Yuma, Arizona - Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) senior leadership visited Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 13 aboard Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma as part of the Boots on the Ground (BoG) program, Wednesday.
Those in attendance included the Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF) Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Commanding General Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, CNAF's executive director Bryan Scurry, and Marine Corps Assistant Deputy Commandant for Aviation (Sustainment), William Taylor.
The program's overall goal is to resolve interdependent Naval Aviation issues by conducting site visits to Navy and Marine Corps aviation sites, aircraft carriers and L-class ships. These events allow NAE leaders to engage with Sailors and Marines to sustain focus on readiness and quality of life.
"From the innovative things that are going on to the places where we can break down barriers for Sailors and Marines are the two big takeaways every time we come to a Boots event," said Shoemaker. "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 Sailors and Marines.
"It was cool to be able to present my team's problem and to have our solution approved so quickly," said Marine Cpl. Michael Ruiz, a member of MALS-13's aircrew survival equipment team, who demonstrated the need for a breathing air compressor to support Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1) flight operations. "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 the MALS-13's unique role to support 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 their challenges in supporting the AV-8B Harrier II and F-35B Lightning II as well as 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 Wise. "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 identified the limited service life of the aircraft's tires was an average of five landings, affecting its overall readiness. Due to their inability to perform maintenance due to lack of authorization, training and qualifications, they were unable to keep up with the demand.
MALS-13 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 8-10 landings. This allowed the squadron to establish a stock of ready for issue (RFI) contributing to an increase in readiness.
Marine 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.
While the squadron were able solved a major readiness issue, MALS-13 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 MALS-13's Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Luke Watson. "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 may have a simple fix that can lead to greater efficiencies."
The Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) is a cooperative partnership of naval aviation stakeholders focused on sustaining required current readiness and advancing future warfighting capabilities at best possible cost. It is comprised of Sailors, Marines, civilians, and contractors from across service branches and organizations, working together to identify and resolve readiness barriers and warfighting degraders.