Naval Aviation leaders joined forces at Naval Base Ventura County, California, March 7 with Sailors from Fleet Readiness Center Southwest Det. at Point Mugu for the first Boots-on-the-Ground (BoG) event of 2018.
The event was one of a handful of annual BoG site visits by senior leadership from the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE). They’re meant to stimulate engagement between leadership and Sailors and Marines, promote awareness of readiness challenges and showcase the accomplishments of workers on site.
“All the Sailors were just so impressive, it just reinvigorates your confidence in our Navy,” said Vice Adm. De Wolfe Miller, commander, Naval Air Forces. “To be here and interact with Sailors, it just pumps you up, because they’re so good.”
The event got under way at the command’s power plants work center, which was recently tasked with doubling its production of engines for fiscal 2018. Petty Officer 1st Class Ada Jurado, an aviation machinist mate, presented the work center’s challenges via storyboards, depicting possible solutions such as an increase in billets and a larger contract field team for leaders from the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force to help bring to fruition.
“Having face-to-face communication with the folks, the process owners of all the things that are going on within the enterprise, is huge,” said Brig. Gen. Linda Hurry, who as commander of Defense Logistics Agency-Aviation was attending her first BoG event. “The fact that folks who can actually make decisions are sitting side by side—I thought it was a great opportunity.”
NAE leaders also visited a new composite shop, where Miller and Rear Adm. Michael Zarkowski, commander, Fleet Readiness Centers, cut the ribbon to make its opening official. At this building, Sailors will support the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle program, using equipment that includes curing ovens, deep freezers for hazardous-material storage and a sanding booth.
The command tour also included a stop at a work center dedicated to parts repair, where Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesus Mata, an aviation structural mechanic, laid out the need for newer parts and tools as well as manpower. Working within current constraints, the Sailors here have achieved nearly $5 million in cost savings by refusing to discard parts to beyond-capable-maintenance (BCM) status.
“We want to be able to show that off—that’s a lot of good stuff that’s going on,” said Cmdr. Shannon Thompson, the detachment’s officer in charge. “Other facilities aren’t doing that. These Sailors’ mindset is, before they BCM it, they say, ‘How do we get to yes?’”
At the new test cell facility, NAE leaders learned how Sailors used their ingenuity to somehow fit an eight-blade propeller through a doorway designed to accommodate a four-blade model. At the support equipment work center, Petty Officer 2nd Class Maria Ancho, an aviation support equipment technician, showed a new approach to corrosion control that could prolong the life of parts and equipment.
The NAE leadership also toured the flight line, where they got a firsthand look at E-2C Hawkeye aircraft attached to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 115, which recently relocated from Japan to Point Mugu. Crews here are tackling two planes with major maintenance issues that have kept them grounded for years. Their hard work made an impact on the visitors.
“I was very impressed by those maintainers’ Herculean effort, building those two aircraft,” said Rear Adm. Duke Heinz, who leads Naval Supply System Command-Weapon Systems Support. “We’ve got the same effort at (Naval Air Station) Lemoore. So, this is another opportunity for the enterprise to learn collectively and apply those lessons.”
By the time the event had ended, NAE leaders had already resolved some of the issues raised, and assigned action items for others that could not be handled on the spot. Miller, who was attending his first BoG event since becoming the Navy’s Air Boss in January, was pleased but not surprised by what was accomplished.
“Because we had the right people here, we were able to fix some problems, and then take others for action that we’ll work on,” he said. “And that is the whole idea of pushing away from your desk, getting boots on ground, and seeing and observing.”
Miller said he could now see why the BoG program enjoys such an estimable reputation.
“I’m leaving here very pleased with what we accomplished,” he said. “But I’m even more excited with some of the challenges that we’re going to bring back and work on.”
Mark Carpowich is a communications specialist supporting Naval Aviation Enterprise Public Affairs.
Ancho Recognized for Making Impact
When she checked in at Naval Base Ventura County in 2015, AS2(AW) Maria Ancho couldn’t believe her luck. With orders that did not specify a job at her new duty station, Ancho found herself with a leadership opportunity so rare for someone at her pay grade, she felt like she had struck gold.
“I’m from a gold-mining town, so during the summers I would work at the gold mine doing warehouse work, logistics,” she said. “I was the supply person for everything.”
The Nevada native eventually left the underground mines for the high seas, however, and six years after enlisting as an aviation support equipment technician was presented the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) Excellence Award at a March 2018 Boots-on-the-Ground (BoG) event. The Navy’s Air Boss, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, presented the award in person, commending Ancho for “making a positive and lasting impact on the NAE.”
In taking on a leadership role with the base’s Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) office that’s usually reserved for more senior Sailors, Ancho immediately showcased an impressive array of training and mentoring skills. Sharing her knowledge of CPI and its executable DoD-designated program, AIRSpeed, with hundreds of aviators and ground crews, Ancho created and instituted a training-timeline change that has since led to an 86-percent increase in green-belt certifications at the base’s Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) detachment.
“When I was put into that leadership role right off the bat, I kind of thought, ‘OK, well either this can go down and it’ll be my fault, or we can take AIRSpeed and make it into something much better,’” she said. “I really fell in love with everything that AIRSpeed and Continuous Process Improvement embodies, and my peers have told me that, because I love it so much, I kind of make other people fall in love with it too.”
AD2(AW) Tessa Hood is one of them, having earned her green-belt certification under Ancho earlier this year. Noting her mentor’s “ability to teach on the fly and demonstrate how failures are room for improvement,” Hood is one of nearly 300 service members to complete training under Ancho’s watch. Praise also comes from above-Ancho’s division officer, LTJG Joshua Deitrick, credits her with leading a $4.6 million re-stock of unused test equipment, calling her “a Fortune 500 in a Navy billet.”
Having once worked with gold, Ancho is hoping her next assignment will be with the blue-and-gold: she has submitted a package to work with the Blue Angels, and if successful will report to Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola this summer. She also expects to finish her bachelor’s degree by the end of the year and may soon add another chevron to her uniform: she is currently eligible for a promotion to first class petty officer. It could be a busy year, then, for Ancho-but if there’s anything she loves more than CPI, it’s a challenge.