CRANE, Ind. – Partway into his six-month deployment, Samuel Serrano-Vargas was making a detachable ammunition bag for a warfighter’s MK-48 machine gun. The attachment cuts the reloading time into less than half.
“The next day, the guy I made the modification for came back in,” said Serrano-Vargas. “His eyes were red, I could see bruises, and he was still in the same clothes as the day before. He walked right up to me and said, ‘What you did saved my life last night.’ I had goosebumps all over.”
Serrano-Vargas, a Navy civilian and Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) employee, deployed with NSWC Crane’s Mobile Technology Repair Complex (MTRC) program in 2019. MTRC provides timely and responsive means, to Repair, Modify, and Enhance current capabilities of Special Operations Forces (SOF) systems and sub-systems as well as Design, Engineer, and Fabricate new equipment to increase the lethality and survivability of SOF operators worldwide.
“Sammy demonstrated the competency and character that has been the hallmark of the MTRC mission,” said Justin Mann, MTRC Program Manager. “His focus on mission accomplishment and supporting the warfighter sets the example for all future MTRC deployers. Sammy made an impact that he can be proud of and remember for his whole career.”
Six years ago, Serrano-Vargas applied to NSWC Crane’s Student Pathways program while studying mechanical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico. For two summers, he travelled back and forth to perform his duties at Crane before becoming a full-time employee in 2016. Not long after he started, a coworker suggested he look into the MTRC program in the future.
“My dad was a plumber, so growing up I helped him with projects,” said Serrano-Vargas. “I think that hands-on experience, combined with my schooling, made me a good fit.”
Before deploying, NSWC Crane employees undergo a rigorous 10-week training program. During the training, engineers learn skills like construction, welding, sewing, machining, computer aided design (CAD), shooting, and combat casualty care.
“I think I’m a better engineer now,” said Serrano-Vargas. “For example, I had done machining before, but now I confidently feel I have a proficient skill level.”
He learned more than technical knowledge, however. He said the training and his time overseas led him to develop friends and connections that he is still in contact with. He also emphasized how time prioritization and communication came into sharp focus during his deployment.
“I personally know the end users now,” said Serrano-Vargas. “It was extremely difficult, but also the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. Now that I’m back, I have more purpose than ever. None of it is theoretical for me anymore.”
About NSWC Crane
NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.
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