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Dave McCarthy, an engineer developmental program employee at Marine Corps Systems Command, views a drawing on a 3-D solid modeling, computer-aided drawing and simulation basic simulations only software package. McCarthy came to work for MCSC through the Naval Acquisition Development program.

Photo by Carden Hedelt

Building a young engineer

25 Oct 2013 | Carden Hedelt, MCSC Corporate Communications

By Carden Hedelt, MCSC Corporate Communications

A 5-year-old David McCarthy sat on the floor and tried to explain. In front of him was his disassembled toy chest, his tool—a butter knife—and his angry parents. All he wanted to know was how his toy chest went together, which he learned while taking the toy chest apart. Putting it back together proved too much for him.

No furniture with flathead screws was safe from young David, who took apart and sometimes rebuilt several pieces of furniture. He often had to explain to his parents that he couldn’t put something back together.

“The toy chest one was the worst,” said McCarthy, now an engineer developmental program employee at Marine Corps Systems Command. “They were pretty upset.”

McCarthy started at MCSC in late December 2012, about six months after he graduated from Virginia Tech with a Master’s Degree in mechanical engineering. His education was paid for by the Department of Defense’s Science, Mathematics and Research Transformation Scholarship for Service program. Had it not been for the SMART program, McCarthy’s path could have been much different.

“I almost certainly wouldn’t have done my master’s,” he said. “And I probably would have never ended up at MCSC.”

McCarthy started in the command’s Systems Engineering, Interoperability, Architectures and Technology Directorate before rotating to Expeditionary Power Systems. As part of the Naval Acquisition Development program, McCarthy expects to rotate a few more times before he completes the two-year program.

Such career-broadening rotations are common at MCSC, the Department of the Navy’s systems command for Marine Corps ground weapon and information technology systems. 

“I’m enjoying most of my work,” he said. “I’ve been working on the rail systems for new generators for expeditionary power systems. I’m getting them to fit right on the Marine Corps light tactical trailer. I’m also enjoying the computer-aided drawing I’m doing for the generators and some coding that has been interesting.”

He likes that he is still learning, too. Although some of that learning is not so much fun, as “there is a lot of report writing,” he said. Other learning comes from more experienced MCSC engineers.

“I'm working with a lot of really good, really professional people," McCarthy said. "They're really great at their jobs. It's especially interesting to see their expertise at adapting to and managing constantly changing budgets."

He has also worked closely with the Expeditionary Energy Office at Headquarters Marine Corps while at SIAT, making sure that energy consumption was an important consideration for MCSC programs.

McCarthy said that experience was gratifying because he knows more fuel consumption means more fuel deliveries and more Marines exposed to attacks on logistics convoys.

“A huge amount of fuel consumption goes into environmental control units, and most of it is being wasted to cool space that isn’t occupied,” he said. “It’s endangering Marines because that puts more fuel into the supply chain, and that’s where a lot of our casualties are. Even though it’s a few rungs up, it’s good to know I’m helping protect Marines by minimizing their exposure to danger.”

By the time he completes his time in the developmental program, McCarthy’s year-and-a-half obligation to the DOD for his Master’s Degree will be paid in full.

“Through these rotations I get to see what opportunities are out there for DOD engineers,” he said.

McCarthy has had his fair share of mentors. Among them is Steve Barton, a senior engineer in SIAT, who said he saw the promise in McCarthy from day one.

“When he got here, he went right to work,” Barton said. “To be honest, for someone just entering civil service, he has a lot of experience already because he worked in the private sector while he was in college.”

Barton is aware of McCarthy’s other strengths such as interacting with different organizations and senior officials, and being comfortable orchestrating issues with organizations.

To continue his development in the internship program, which provides a diversity of work, Barton thinks it is in MCSC’s best interest to find assignments that test McCarthy.

“Dave is always going to look for the most challenging engineering assignment,” Barton said. “We have a vested interest to make sure he has those tough assignments. We have to stay committed to our young engineers.”

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