By Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Mravlja and AFCM (AW/SW) Edgar A. Delacerda
Meeting ongoing maintenance requirements is a current and historical challenge many aviation squadrons in the U.S. Navy face. This can be further compounded during high-tempo periods, when “being qualified” usually means a greater individual workload, which can impact other Sailors’ desires to get qualified.
To address this challenge, the “Island Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, took a page out of the CNO Adm. John Richardson’s “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority,” specifically the “Achieve High Velocity Learning at Every Level” section (see sidebar below).
First, we established a syllabus that was executable, repeatable and adhered to a realistic timeline to allow Sailors of one rate to achieve qualifications in another-known as multi-system qualification. Our second goal was to minimize qualification time for members checking in with little or no experience on the type/model/series. A working team was established, comprised of quality assurance officer Lt. Jake Dighton, aircraft division officer Lt. Kevin Marshall and aircraft division leading chief petty officer Senior Chief Senh Phu.
The instructions were straightforward—using the tenets of high velocity learning, develop a plan to achieve the objectives listed. After 10 days the team presented a rough outline, and a week later, a finished product. Emphasis was placed on identifying which rate could transition to another with the greatest efficiency and fewest restrictions. For example, aviation electrician’s mates (AEs) and aviation machinist mates (ADs) have multiple areas of overlap, making it easier to tailor a syllabus for AEs to achieve an AD qualification and vice versa. In total, six syllabi were developed covering multiple combinations for achieving multi-system qualifications, all of which adhered to the requirements established by the governing maintenance instructions.
From a group of Sailors already qualified in their respective rates as collateral duty quality assurance representatives (CDQAR), four volunteers—two AEs, an AD and two aviation structural mechanics (AMs)—were selected as initial participants.
They were assigned to the phase maintenance team and provided a syllabus that would allow them to achieve CDQAR in another rate within six-to-nine months. Along with routine and rigorous self-assessment, the mutual mentorship the four volunteers provided each other was a key element of the process. Reviews were conducted every 30 days, with metrics including syllabus completion rate, problem areas and lessons learned.
After three months with the multi-system qualification plan in place, results following the first review were telling. As expected, mechanical rates looking to achieve an additional qualification in another mechanical rate showed greater progress than, for example, an electrical rate attempting to qualify in a mechanical rate. Also, identifying previously rate-qualified personnel and immediately starting them on the syllabus provided more return on our investment than beginning later in their tour.
Prioritizing requirements also impacted progress. In the case of one AM, the Maintenance Department made achieving the phase coordinator qualification a higher priority than attaining an additional system qualification.
The process did come with challenges, and is an ongoing effort to balance maintaining a specific timeline for achieving “bonus” qualifications while adjusting to operational commitments here in Guam.
Also, days after we implemented the process, a rewrite of the Naval Aviation Maintenance Program (NAMP) hit the streets. This had an immediate impact on our Sailors’ qualification process, the greatest being on maintainers who had not completed 75 percent of their on-the-job-training assignment and were forced to restart with a syllabus aligned with the new policies—two of HSC-25’s maintainers had to essentially start over. The Island Knights also identified delays in the syllabus when scheduling required schooling that could not be completed on Guam.
Even with these issues, the results have been promising.
We have two maintainers above the established glide slope and three slightly below but well on their way to achieving multi-system qualification. We have established a process that accomplishes critical maintenance while furthering our Sailors’ professional development.
Lastly, we have created a workable feedback/review process that allows us to monitor progress while improving procedures. The implementation of the high velocity learning concepts and techniques has proven crucial to our initial success.
While one data point does not make a trend, the HSC-25 maintenance department is equipped and ready to continue providing quality aircraft to our flight crews, and incorporating high velocity learning will improve our squadron, the HSC community and Naval Aviation capabilities and talents.
Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Mravlja and Master Chief Aircraft Maintenanceman (Air Warfare/Sea Warfare) Edgar A. Delacerda are members of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25.
CNO Adm. John Richardson’s “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority”
Achieve High Velocity Learning at Every Level
Apply the best concepts, techniques and technologies to accelerate learning as individuals, teams and organizations. Clearly know the objective and the theoretical limits of performance—set aspirational goals. Begin problem definition by studying history—do not relearn old lessons. Start by seeing what you can accomplish without additional resources. During execution, conduct routine and rigorous self-assessment.
- Adapt processes to be inherently receptive to innovation and creativity.
- Implement individual, team and organizational best practices to inculcate high velocity learning as a matter of routine.
- Expand the use of learning-centered technologies, simulators, online gaming, analytics and other tools as a means to bring in creativity, operational agility and insight.
- Optimize the Navy intellectual enterprise to maximize combat effectiveness and efficiency. Reinvigorate an assessment culture and processes.
- Understand the lessons of history so as not to relearn them.