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Big ideas from Marine minds aim to make Corps life better

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Todd Coyle, right, and Gunnery Sgt. Alex Wright work on their Lightweight Water Purification System 3.0 at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Dec. 7, 2020.

MATTHEW M. BURKE/STARS AND STRIP

By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 17, 2020

CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa – Marines have built a reputation on brute force, but they’re also earning commendations by using brain power and technology to solve everyday problems.

On Okinawa, Sgts. Jesse Robertson, of the 12th Marine Regiment, and Adrian Willis, of the 7th Communication Battalion, earned a Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal for their entry in the first Big Ideas Challenge.

Theirs was one of five winning entries in the summer event sponsored by III Marine Expeditionary Force. The competition was open to anyone affiliated with the U.S. military in Japan, including Marines, sailors, civilian employees and family members.

“We’re trying to tackle some of our most daunting tasks within the MEF and also in the Marine Corps,” Lt. Gen. Stacy Clardy, commander of III MEF, said at the Camp Courtney medal ceremony Dec. 8. “The idea behind it is that we will promote imaginative, disruptive ideas; we’ll unleash some creativity and ingenuity within the MEF.”

The challenge was so successful, Clardy said, that he plans a second one in the spring.

Robertson, a maintenance chief, said his project was born of necessity. He saw that the Marines’ new, long-awaited Joint Light Tactical Vehicles lacked enough space for satellite communications equipment.

The new vehicles were not designed with the satellite systems in mind, Robertson told Stars and Stripes during an interview Dec. 4.

He and Willis, a 3D printing liaison, teamed up over the summer to design a way to install the Lockheed Martin Mobile User Objective System, a secure ultra-high frequency satellite communications system issued in 2019, so it fit compatibly with the legacy multiband radio set.

The new satellite system took up several inches of space in the new vehicles meant for the radios. Willis and Robertson designed a bracket prototype that Willis produced on a Creality Ender 3 Pro 3D printer. The bracket holds the satellite system puzzle-like above the radio.

When III MEF announced the Big Ideas Challenge on Aug. 20, Robertson and Willis submitted their bracket prototype. Theirs was one of 72 submissions, including one from a Navy spouse, that III MEF received by the deadline a month later, Clardy said.

The ideas addressed a range of issues from barracks life to pay to torpedoes and robots.

Eleven ideas are on their way to Marine Corps headquarters in Washington for possible application across the Corps. Another 24 are being further evaluated on Okinawa.

Challenge organizer Maj. Stephen Kent said the crop of ideas has absolutely made the Marines and III MEF better.

Another idea getting attention, from the mind of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Todd Coyle, would marry two lightweight water purification systems into one with a higher, faster production capability rather than spend money on an entirely new system.

“The great thing about this, cost-saving wise, is we already have the system,” Coyle said. “We just got to find a way to connect it all and make it work.”

burke.matt@stripes.com
Twitter: @MatthewMBurke1

Marine Sgts. Jesse Robertson, shown here, and Adrian Willis earned a Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal for their entry in the Marine Corps' inaugural Big Ideas Challenge. The pair designed a way to install the Lockheed Martin Mobile User Objective System, a secure ultra-high frequency satellite communications system issued in 2019, so it fit compatibly with the legacy multiband radio set.
MATTHEW M. BURKE/STARS AND STRIPES