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Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Combat Development and Integration Lt. Gen. Eric Smith provided keynote remarks during the third annual Marine Corps Acquisition Awards Dinner Aug. 5 in Arlington, Virginia. The event, hosted by the Marine Corps Association, celebrated the accomplishments and achievements of the top performers in Marine Corps acquisitions. Honorees Col. Kirk Mullins, Master Gunnery Sgt. Alfredo Franco, and Deborah Olsen received the Andrew J. Higgins, Eugene M. Stoner and Donald Roebling Awards for Acquisition Innovation and Excellence. The Higgins, Stoner and Roebling Awards are honors bestowed annually to a Marine Corps officer, noncommissioned officer and civilian acquisition professional, respectively. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Morgan Blackstock)

Photo by Morgan Blackstock

Acquisition excellence: Marines, civilian recognized during awards dinner

6 Aug 2021 | Ashley Calingo, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication Marine Corps Systems Command

Marine Corps Systems Command and Program Executive Officer Land Systems honored three individuals for their programmatic excellence and innovation in the acquisition, fielding and support of systems and equipment during the third annual Marine Corps Acquisition Awards Dinner Aug. 5 in Arlington, Virginia.

“The professionals we’re recognizing here tonight are emblematic of the familial environment, the magic that is [Marine Corps] Systems Command and the acquisition professionals at PEO Land Systems,” said Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Combat Development and Integration Lt. Gen. Eric Smith during his keynote remarks. “You’re tied to these Marines because they depend on you.”

The event, hosted by the Marine Corps Association, celebrated the accomplishments and achievements of the top performers in Marine Corps acquisitions.

Honorees received the Andrew J. Higgins, Eugene M. Stoner or Donald Roebling Award for Acquisition Innovation and Excellence, awarded to a Marine Corps officer, noncommissioned officer and civilian acquisition professional, respectively.

The namesake of each award was responsible for the design, development, production and sustainment of critical systems that have improved the Corps, including the M16 rifle, Higgins Boat and the amphibious tractor.

MCSC Chief of Staff Col. Kirk Mullins received this year’s Higgins Award. Before his current role, Mullins served as the program manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault at PEO Land Systems.

Mullins’ efforts led to the on-time achievement of initial operational capability for the Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle. Shortly thereafter, Mullins successfully navigated a favorable full-rate production decision with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition.

Smith cited Mullins’ leadership, persistence and commitment that led to PM AAA successfully reaching several acquisition milestones on time, despite having to navigate the complex challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic.

“[Mullins] took the legacy platform, and he brought us to the ACV, a highly-successful program, on-budget, on-target, meeting parameters on-schedule,” said Smith. “The MEUs will deploy with that vehicle, and they have to have it to fight. You and your industry partner made that happen.”

Master Gunnery Sgt. Alfredo Franco received this year’s Stoner Award for Acquisition Innovation and Excellence. Franco serves as the Common Aviation Command and Control Systems project officer and Marine Air Command and Control Systems maintenance subject matter expert for PM CAC2S at PEO Land Systems.

Franco facilitated the fielding of CAC2S, which integrates several Marine Corps aviation command and control systems, to Marines nearly two years ahead of schedule. He also implemented the Multi-Functional Information Distribution System Block II, Phase I upgrades ahead of schedule, providing Marines and the joint forces with true interoperability and real-time exchange of battlespace information.

“CAC2S is how we control information that passes around the aviation community from air to ground,” said Smith. “[CAC2S is] how we fight, thrive, and survive on the battlefield. Master Guns Franco was critical in making that happen.”

Deborah Olson, MCSC’s program manager for Engineer Systems under the Logistics Combat Element Systems portfolio, received this year’s Roebling Award.

Smith cited Olson’s preeminent leadership qualities and her ability to enact bold change, especially with regard to Force Design 2030. Olson built partnerships, strategically assumed risk and leveraged existing technology to implement capabilities necessary to equip the future force.

“It is difficult to do IT in a government bureaucratic organization,” said Smith. “[Olson] embraced the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and saw an opportunity to implement long-lasting change—streamlining acquisition operations for years to come.”

MCSC Commander Brig. Gen. A.J. Pasagian also spoke at the dinner. During his remarks, he touched on the critical role of partnerships within the Marine Corps and industry in equipping Marines.

“There’s a lot we can say about competition, about ‘near-peer’ or ‘peer,’ whatever you want to put on it,” said Pasagian. “But there’s no peer to American industrial might. That is our advantage and we need to keep on running with that.”

While the Corps celebrated the work of Mullins, Franco and Olson during the dinner, the entire MCSC workforce, its industry partners and the interpersonal relationships between them play a crucial role in supporting the warfighter, said Smith.

“As the father of a Marine, I am personally indebted to all of you who serve [as an acquisition professional], because your efforts ensure my son, our sons, daughters, friends, family, get the gear they need to fight and survive on the battlefield.” said Smith. “The talent, leadership and dedication in this room tonight gives me great comfort in knowing that, regardless of the challenge, our Corps, its dedicated Marines and civilians, and the colleagues and friends here tonight will ensure we accomplish our mission.”


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