Developing Problem-Solving Marines
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tyler Andrews
February 20, 2023
III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group is rapidly adopting 21st-century technologies to maintain readiness for future conflicts that may arise. To facilitate this, III MIG established a relationship with Building Momentum, a subsidiary of the Marine Corps Systems Command’s “Marine Maker” program in 2019.
Building Momentum offers Innovation Boot Camp to test the creative limits of members of the Department of Defense, and help them expand their capabilities with technology by conducting hands-on skills training. The students learn 3D printing, computer-aided design (CAD), soldering, circuit design, solar power, drone development, and GPS tracking using scenarios taken from actual conflicts and case studies. Nearly 6,500 Marines have attended IBC with the overall goal of developing better problem-solving skills and returning to their military occupational specialties as better critical thinkers.
”Leaders should send their Marines to Innovation Boot Camp, because Building Momentum teaches valuable skill sets,” said Sgt. Zachery Nirk, a water support technician with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF. “For example, I now understand the basics of 3D printing software and coding. These skills I’ve learned will enable my shop to make adapters to keep camouflage netting rolled on vehicles.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Zachery Nirk, a water support technician with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, sets up a 3D printer during Innovation Boot Camp on Sea Glass Beach, Okinawa, Japan on February 8, 2023. IBC was designed to teach Marines skills such as soldering, 3D printing, coding, and programming to create innovative products for the Marine Corps and to test Marines’ critical thinking skills. Nirk is a native of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Andrews)
“Building Momentum’s goal with Innovation Boot Camp is not only to develop problem-solving skills within service members,” said Brad Halsey, chief executive officer and co-founder of Building Momentum. “But also to instill a sense of urgency so they are effective when it matters most.”
Halsey and Henry Sullivan, the senior director of education and training logistics for Building Momentum, observed the use of technology in their recent experience on the front lines of Ukraine’s “technology war” with Russia. The effectiveness of drone technologies in the Ukraine conflict, led Halsey and Sullivan to incorporate a more in-depth workshop designing, building, and piloting drones into IBC’s curriculum.
“In a future conflict, especially one against a peer competitor in a contested logistics environment, Marines will innovate and think critically using these skills to increase survivability and resilience, reducing the sustainment burden in such challenging terrain,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Bergeron, a utilities officer with III MEF G-4 Engineer Branch.
Sullivan stated the mindset that Marines take away from this technology training is the most important part. They may find themselves in a situation without all of the tools and technology, but following IBC can quickly create simple, effective solutions having developed a creative perspective.
“My unit put me on this training to develop my skills with CAD, which ultimately I will apply the CAD skills I’m learning at IBC and become a better welder and machinist,” said Lance Cpl. Benjamin Lundin, a metal worker with III MEF.
Henry Sullivan, senior director of education and training logistics with Building Momentum, sets up a mobile lab during Innovation Boot Camp on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan on February 7, 2023. IBC employees taught Marines skills such as soldering, 3D printing, coding, and programming to create innovative products for the Marine Corps and to test Marines’ critical thinking skills. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Andrews)
During past iterations, IBC taught technology skills to conceptualize and create innovative technology solutions when presented with different scenarios. Marines with different ranks and military occupational specialties have worked together to create technology as small as a GPS tracker, from scratch to track a vehicle’s live coordinates, to sophisticated drone technology that could carry six vials of medicine with the capability to individually release vials at different locations.
Bergeron stated all of the skills students have learned could be applied to drastically impact the effectiveness and success of future field training exercises across III MEF. These skills could enhance units’ mission accomplishment in simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base environments, allowing Marines to think critically at the forward edge of the fleet to solve today's problems.
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