Two Marines with Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity were recognized for their naval integration efforts in fiscal year 2019.
Captains Caleb Wu and Victor Castro each received a Copernicus Award for their contributions to command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems. At MCTSSA, Wu is an assistant naval integration officer for the Naval Systems Integration Team. Castro is a senior network engineer.
The Copernicus Award recognizes individual contributions to naval warfare in C4I, information systems, cyber operations and information warfare. The award is sponsored by Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International and the United States Naval Institute.
“The awardees have exhibited their commitment and support to combat readiness, technical solutions, system integration and modernization, cybersecurity and leadership,” said retired Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, president and chief executive officer of AFCEA International. “Their efforts are integral to maintaining our current and future global security.”
Leading teams of engineers to solve complex problems
Naval integration is a core objective in Gen. David Berger’s Commandant’s Planning Guidance, as the Marine Corps aims to refocus its emphasis on supporting the fleet. As Wu explained, some Marine Corps C4 systems do not integrate well with certain naval systems.
As MCTSSA’s System-of-Systems Operability Test event director, Wu helps the Marine Corps solve these naval integration problems.
SOTs were created to identify Marine Corps and naval system integration issues aboard ship. Upon identifying problems, SOT teams develop and implement engineering solutions to improve Marine Expeditionary Unit C4 integration with their assigned amphibious ships, said Wu.
“At MCTSSA, we deploy teams of subject matter experts to help every deploying [Marine Expeditionary Force Marine] solve some of these technical challenges,” he said.
Wu leads teams of MCTSSA engineers to solve complex C4 systems integration challenges for deploying MEUs and Amphibious Ready Groups. He led his team to successfully resolve highly technical problems, such as providing pathways for MEUs to communicate with its headquarters to improve situational awareness.
In his role, he led the engineering team to accomplish ever-increasing mission objectives to make MEUs more efficient and effective. Wu also helped synchronize the efforts of system engineers to improve naval C4 system integration for Marines.
Maj. Ryan Ackland, a naval systems integration officer at MCTSSA, called Wu an invaluable asset to the Naval Integration team.
“His work ethic and can-do attitude combined with the relationships he’s fostered throughout the MEU community have been pivotal to the success of MCTSSA’s shipboard C4 system test events, which have ultimately increased the amphibious combat readiness of the Marine Corps,” said Ackland.
Network engineer’s ‘invaluable contribution’ to naval integration
Like Wu, Castro has leveraged his leadership and skillset to enhance C4I integration efforts between the Marine Corps and Navy.
During his time with MCTSSA, Castro developed a systematic methodology for determining root causes associated with performance issues involving the Marine Corps’ Global Combat Support System during an integration exercise in Norway, he said.
GCSS-MC is a deployable portfolio of systems included in a Corps-wide Logistics Modernization program intended to bring expeditionary logistics support into the 21st century.
Castro’s approach included traveling to diverse locations across the operational environment, gathering essential data from multiple units within a two-month period. During this collection period, he provided information briefs to GCSS-MC and Fleet Marine Force personnel to enhance their knowledge of the technical components of GCSS-MC.
“Our main goal is to integrate Marine Corps systems smoothly with naval systems for when Marine units deploy alongside the Navy,” said Castro.
In a letter written to AFCEA officials, MCTSSA Col. Robert O. Bailey commended Castro for his efforts, while noting how his efforts were directly responsible for the increase in use and optimization of GCSS-MC throughout the Marine Corps.
“His invaluable contribution, willingness, leadership and initiative coupled with his technical acumen has made a difference in helping ensure warfighter success on the battlefield,” said Bailey.
Both Wu and Castro say they could not have received their Copernicus Awards without the help of others.
“Though this is an individual award, a lot of things are done in a team,” said Castro. “You can’t do things entirely by yourself. In the end, you’re always helped by the team.”