Group of professionals holding awards in front of a widow

PEO(A) was the proud winner in five of 10 award categories during the 2023 NAVAIR Commander's Award ceremony held on 22 May. These annual awards recognize individuals and teams across 10 categories aligned directly to NAVAIR’s focus areas: speed of capability, affordability and availability. 

(l to r) PMA-261 winning team, (back row) Mr. Rudowsky, Deputy Commander, NAVAIR, Mr. Rothback, Deputy PEO(A), PMA-276 winner, PMA-271 winning team, PMA-274 winning team, Mr. Kurtz, PEO(A), PMA-275 winner, and Vice Admiral Chebi, Commander, NAVAIR.

Five PEO(A) Programs Win NAVAIR Commander’s Awards

Program Executive Office (PEO), Air, Anti-submarine Warfare, and Special Mission Programs (A) was the majority PEO winner at this year's annual NAVAIR Commander’s Awards with five total awards in a ceremony held 22 May. These awards recognize individuals and teams across 10 categories aligned directly to NAVAIR’s focus areas: speed of capability, affordability and availability.  

Keynote speaker, Commander, Naval Air Systems Command, Vice Admiral Carl Chebi, addressed the attendees in-person and virtually.  

“When asked what the culture of NAVAIR is, I have a simple answer: we are focused on fleet outcomes. We start with the fleet and we are constantly looking to improve. We change the game, and we know that we are better together. We treat each other with dignity and respect,” said Chebi. “Today’s award winners are being recognized for their accomplishments, but even more importantly they are being recognized for the behaviors they and their teams have demonstrated that were instrumental to their success.” 

Gary Kurtz, PEO(A), recognized the significance of having winners from half of the 10 categories all from PEO(A) programs.  

“Our programs cover a wide range of technologies, platforms, type/model/series, and services. I'm proud to be part of this group of dedicated professionals and that we have a culture representative of our Get Real, Get Better principles. These awards are a chance to show everyone the tireless efforts our teams put in daily to ensure the needs of our warfighters here and abroad are getting the very best from us so they can complete their mission with confidence and success.”  

NAVAIR’s culture and behaviors under the Get Real, Get Better strategy can be seen throughout all of the PEO(A) winners this year. All the individuals and teams leaned into the problem or initiative within their program with a clear understanding of the needs and outcomes benefiting the mission at hand.  

Read about all the PEO(A) winners and their achievements.  

PMA-261 Winner: Technical Innovation 

LCDR Neil Whitesell, Lana Combs, Natasha Gould, Matthew Kania are part of the Mission Data Extender (MDE) team for H-53 Heavy Lift Helicopters Program (PMA-261). The MDE Team broke ground for naval aviation in December with its installation of the first-ever fully integrated, hard-mounted commercial off-the-shelf tablet, functioning as a primary mission display on a naval aircraft – the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter. The team provided a replacement for a legacy capability, while enhancing current operational capabilities – at a fraction of the development cost and schedule of a new mission display.   

“This is a huge step toward open architecture, innovative solutions to mission-data presentation,” said LCDR Neil Whitesell, PMA-261 In-Service Avionics Systems project officer. “We did it at low cost, fast, and we provided a major capability improvement to the warfighter.”  

PMA-271 Winner: Get Real, Get Better 

The E-6B Sustainment System Reform Team is part of the Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office (PMA-271). Instrumental to the E-6B team’s success were its leaders, which included Cmdr. Rebecca Anderson, Cmdr. Roger Davis, Cmdr. Jeffrey Desmond, Deputy Program Manager William McCready and former Deputy Program Manager Robert Stailey, who now serves the Naval Aviation Training Systems and Ranges Program Office (PMA-205).  

The team responsible for sustaining the E-6B Mercury fleet won the Get Real, Get Better category for its success deploying Get Real, Get Better principles to reduce turnaround times on the aircraft’s modification contract and depot maintenance line. The result was expedited delivery of capabilities to the warfighter at a significant cost savings.  

“I am incredibly proud of the E-6B team and its commitment to Get Real, Get Better. Every organization involved in these efforts is collaborating, identifying and solving problems, and setting aggressive goals to accomplish this no-fail mission, and we are seeing results,” said Capt. Adam Scott, PMA-271 program manager. “We do not apply these principles just for fun. Get Real, Get Better success is measured by improved mission outcomes.” 

PMA-274 Winner: Availability 

The Sustainment, Maintenance, and Engineering (SME) Team, part of the Presidential Helicopters Program Office (PMA-274), set a standard for high performance and outstanding achievement by providing always ready and highly capable VH-3D, VH-60N, and VH-92A aircraft to support Marine Helicopter Squadron One's (HMX-1) strategic, no-fail mission.  The team applied several innovative commercial industry best practices to increase reliability and maintainability, increasing aircraft readiness to historically high rates.  They also postured the fleet to exceed the various type/model/series Mission Capable Aircraft Readiness (MCAR) and Fully Mission Capable Aircraft Readiness (FMCAR) goals.  The team consistently delivered high performing aircraft to HMX-1, enabling the squadron to exceed fleet mission capability goals and flightline entitlements.  These results make the team best in class:  exceeding MCAR (90%) and FMCAR (84%) goals of 80% with a 98% supply effectiveness rate. 

“This team absolutely crushed it. They were motivated and excited to apply best practices and achieve this high rate of availably; the best in program history,” said Col. Alex Ramthun, PMA-274 program manager. “Every day I am reminded of their exceptional dedication to the program and honored to lead this team and see the amazing effort they all put into this no-fail mission.”  

PMA-275 Winner: Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion  

U.S. Airforce Master Sergeant Kelly Brooks, CV-22 Sustainment Manager for the V-22 Joint Program Office (PMA-275), was the recipient of the 2023 NAVAIR Commander’s Award for Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion. MSgt Brooks fosters a culture that is supportive, inclusive, and welcoming to all people and perspectives regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation and is committed to creating an environment that encourages, values, and celebrates diverse perspectives. She has shaped the work environment at PMA-275 by leading the organization in monthly “Connect Sessions”, fostering positive culture and inclusive behaviors in the work environment. MSgt Brooks approach to the complexities and sensitivities of diversity and inclusion training created a positive environment for attendees and her group facilitation skills and commitment toward a better workplace generated insightful and excellent training sessions.   

MSgt Brooks is leading by example in word and deed and routinely looks at a situation that needs addressing from a “get to” vice “have to” do something mentality. Her dedication to promoting the key tenants of diversity and inclusion have had a positive impact across several teams to include the greater PMA-275 Joint Program Office. Whether through daily interaction, a training session, or a facilitated discussion, MSgt Brooks is leading a culture of change and embodies Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion.   

“Thank you to everyone that helped make this possible,” said Brooks. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me - Philippians 4:13.” 

PMA-276 Winner: Most Collaborative Integrated Product Team (IPT) Lead  

Mr. Jason Barnidge, Capability and Combat Relevance Deputy for the United States Marine Corps Light/Attack Helicopter Program (PMA-276) was the recipient of the 2023 NAVAIR Commander’s Award for the Most Collaborative Integrated Product Team (IPT) Lead. Mr. Barnidge was the driving force behind every major capability upgrade over the past year, demonstrating exceptional leadership to his team by collaborating with multiple government and industry entities, which proved instrumental to the success of the H-1 program. He established a software and avionics team, stood up an avionics test facility, and coordinated with multiple entities to deliver critical software, communication, and munition upgrades to the H-1 aircraft. Mr. Barnidge was instrumental in collaboration with the contractor to obtain access to contractor documentation, thereby enhancing the government’s ability to conduct organic support activities. His unwavering support will make a lasting impact on the H-1 enterprise for years to come.   

"I am deeply honored and grateful to receive the NAVAIR Commander’s Award,” said Barnidge. “The work we tackle at NAVAIR and H-1 cannot be accomplished by a one individual; it requires a cohesive team operating with a singular focus. The dedicated men and women of PMA-276 truly embody this quality, and I am fortunate to be a part of this exceptional team."  

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