The U.S. Air Force has been around for 71 years — but it’s doing its best impression of a Boston startup.
The latest deployment for a small team from Hanscom Air Force Base is not to a foreign country; it’s to a WeWork coworking space near North Station, where airmen are building apps alongside entrepreneurs.
Beer taps in the lobby there can make any hour happy hour. The laid-back scene is home to dozens of young companies — and one very chill military outpost.
“Being out of uniform does something to you, almost psychologically,” said senior Airman Stacey Soto, sporting boots more stylish than the ones Uncle Sam issues.
Soto is designing an app to help Air Force intelligence analysts track aircraft. In some ways, her job would be easier on base, in a classified setting. But she’s trained in “operational security” — what to say or not say around civilian colleagues. She and the Air Force agree the benefits of coworking outweigh the hassles.
“Me — as a designer — it’s very important that I have an open space to be creative, feel creative, collaborate with other designers, and be able to spread my ideas and let them bounce,” she said.
There are scores of coworking spaces in Greater Boston. Though they were popularized by startups, larger firms — and now even the military — are joining in, hoping to absorb some of the energy.
An Air Force spokesman said airmen are developing software in coworking spaces in other cities, too, including Washington and San Francisco.
Cyber defense analyst Justin Hohman said the WeWork environment helps him and Soto work together more freely than they would at Hanscom.
“She’s not worried about what rank I am; I’m not worried about what rank she is, and it allows us to communicate ideas,” Hohman said. “There’s no, ‘Hey, she might be a higher rank than me, so I’m afraid to tell her what I’m thinking.’ “
There may be no rankings, but there is a version of the Air Force motto on the wall: “Code. Deploy. Win.” It’s a play on the real motto: “Fly. Fight. Win.”