose's educational background includes an MS in Global Security Studies from Angelo State University and a Bachelor's Degree in International Relations from the University of Texas at Austin. Furthermore, he has earned certificates in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Machine Learning in Business from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He is a member of the Air Force's Language Enabled Airman Program for Spanish and National Defense University's Program for Emerging Leaders. He wasn’t born in Texas, but he got there as soon as he could.

Major Jack Mason is a current instructor pilot for Air Force Special Operations Command with over a decade in the Air Force, flying multiple aircraft and mission types.

He specializes in integrating emerging technology on a variety of aircraft in support of critical missions across the spectrum of special operations. Jack instructs multiple mission sets and leads a team that formalizes requirements for a $238.5M disparate aircraft fleet.

Previously, Jack assisted in directing operations for a squadron of 130+ aircrew specializing in executing sensitive assignments while also leading a crew of 4 in aircraft flying missions worldwide. As the Assistant Operations Officer, he designed a training plan using off-the-shelf simulator technology to reduce a 6-month training backlog within 45 days.

Jack holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy where he graduated as a Distinguished Graduate. He also earned a MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs where his thesis research explored low-cost energy transfer technology for use in off-the-grid environments. He currently lives in North Carolina with his wife and children and enjoys skateboarding with his kids and playing in the family band.

Squadra Ventures

Major Amanda M. Rebhi is the Director of AFVentures, AFWERX, where she is responsible for the $1.2B DAF SBIR and STTR program. After commissioning from the United States Air Force Academy in 2012, Amanda served in Space Operations on a career-broadening tour for the Upgraded Early Warning Radar system.

As Chief Innovation Officer for PEO Digital, she stood up the first three Air Force Pitch Days. In 2018, she worked alongside coalition allies coordinating NATO cargo airlift for Resolute Support and in 2021, she deployed to SOCOM as GHOST #255.

Amanda received her M.S. in International Marketing Management from Boston University and is active in the Language Enabled Airman Program for Spanish and French. Since suffering the stillbirth of her daughter Liliana in 2020, Amanda has worked with the CMSAF and Women’s Initiative Team, leading to minimum convalescent leave standards for pregnancy loss and NDAA 2022’s establishment of the DoD’s first sanctified Bereavement Leave.

This summer, Amanda will enter the Air Force Strategic Communications Masters Fellowship at George Mason University. Outside the Air Force, she owns and manages AirBnB’s and has traveled to over 40 countries. She enjoys hiking, camping, Latin dancing, woodworking, and weightlifting.

Decisive Point

Major Gabriel Samudio is a Special Forces Officer in the Army serving as the Director of the US Special Operations Command premier data science and machine learning platform, focused on accelerating Intelligence Operations through multi-intelligence data fusion, innovative analytics, and process automation.

Gabriel’s office deploys worldwide to innovate and forge data-driven solutions to the most complex and modern challenges to national security. As the Director, he leads an office of active duty and reserve military, government civilian, and contractor employees, task organized into cross domain nimble teams providing time-sensitive analytic support to special operations.

Gabriel served as an Infantry Officer assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, and as a Special Forces Officer assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group, deploying on six tours to the Middle East in key leadership roles directing innovative problem solving against highly complex and high-risk missions. After commanding a Special Forces Detachment, he transferred to the technical occupational specialty as a Functional Area 49 Army Officer, specializing in data science and statistics.

Gabriel graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and holds a Master’s Degree in Operations Research through the Naval Postgraduate School. His thesis research at the Naval Postgraduate School centered on probability estimation theory, publishing a new way to characterize the likelihood of different events with sparse data.

He lives in the National Capital Region with his family of four: kids Ava and Michael, and his wife, Stephanie. He enjoys spending his free time with his family, riding bicycles, playing soccer, running, cooking, and hiking.

Stealth VC Fund

Staff Sergeant Manveer Sandhu has a multifaceted background in defense, education, and business, bringing a unique perspective to the startup ecosystem. He is an Intelligence Analyst in the Air Force, supporting global operations by analyzing, assessing, and producing intelligence products to ensure mission success.

Manveer also serves as the President of the Travis Unified School District, which has provided a deep understanding of strategic planning, governance, and leadership. He is also co-founder of NorCal Venture Forum, a nonprofit organization focusing on fostering a thriving startup ecosystem in Northern California by bringing together capital, customers, and talent to support early-stage entrepreneurs.

Previously, he worked in investment banking and private equity focused on real estate, where he developed skills in financial analysis and modeling. His passion for venture capital and entrepreneurship led him to pursue a fellowship with Sutton Capital, gaining invaluable experience in identifying and evaluating investment opportunities. He completed an internship with Untapped Ventures, further sharpening his skills in due diligence, fundraising, and portfolio management.

Manveer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with a minor in Political Science from the University of California, Davis. In his free time, he likes exercising and keeping up with all things Star Wars.


Lieutenant Bryan Schmidt serves as the Chief Flight Instructor for Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 40 in Mayport, Florida, where he is responsible for the training and standardization of over 200 MH-60R Seahawk Instructor and Fleet Replacement Pilots and Aircrewmen.

Previously, as a member of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 70, he deployed multiple times to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. As an MH-60R Aircraft and Mission Commander, he has planned and executed over 1500 flight hours in support of operations including anti-submarine warfare, electronic warfare, maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and interdiction operations. In 2020, Bryan was recognized as Squadron "Pilot of the Year.”  

Bryan graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics. Following commissioning, he earned a Master of Science in Finance from the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School. After completion of this tour, Bryan will serve as the Aide to the Director of the Navy Staff, Office of Chief of Naval Operations.


First Lieutenant Tom Smith is a dynamic and accomplished Contracting Officer with extensive startup experience. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020 after studying Mandarin Chinese and Business on a full-ride Air Force ROTC scholarship.

Tom has led several critical acquisitions for the United States Space Command and Space Operations Command at Peterson Space Force Base and Cheyenne Mountain Space Force Station. Through his leadership, these acquisitions have significantly advanced the United States' capabilities in space operations. He is currently the Officer in Charge of the 21st Contracting Squadron’s Construction Flight.

Beyond his role in the Air Force, Tom has held operations, growth, and engineering positions in startups over the past several years. As a member of the Forum for American Chinese Exchange at Stanford and the Bush US-China Foundation’s Cross Generation Initiative, he maintains his understanding of Chinese and its importance in global affairs.

Tom’s background in these areas brings his work a unique cultural and entrepreneurial perspective. Tom is passionate about exploring the intersections between healthcare, defense, and blockchain technology.

Regent Craft

Lieutenant John-Rex Spivey is a 2013 graduate of the United States Naval Academy where he received a B.S. in History and was elected president of his class.

John-Rex Spivey earned his ‘Wings of Gold’ as a Naval Aviator in July 2015. Upon completion of his flight training, he reported to HSC-22 in Norfolk, VA, where he deployed twice in support of Operation Odyssey Lightning onboard the USS WASP (LHD 1), and in support of Flag Officer Sea Training and Joint Warrior on the USNS MCLEAN (T-AKE 12).

Following HSC-22, John-Rex was selected for the Navy Office of Legislative Affairs Fellowship Program where he served as a Defense Fellow for Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) during the 116th Congress. John-Rex currently serves under the Chief of Naval Personnel as an Action Officer, International Engagements Officer, and is the inaugural Director of the Naval Junior Officer Counsel (NJOC), which is a start-up initiative and the U.S. Navy’s first cross-designator group of Junior Officers whose mission is to “bridge the gap” between junior and senior leaders.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Navy, John-Rex served on the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association Board of Trustees as the youngest Trustee.

First Lieutenant Yann Wollman is an Acquisitions Officer in the United States Space Force, currently assigned as a Program Manager to the National Reconnaissance Office’s Advanced Systems & Technology Directorate, where he oversees multiple cutting-edge R&D programs.

Yann’s career focus is centered around disruptive innovation, the advancement of military acquisitions through dual-use technologies, and the leveraging of public-private partnerships to secure our nation’s national security objectives. Previously, Wollman interned at Harpoon Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm bridging the gap between Silicon Valley and Washington DC.

He also served as the head of Business Strategy and Partnerships for Canopy Aerospace, a startup manufacturer of heatshields for spacecraft and hypersonic vehicles, that won 3rd place in one of our nation’s top accelerators. Additionally, Wollman was the founder and director of USAFA SPARK, the Air Force Academy’s AFWERX Innovation Cell, designed to inculcate the next generation of Innovative Warfighters. He also served as the Cadet Director of the Center of Innovation at the Department of Homeland Security, responsible for early-stage research into companies engaged in market-shaping disruptive technologies.

Yann holds a B.S. in Operations Research from the United States Air Force Academy and an M.B.A from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.