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NEWS | Sept. 27, 2023

Chief of Navy Reserve Announces i3 Waypoints 2023 Winner

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tyra M. Watson

Every great innovation starts with a spark, an experience or an encounter that makes us question the status quo.
Cmdr. Ernest Jessop’s Reserve Artificial Intelligence Navigator (RAIN) program innovation “wasn’t just a spontaneous idea; it was a culmination of inspirations and a journey of evolution,” said the Brooklyn native.
Vice Adm. John B. Mustin, Chief of Navy Reserve and Commander, Navy Reserve Force, announced RAIN as the winning entry of the Vice Adm. John G. Cotton Innovation Excellence Award during the second annual i3 Waypoints competition in a streaming broadcast September 18. The award is named after retired VADM Cotton, who was the eleventh Chief of Navy Reserve, from October 2003 until July 2008, and a strong advocate of innovation.
Cmdr. Jessop, a Training and Administration of the Reserve member currently attached to Office of the Chief of Navy Reserve (OCNR), in Arlington, Va., initially conceptualized his idea after encountering an artificial intelligence chatbot that uses natural language processing to create humanlike conversational dialogue-- one of the powerful language models released to the public in 2022.
RAIN is an envisioned mobile application that harnesses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to provide instant, accurate answers and guidance on onboarding, mobilization, and key policies.
“As I delved into its capabilities, I became engrossed in the potential applications, especially regarding the Navy Reserve,” said Jessop. Here was a tool with immense promise, one that could bridge gaps, answer questions, and provide a dynamic interface for communication.”
Jessop describes the inception of RAIN as a “eureka moment” inspired by a figure closer to home—Capt. Peter Zubof, his division director on the OCNR staff. Recognizing the immense responsibilities and the plethora of questions particularly in relation to mobilizations in the Navy Reserve, the idea for the first iteration was born: ZuBot. A program designed to provide answers and alleviate the bottlenecks of information flow. ZuBot was experimental and was only trained on a few Reserve policies, proving to be a good proof of concept which inspired RAIN as a mobile application.
“Yet, as with any pioneering venture, the horizon kept expanding,” said Jessop. “I realized that the potential of such a tool wasn’t just confined to answering questions about mobilizations. The Navy Reserve as a whole, especially new recruits faced challenges in accessing consistent and up-to-date information. There was a broader canvas waiting to be painted.”
Drawing from the foundational idea of ZuBot and equipped with the advanced capabilities of existing AI capabilities, RAIN was conceptualized.
“It wasn’t just about creating a chatbot,” said Jessop. “It was about crafting a navigator, a guide for our Navy Reserve members. A guide that could simplify the process, provide instant responses, and above all, ensure that every member felt supported and informed.”
i3 Waypoints is an approach to inventing: innovate something entirely new; improve on something already established; or integrate several ideas, products or processes rendering the former completely obsolete. Mustin launched the i3 Waypoints competition last year to fast-track transformative ideas from across the Navy directly to the highest levels of the Navy Reserve, without filters, administrative friction, or bureaucratic barriers along the way. 
Seventy-six total submissions were received in a five-week period. Five final entries were subsequently chosen and presented to a panel hosted by Mustin during a taped session at Fort Meade, Md., August 30, 2023. The rest of the impressive and highly qualified panelists included Rear Admiral Nancy S. Lacore, Commandant, Naval District Washington, Rear Admiral Paula Dunn, Vice Chief of Information, Mr. Bruce E. Mosler, chairman, global brokerage of Cushman & Wakefield, Inc., Navy Reserve Force Master Chief Tracy L. Hunt and 2022 Navy Reserve Sailor of the Year, Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collection) (Select) Lewis McClintock.

“The large number of creative, thoughtful strategic ideas submitted in a relatively short timeframe far exceeded our original expectations,” said Mustin. “It demonstrates our Reserve Force’s commitment to innovate, improve efficiencies, and reduce administrative burdens, allowing us to focus on warfighting readiness – our one and only priority. With such an enthusiastic response from the force, and so many great ideas to modernize the way we do business, we saw enough in this event to commit to making i3 Waypoints an annual program. Very little is more important to us than keeping the direct pipeline open for creative ideas to flow to top leadership without filter or disruption.”
The other i3 Waypoints finalists and their submissions were:
Chief Hull Technician (Select) Kyle Decraene, from Saginaw MI.,
LCDR Chris Ehlinger, from Clewiston, FL.,
CAPT James Prouty, from Brewster, NY., and
CDR Christopher "PITA" Whipps, from Baltimore, MD
The streamlined broadcast can be viewed at: