August 1, 2014 -- Marine Corps Systems Command’s Mishap Investigation Training and Support Implementation Team has received a 2014 Secretary of the Navy Safety Excellence Award for training acquisition engineers to be mishap investigators.
As the Department of the Navy's systems command for Marine Corps ground weapon and information technology systems and Marine Corps commandant's agent for acquisition and sustainment of warfighting systems and equipment, MCSC is home to the acquisition engineers in the Marine Corps.
The MITSIT training team—comprised of Marine Corps headquarters personnel and acquisition professionals from Program Executive Officer Land Systems and MCSC—was formed on the heels of several major mishaps. MCSC Safety Director Kenneth Elliott recognized a need to train program engineers to act as subject matter experts in support of future investigations.
“We’ve got the right people, the ones who are smart on all these systems,” said Elliott. “They just didn’t know how to go about doing a mishap investigation.”
The MITSIT identified trainees, trainers, locations, funding and curriculum modifications to ensure a more equipment-focused version of the Ground Mishap Investigation Training course. The modified curriculum provided training more in line with the needs of program engineers, while providing training consistent with the rest of the Marine Corps and Department of Navy.
One of the first trainees was Scottie Allred, an engineer from MCSC’s Ammunition Program Management Office. He was called into action shortly after the class to investigate a Marine casualty resulting from an Mk-154 Mine Clearance Launcher misfire in September.
“I was able to go out and be confident in my skills as an investigator and figure out what happened, which resulted in us recommending that we deadline that piece of gear across the Marine Corps,” Allred said. “It was a good feeling to know that we were protecting Marines from future injury in our work there.”
Since then, three more classes have been held, and now more than 80 MCSC engineers are trained in ground mishap investigation.
“A lot of people have told me this training was the best they’ve ever had in their careers,” Elliott said. “It’s a good feeling to know that, should anything happen, we can have an engineer who knows how the piece of gear involved works and knows how to investigate at the mishap site within 24 to 48 hours to see if our gear was a causal factor.”
According to Elliott, this modified training was so successful because it provided program engineers with the same training certification as their peers on a SIB, but differed in its perspective to be more equipment focused.
“Our engineers are thinking with an investigative mindset,” he said. “We’ve had no less than three systems get deadlined without there being any mishap, which is unprecedented. Each time, an engineer saw something that could be causal of injury at a mishap investigation.”
Mishap investigation training has made engineers more confident about standing up when they see something potentially unsafe, added James Smerchansky, chief engineer of the Marine Corps and a deputy commander at MCSC.
“Providing the workforce additional tools and training, such as this course, gives them the expertise to spot when something is not right and the knowledge to know what to do about it,” Smerchansky said.
Through the training, MCSC has also fostered a closer relationship with the Commandant of the Marine Corps Safety Division and the rest of the fleet that did not previously exist pertaining to safety matters.
Elliott hopes that closeness continues between the MISIT team and the fleet.
“The lesser categories of mishaps and near misses almost never get reported,” Elliott said. “Ideally we’d like to hear about those if our gear was at fault. Someone might run into the same problem with the same gear, and someone could end up badly hurt or dead. Our team is not trying to pin blame on anyone, we just want make sure our gear is safe.”
The Marine Corps team was among 18 winners recognized by the Secretary of the Navy for Safety Excellence. For their efforts, the MITSIT team was will receive a plaque and citation. They will also receive the Secretary of the Navy’s Safety Excellence flag and the honor of flying it for one year. The award ceremony date is set for this fall.