Naval aviation leadership tackles issues during Boots on Ground

Vice Adm. Dean Peters, commander of Naval Air Systems Command, shakes hands with a Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14 Marine during a tour of the MALS-14 power plant Dec. 5, 2019. (Heather Wilburn/Fleet Readiness Center East)
December 12, 2019

More than 110 leaders and stakeholders from within the Naval Aviation Enterprise gathered to identify and attack issues affecting Marine Corps and naval aviation readiness during a Boots on the Ground event held here Dec. 5.

The event provided the opportunity to gain firsthand insight into both the accomplishments and complications experienced at Fleet Readiness Center East and Marine Aircraft Group 14, which co-hosted the event. Through a series of site tours, briefings and question-and-answer sessions, NAE leaders and stakeholders dove into the process of identifying root causes of the challenges and began working toward fixes.

“The purpose of the Naval Aviation Enterprise is to make sure our fleet commanding officers and program managers are adequately supported, so they can provide what’s needed from a fleet requirements standpoint,” said Vice Adm. Dean Peters, commander, Naval Air Systems Command. “If you’re here … the expectation is that you have some influence on this process, that you’re a key enabler in the success of the reforms that are ongoing, and in the sustainment of those reforms. Find the thing that your organization can enable that makes this successful.”

NAE focuses on sustaining readiness and advancing future warfighting capabilities at best possible cost. Stakeholders in the cooperative partnership include Sailors, Marines, civilians and contractors from across service branches and organizations, working together to identify and resolve readiness barriers and warfighting degraders. Boots on the Ground events provide those stakeholders the opportunity to come together and take the pulse of the enterprise.

Peters said fiscal year 2019 has seen some modest successes in naval aviation following the implementation of the Naval Sustainment System, which focuses on people, parts and processes to increase aircraft readiness and lethality. This event – the second in a series of Boots on the Ground sessions focused on NSS reforms – allowed the group to focus on depot-level maintenance and accountability.

“I want to give you a view from the top,” said Peters, addressing a group that included Bill Taylor, assistant deputy commandant for aviation (sustainment) at Headquarters, Marine Corps; and Rear Adm. Michael Zarkowski, commander, Fleet Readiness Centers. “But we can’t forget where we started on the NSS journey: at a component repair shop at Fleet Readiness Center Southwest. That’s why we keep coming back to the fleet readiness centers when we do these Boots on the Ground – because that’s where you really get the health indicators for fleet readiness.”

“FRCE is a strategic asset; there are only seven aviation depots in the Department of Defense, so being in that elite group of strategic industrial support is key,” explained FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark E. Nieto. “Our folks are very proud to show you what they’re doing and some of the improvements that we’ve made.”

Those improvements came as part of NSS reforms in locations like the FRCE valves and regulators shop, one of the stops on the site survey. In the shop’s production control center, FRCE Components Division Director Lenny Domitrovits discussed the changes the shop has undergone since NSS implementation in May and the production goals the shop has exceeded in that same time frame. The tour highlighted additional NSS transformations on the H-53, F402 and T64 engine, and F-35 modification lines.

The BoG brought together leaders from the naval and Marine Corps aviation community, including Naval Supply Systems Command, the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, NAVAIR program executive offices and Defense Logistics Agency Aviation, and other stakeholders from government agencies and industry partners. During the site visits, the stakeholders had the opportunity to speak with artisans, engineers and Marines, and discuss with the workforce what programs and processes are working, what barriers exist, and how to overcome those challenges to boost readiness.

At the end of the day, the group conducted a hotwash session to examine the challenges identified during the tour. These concerns included the full kitting of build sets, cycle time reduction efforts, leveraging current induction schedules to meet production requirements, and the availability of military construction funds to support future infrastructure requirements. Many of the stakeholders present took the issues for further analysis and future action, in support of increasing efficiency and production throughput.

“Even as we concentrate on sparing and repairing, know that we are also focused on improving the reliability of our systems,” Peters said. “Ultimately, we want to get to the place where we’re acquiring even more reliable and supportable systems; until then, we’re going to continue to take care of it on the front end, and on the back end. I thought this (Boots on the Ground) was a tremendously successful review.”

FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $835 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.