Social Media Network For Marines To Support Needs
by Matt Gonzales, U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command
February 15, 2021
Marine Corps Systems Command drew inspiration from social media and video games to create an information hub catering to the needs of the 21st century Marine.
In February 2021, MCSC’s Program Manager for Infantry Weapons launched the Infantry Weapons Information Tool, an intuitive website inspired by social media that aims to increase communication among the Fleet and better support their needs.
January 15, 2021 - A Marine with 5th Marines reviews and provides feedback on a new Marine Corps website, the Infantry Weapons Information Tool, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. This easy-to-use, Common Access Card-enabled site provides Marines with relevant technical doctrine, training manuals, instructional videos and other tools needed to make them a more effective force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Amy Forsythe)
This easy-to-use, Common Access Card-enabled website provides Marines with relevant technical doctrine, training manuals, instructional videos and other tools associated with PM IW equipment to make them a more effective force.
“We wanted to fill a need for this generation of Marines,” said Joshua Adams, a project officer for Company and Battalion Mortars with PM IW. “Our research and brainstorming led to the creation of a hub that Marines can use to learn more about systems within PM IW.”
Adams said the site incorporates a user interface similar to the video game “Call of Duty.” It also includes a chat feature resembling an online message board or Facebook thread, providing familiar online elements for today’s Marine to ask and answer questions about their equipment.
“We’ve essentially created a professional social media network for Marines,” said Adams.
Everything is centrally located.
Traditionally, access to training manuals can be limited to a few personnel within a unit. Instead of having to refer to physical documents or visit multiple websites to obtain training or safety information, Marines can leverage this site to learn more about their gear at any time or from any place.
For example, a Marine with a question about the M320A1 can post the inquiry within the site’s virtual discussion room to see if a fellow Marine can answer. If they cannot, MCSC representatives can route the question to the system’s subject matter expert at PM IW, who can provide the information directly to that Marine.
“Through the discussion forum, Marines can have secure, open conversations about employment techniques, best practices and other topics,” said CWO4 Dave Tomlinson, MCSC’s infantry weapons officer.
“Everything is centrally located, allowing us to go to one location and pull information quickly, which makes life easier for Marines.”
Adams said the site fosters direct communications to Marines at all levels. The platform equips the warfighter with a quick, useful avenue for collecting necessary information to more efficiently and effectively complete their mission.
“We are providing a single location or access point to information that Marines may not know how to find,” said Adams.
The Infantry Weapons Information Tool fills a critical need for the Marine Corps.
In recent years, PM IW realized many Marines were not consistently receiving the instructions and technical guidance needed for their equipment. Not having easily accessible information on their systems affects their ability to carry out missions.
When the information wasn’t there, Marines adapted. They referred to open sources, such as social media, to find immediate answers. Marines posted videos on their own social channels, asking very in-depth, technical questions. Their peers and seniors answered the questions.
“As a PM, we asked ourselves what we were missing,” said Adams. “It was abundantly clear that Marines did not have a professional forum to search for information or even chat about experiences they have with our gear.”
Under the direction of Lt. Col. Tim Hough, the program manager of Infantry Weapons, that became the mission: find a way for Marines to unite in a professional forum and provide them with the technical doctrine, training and instructional videos to increase their knowledge and effectiveness.
“Keeping the Commandant’s Planning Guidance in mind, we are set on ensuring all Marines have everything they need to accomplish their mission anywhere in the world,” said Hough. “In the most austere environments, Marines should have access to vital information necessary to accomplish their mission.”
Hough’s team reached out to former Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity Commanding Officer Col. Robert Bailey and current Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Michael Liguori with an idea for a digital platform designed to help answer Marines’ equipment-related questions.
Both men supported the idea. Bailey connected PM IW with MCTSSA’s Warfighter Support Division, a team of technical experts, to support conceptualization and development efforts. After a few months of planning, the WSD developed prototype sites to peruse and schemes from which to choose.
“The MCTSSA team wrapped their arms around this effort and made it what it is today,” said Adams. “We wanted to provide Marines with a capability they never had before. And with the technical expertise of the team at MCTSSA, I think we’ve done that and more.”
MCSC and MCTSSA spent more than 1,000 hours developing and testing the site. Edgar Valles, information systems manager for WSD, was part of that effort.
“We’ve created a fast and consistent browsing experience for Marines,” said Valles. “The site makes it simple for users to find an item and its associated documentation.”
Liguori commended both MCSC and MCTSSA for their efforts in developing and launching a site designed to help Marines get the information they need more quickly.
“This effort is a great example of MCTSSA’s Warfighter Support Division led by [MCTSSA WSD Director] Maj. Lucas Burke to further operationalize its support to both the program managers and warfighters, with its fierce engagement and relentless focus to make Marines more capable,” said Liguori.
Website Already Popular Among Marines
Tomlinson said Marine feedback on the Infantry Weapons Information Tool has been overwhelmingly positive thus far.
In January, a group of Marines tested the site aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. They provided feedback, including recommendations for improvement, which PM IW and MCTSSA representatives have already implemented.
“Going straight to the end-user is a critical requirement for agile development and it allowed our team to make real-time updates based on feedback from the Marines,” said Burke.
Sgt. Nicholas Delgado, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines who participated in the event, praised the site’s usability, which he believes can save Marines time and resources.
“I’m not very tech savvy, but this website brings together all of our [publications] and will help streamline our training,” said Delgado.
The site is already blossoming in popularity among Marines. The 10 Marines who participated in the testing event immediately began sharing the link location with their fellow Marines. Within a week, the site had nearly 1,000 visits, said Tomlinson
“After the testing event, the site quickly gained popularity,” said Tomlinson. “It’s exciting and encouraging to know Marines have responded so positively to the site.”
Adams said the team plans to make the website accessible on smartphones, tablets and personal computers in the future. He implores Marines to take full advantage of the platform to explore its features and provide necessary feedback.
“This tool is for Marines,” said Adams. “And if there is something Marines want or need, it is our job to get that to them. We will adjust this tool to fit the needs of our Marines.”
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