Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) senior leadership visited Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 13 at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma on Sept. 27 as part of the Boots-on-the-Ground (BoG) program.
The program’s goal is to resolve interdependent Naval Aviation issues by conducting visits to Navy and Marine Corps aviation sites, aircraft carriers and amphibious ships, allowing NAE leaders to engage with Sailors and Marines on readiness and quality of life.
“Every time we come to a Boots event, the two big takeaways are the innovative things that are going on and the places where we can break down barriers for Sailors and Marines,” said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF). “All of the young Marines that were briefing today were very polished and very knowledgeable. We were all very much impressed.”
During the event, flag officers, senior executive service civilians and subject matter experts heard candid and constructive insights from working-level Marines, such as Cpl. Michael Ruiz, who demonstrated the need for a breathing air compressor to support Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1 flight operations.
“It was cool to be able to present my team’s problem and to have our solution approved so quickly,” said Ruiz, a member of MALS-13’s aircrew survival equipment team. “We have the knowledge base and the personnel to do it; we just don’t have the capability and the support equipment.”
The event highlighted MALS-13’s unique role supporting the entire spectrum of Marine Aviation by adapting geographic constraints for repair and support capabilities. Squadron leaders showcased their continuous process improvement (CPI) successes and innovations while discussing challenges in supporting the AV-8B Harrier II, F-35B Lightning II and other aircraft.
“This particular unit had a lot of executable recommendations which we were able to recognize, but another great outcome is the realization of the expanding requirements of this unit,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. “It’s not just Harriers anymore, but this time next year, an equal number of F-35s. I don’t think a lot of people really understood how much support this unit actually gives. This visibility will make things better for them now and in the future.”
As the first Marine Corps operational squadron to support the F-35B, MALS-13 mechanics determined the limited service life of the aircraft’s tires was an average of five landings, affecting its overall readiness. Only a few Marines within the division were qualified to perform the daily maintenance needed to keep the aircraft operationally ready.
Marines from the F-35B’s wheel and tire division were able to obtain the proper training, tools and support equipment to repair the wheel and tire assemblies at the intermediate maintenance level, allowing for an extended life span of 8-to-10 landings. This allowed the squadron to establish a stock of ready-for-issue (RFI) tires, contributing to an increase in readiness.
Staff Sgt. Montana Casper, who briefed BoG attendees on the F-35B’s wheel and tire rework, said he could see that NAE leaders were interested in learning more about each challenge presented.
Other innovative ideas included a demonstration by Sgt. Taylor Brown and Lance Cpl. Richard Happ of the MALS-13 Airborne Weapons Support Equipment work center, who showed a redesigned slide hammer of the AERO 74 bomb cradle.
Before the redesign, excessive wear of the slide hammer components led to delays in maintenance. Instead of using a welded bolt, the division moved to a removable thread attachment, allowing for easy removal and inexpensive replacements.
“The path forward is to lead the fleet as this work can be applied to all type, model and series that employ the AERO 74,” Brown said.
While the Marines of MALS-13 were able to solve many of their squadron’s readiness issues, they presented other challenges that allowed NAE leaders to capture action items for optimizing readiness throughout the fleet.
“Everyone involved has different resources and perspectives that are available,” said Lt. Col. Luke Watson, MALS-13’s Commanding Officer. “To increase situational awareness, especially on new things like the F-35B, just helps people make better decisions on what we need to do or they may have a simple fix that can lead to greater efficiencies.”
Gulianna Dunn is a communications specialist with Naval Aviation Enterprise public affairs.
Yuma Marine Earns NAE Excellence Award
By Gulianna Dunn
Everyday excellence may seem to go unnoticed, but one U.S. Marine’s efforts were rewarded Sept. 27 at a Boots-on-the-Ground event onboard Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Arizona.
Staff Sgt. Justin Ward, a member of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 13’s AIRSpeed Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) Site Core Team, was awarded the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) Excellence Award for serving as a positive example of enterprise behavior.
A ground support equipment mechanic, Ward led and supported 22 CPI events and projects in addition to training 894 Yellow Belts and 135 Green Belts. His Green Belt project, the 100-hour Performance Hover Check Rapid Improvement, identified costs and potential savings. At the completion of this project, Ward showed that the inspection was no longer needed, saving $165,000 in fuel costs annually and a reduction in labor costs associated with maintenance man hours by $47,000.
“I feel like this is my niche,” Ward said. “At the end of the day, seeing the benefits that the Marines get is why I got more involved in the [CPI] process. I remember when I was a junior Marine going through some of these processes that I thought were a waste. Now I’m able to give them a voice so that we can fix those things. If we can do the same job, but faster, it’s a win in my book.”
Throughout his 15 years of service, Ward has noticed that some aviation processes could use improvements and was given an opportunity to improve upon existing procedures through his position at Yuma’s AIRSpeed Fleet Assistant Program Office.
“It’s not just one thing, it’s several things that he’s attacking on all fronts,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s commanding general. “From training to procedures that just don’t make sense, we need to get rid of them because they are old and outdated. That’s smart work, and we need more [Marines] like him.”
Previously recognized as the Enterprise AIRSpeed Master Gunnery Sergeant John Evancho Innovator of the Year in 2014, Ward stated that he is ready to move on to his next challenge.
“I plan to continually go out there every day and ask junior Marines what’s giving them a headache,” Ward said. “From there, I will look at how I can translate that