The Idea for Scholarships:

Special Operators in the United States had a big problem that no one could seem to fix – or wanted to. 

Dogs that worked with the special operators had to do everything their handlers did – including jumping out of airplanes. But the dogs, who went out of the plane on high altitude insertions into enemy territory, did so with a makeshift oxygen mask the team members had fabricated through trial and error. 

The problem became acute. A SEAL Team member called SOFWERX – a branch of DEFENSEWERX near Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. SOFWERX created a prize challenge called ‘Jump the Dog’ to find a solution. 


a dog climbing a ladder in training.
Military working dog Azor hustles through the obstacle course at Striker Kennel. Varied forms of training keep the MWDs interested, in shape and proficient. Dogs like Azor can be used in special operations and must be able to cope with the rigors of high-altitude jumps.

“What [special operation teams] were doing up to that point was a duct tape solution,” said DEFENSEWERX CEO Brian Liesveld, “And of course, it was an interesting conversation because the veterinarian clinics were initially like, ‘Hey, we’re not a veterans organization. We’re a veterinarian organization.’ And our guys are like, ‘We know, hear us out.’ Within three weeks, they actually had a prototype being sent to Afghanistan; in three weeks now, this had gone through the typical government process. I mean, you’re talking years, certainly not weeks.”

Now, the canines have facemasks that work – and are form-fitted to them. 

A Clarification from DEFENSEWERX

After our story on this scholarship opportunity for students, we received several communications from the team at DEFENSEWERX. Brad Chedister, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer of DEFENSEWRX, claims the original information provided by DEFENSEWERX CEO Brain Liesveld is inaccurate.  

We want you to have correct information.

For this reason, even though the information that is deemed inaccurate by DEFENSEWERX is a direct quote from an authorized representative of DEFENSEWERX, we decided to give space in this article to DEFENSEWERX Chief Technology & Innovation Officer, Brad Chedister, to explain the situation more fully from their perspective.

Another example of SOFWERX’s innovation was a prize challenge event called “Jump the dog,” a canine oxygen mask for High Altitude High Opening parachute jumps.  The challenge was to design a system capable of providing 100% oxygen on demand for 15,000-35,000 feet jumps.  Three prizes were awarded and now SOFWERX is doing a rapid prototyping for the winning design team concept. “


This correct information is from an article that was published by the USSOCOM Office of Communication on 2/2/2018.  Link with information can be found here:’s%20innovation,for%2015%2C000-35%2C000%20feet%20jumps


The Goal

The unit that made the Doggie-breathing-apparatus happen, DEFENSEWERX helps the military connect its problems (like the canine altitude problem faced by special operators) to potential solutions in the private sector. 

Part of that solution finding, they say, is building up the next group of American thinkers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and small businesses to serve their country with their talents. 

When they found a surplus in their budget this year, they decided to create two scholarships to develop more thinkers who can creatively and efficiently solve problems like the canine high-altitude oxygen mask creatively and efficiently. 

Both scholarships are $5,000 and are open to Okaloosa County High School Seniors with at least a 2.5 GPA who want to dedicate their lives and skill sets to making their country a better place to live. The application process requires two letters of reference and a 750-word essay on how the candidate will use their postsecondary education to better the nation. 

“We’d like to see someone very motivated toward success. I keep saying ‘our nation,’ but [candidates for the scholarship] don’t have to want to go into the military. There’s other things you can do to help support your nation,” said Danette Culler, Human Resource Manager for DEFENSEWERX. 

Members of the DEFENSEWORX Team from left to right: Caitlyn Maddox, CEO Brian Liesveld and HR Manager Danette Culler.

They named the scholarships after locals who worked in the Air Force and then at DEFENSEWERX who recently passed away, General Robert Chedister, known by his call sign ‘Chedbob’ and retired Senior Master Sergeant Jim Cunnigham. General Chedister was DEFENSEWERX’s (then known solely as the Doolittle Institute) first Chief Technical Officer. Cunningham was the Institute’s first Chief People Officer. Brad Chedister, the General’s son, holds the role his dad once did at DEFENSEWERX – Chief Technology and Innovation Officer. 

You can apply for both of the scholarships at one time here:

 [Application Link]

The DEFENSEWERX Team says the application deadline is March 15 – and they plan to award the scholarships by the first half of April. 

They want to have the families of the men after whom the scholarships are named present the awards officially – and hope to make these scholarships and annual awards.

More About Robert 'ChedBob' Chedister

Major General Robert “ChedBob” Chedister, a devoted patriot and beloved father and grandfather left an indelible mark on the lives of many throughout his remarkable journey. Serving as the inaugural Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for DEFENSEWERX, he played a pivotal role in shaping the organization into the formidable entity it is today. ChedBob’s legacy extends beyond his professional accomplishments, reflecting 33 years of dedicated service in the United States Air Force (USAF), where he ascended to Major General.

As a Command Pilot, ChedBob accumulated over 3,000 flight hours on various USAF aircraft, including the iconic F-117 Stealth Fighter. His final assignment at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida saw him as the Installation and Air Armament Center Commander, serving as the Air Force’s Program Executive Officer for Weapons. Following his retirement in Northwest Florida, ChedBob dedicated his time to enhancing the Emerald Coast area, mainly through his involvement in the Emerald Coast Military Affairs Council and the Northwest Florida State College’s Board of Trustees.

ChedBob’s commitment to education and career opportunities for others was evident in his passionate engagement with various organizations. He leaves behind a legacy of service and leadership, survived by his loving wife of 50 years, his sons, and grandchildren.

Major General Robert 'ChedBob' Chedister.

More About Jim Cunningham

Jim Cunningham left an enduring legacy through his dedicated service and intellectual contributions to the Air Force, DEFENSEWERX, and his family.

His fundamental mantra, “Be a good human and be kind,” resonated deeply with colleagues at DEFENSEWERX, where he tirelessly worked to shape the organization and advance its mission.

Over two decades, Jim served with unwavering dedication in the United States Air Force, engaging in humanitarian and wartime missions. Armed with a Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology, his intellectual prowess added a commendable dimension to his professional journey.

Beyond the accolades, Jim’s commitment to family, evident in his enduring marriage to Linda of 29 years and his devotion to children Jasper (Jacy) and Cassidy, reflected his character and zest for life.

Jim Cunningham was DEFENSEWERX Chief People Officer. A scholarship has been made in his honor.


DEFENSEWERX is a non-profit organization with ten innovation hubs across the United States that connects problems the Federal Government wants to solve with thinkers in non-traditional areas of work that can solve them. DEFENSEWERX and its subsidiaries seek out small businesses, entrepreneurs, and similar organizations that can help quickly solve problems by helping those businesses navigate the red tape of the federal government and successfully bring their ideas to fruition.

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