SOLOMON’S ISLAND, Md.– The Marine Corps Aviation Association (MCAA) John Glenn Squadron presented excellence in aviation awards to six local Marines and four civilians during a ceremony June 2.
Awards, spanning five categories, highlighted achievements in product delivery, test and evaluation, and overall acquisition accomplishment.
“We do important work, for important people, in support of an important mission. That is something we all need to recognize and be proud of,” said Brig. Gen. David C. Walsh, the event’s keynote speaker. “Their [the recipients] work, and the work of all of our acquisition professionals, makes me proud to be a part of this family, proud to be named an acquisition officer in the Marine Corps.”
This year’s ceremony celebrated work spanning 2020 and 2021, and included two new categories designed to highlight the work of civilians committed to advancing naval aviation.
The following top honors were conferred during the MCAA’s 16th annual Acquisition Awards Banquet:
Senator John H. Glenn Test Pilot/Naval Flight Officer-of-the-Year
2020 Recipient: Maj. John E. Willett
Maj. John E. Willet was honored for his exceptional work as the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 CH-53E Super Stallion and CH-53K King Stallion project officer in 2020.
Willett was recognized as a pivotal member of the CH-53K integrated test team (ITT), conducting developmental tests of the new-build heavy lift helicopter. Among his numerous accomplishments, Willet was recognized for his contributions during a 2.5-month CH-53K detachment to Yuma Proving Grounds, AZ, to test CH-53K operations in Degraded Visual Environments (DVE) and extreme heat. He personally flew more than 20 hours in day/night DVE conditions, including the first-ever CH-53K mountainous terrain flight and CH-53K ground refueling at a forward arming and refueling point (FARP). In addition, Willett participated as a test pilot in the first-ever CH-53K shipboard detachment for initial sea trials on the USS WASP.
2021 Recipient: Maj. Charles Smith
Maj. Charles Smith was honored for his esteemed work as the AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom department head, development test pilot, and project officer at HX-21 throughout 2021.
Smith was fundamental in the testing and integration of the Joint Air-Ground Munition (JAGM) on the AH-1Z Viper, an effort high on the Deputy Commandant for Aviation’s list of priorities. He planned, coordinated, and executed a comprehensive series of fly-fix-fly tests to complement an agile software development cycle, ensuring industry partner participation. His processes quickly corrected deficiencies to the core software architecture while simultaneously tuning the sensor tracking algorithms. Smith is known for devising a new test method for tracking fast maritime targets and laser designation of mobile maritime targets within Atlantic Test Range, ultimately coordinating target support from Special Boat Teams at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia. Smith cleared the way for the AH-1Z to complete a successful operational test readiness review, entering the weapon system into formal operational testing.
Lieutenant General Michael A. Hough Acquisition Officer-of-the-Year
2020 Recipient: LtCol. Robert E. Wicker
LtCol. Robert Wicker was recognized as the Survivability, Futures, and Readiness lead (three positions) within the Joint V-22 Program Office (PMA-275) in 2020.
Within a year, Wicker led from various positions at a time of significant personnel turnover, ensuring no loss in leadership or momentum during this time. Wickers’ efforts as the readiness lead were particularly noteworthy as they led to a renaissance of readiness in the MV-22 community in late 2020 and into 2021. He was also instrumental in the development and delivery of critical V-22 survivability equipment to the fleet, defining the future of the MV-22B platform from a planning and budgeting perspective.
2021 Recipient: LtCol. Jason Duke
LtCol. Jason Duke was selected as the 2021 recipient based on his work as the Survivability integrated product team lead (IPTL) within PMA-275 and the Propulsion Readiness and Service Life IPTL within the AV-8B Joint Program Office (PMA-257).
Within PMA-257, Duke’s extensive contributions led to vast improvements in F402 engine readiness, ensuring the AV-8B Harrier remains an available, lethal, and dependable aircraft supporting the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) deployments. He developed an engine sustainment recovery plan, which identified the appropriate number of engines required to get back on plan, identified the suitable funding sources, outlined the execution of the plan, and reviewed Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) engine harvest possibilities.
Gunnery Sergeant Sean Joyce / Master Gunnery Sergeant Gary Leader Acquisition Staff Non-Commissioned Officer-of-the-Year
2020 Recipient: SSgt Ryan M. Haywood
SSgt Ryan M. Haywood was selected as the 2020 recipient based on his role as the CH-53E Super Stallion T64 lead within the Heavy Lift Helicopter Program Office (PMA-261).
In 2020, Haywood led a geographically-dispersed team of 13 stakeholder groups to increase the amount of available CH-53E engines to a level not seen since 2015. He accomplished this using a multi-pronged approach of increasing the Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) inductions from 29 to 42; reducing the Turn Around Time (TAT) at FRCE from over 500 days to under 300 days; reducing the amount of engine removals around the world; and increasing the amount of engines produced at the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadrons and FRCE from 160 to 192.
2021 Recipient: GySgt. Thomas Lombard
GySgt. Thomas Lombard earned praise as the UH-1Y Crew Chief and H-1 project officer with HX-21 throughout 2021.
Lombard performed countless evaluations, assisted with the preparation and submission of numerous deficiency reports, and flew over 97 flight hours, including those in support of high-risk flight test. In addition, as a qualified Aerial Gunnery instructor, Lombard was integral to the successful completion of other test events at HX-21, including the conduct of CH-53K weapons and vibrations testing. He also supported H-1 improved rotor brake testing, a UH-1Y Venom auxiliary fuel bladder assessment, redesign of the GAU-21 and GAU-17 crew-served weapons systems, and Aircraft Self-Protection Optimization testing.
2020 J.J. McCue Civilian Tester-of-the-Year
2020 Recipient: Ms. Lauren E. Fean
Ms. Lauren Fean was selected as the inaugural recipient of the J.J. McCue Civilian Tester-of-the-Year for her work as the Air Vehicle Lead for the HX-21 CH-53K ITT.
Throughout 2020, she led the final stretch of flight test hours, more than 550, required before operational test (OT) could begin. Testing included flight control software tuning/development, flight envelope expansion (both internally and externally loaded), engine operability testing, Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) testing, gunfire compatibility, day/night formation flight evaluation, aerial refueling, autorotation flare development, brownout DVE flight at night and with external loads, and the first shipboard testing of the CH-53K. As the engineering lead during CH-53K detachment to Yuma Proving Grounds, AZ, Fean was pivotal in capturing and validating key improvements in flight-control-law and display tuning while simultaneously collecting sand-and-dust engine performance data to support critical engine operability improvements still in the design phase.
2021 Recipient: Ms. Stephanie Moseley
Ms. Stephanie Moseley was selected based on her role as the HX-21 Communications and Avionics Lead for the VH-92A Presidential Helicopter Test Team.
Through her work, Moseley propelled the VH-92A test and evaluation through more than 150 hours of flight test and 1500 hours of ground test, towards Initial Operational Capability and entrance into the presidential lift mission. Her efforts enabled operational test personnel to quickly resolve challenges associated with the Mission Communication System (MSC) following development test, preventing further delays in program execution. Moseley’s contributions directly support the ongoing White House commissioning program.
Thomas E. Laux Acquisition Civilian-of-the-Year
2020 Recipient: Ms. Cora L. White
Ms. Cora White led the RQ-21A Integrated Product Team (IPT) in the capability development and sustainment of the Marine Corps’ only Group 3 Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), supporting four Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadrons (VMUs) and Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC).
White’s efforts led to a readiness increase of nearly 10 percent over the year and she expertly adjusted her program priorities to align with the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 mid-year. Through this transition, she moved the platform towards sustainment, rapidly improving readiness levels supply chain improvements and other impediments.
2021 Recipient: Mr. John Swavely
Mr. John Swavely earned the Thomas E. Laux Acquisition Civilian-of-the-Year award for his leadership as the MQ-9 Deputy IPTL at the Multi-Mission Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems Program (PMA-266).
Swavely led the acquisition documentation and contracting efforts to rapidly develop and field the $1.67 billion Marine Air-Ground Task Force Unmanned Aircraft System (MUX) Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Increment I General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper Group 5 Unmanned Aircraft System. In addition, Swavely led the $40 million procurement of two MQ-9 existing contractor-owned, contractor-operated aircraft and associated equipment and subsequent safe transfer to Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 without disrupting flight operations.