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NEWS | April 22, 2021

NSWC Crane employee receives second-highest DoN award for nine years of dedication to Marine Corps

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

A Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) employee received the Department of the Navy (DoN) Superior Civilian Service Award (SCSA), which is the second highest honorary award in the DoN.

Figure 1: Al Matthews, Test Manager, PM IW during Squad Common Optic LUE Alan Matthews, the SCSA recipient, was awarded for his outstanding efforts as Test Manager for Program Manager   Infantry Weapons (PM IW), NSWC Crane from November 2011 to August 2020. Matthews says the Marine Corps has   been an integral part of his life.

 “I retired from active duty in the Marine Corps as a Chief Warrant Officer 5 after 30 years of service,” says Matthews. “I   joined when I was 17. I have always taken care of my Marines. Serving as the Test Manager for PM IW allows me to   continue to take care of my Marines throughout the Marine Corps.” (Figure 1: Al Matthews, Test Manager, PM IW during Squad Common Optic LUE)

 His award citation reads, “As the Test Manager in one of Marine Corps Systems Command's most visible and dynamic program management offices for 9 years, [Matthews] planned, supervised, and executed tests across multiple systems that ranged from night vision devices, thermal systems, vehicle turrets, and weapons supporting over 390 million in program dollars.”

In particular, his award recognizes his recent extensive effort to execute critical live-fire testing to determine potential issues with the relatively newer configuration of the M2 Heavy Barrel Machine Gun, called the M2A1. This testing took place during a three-month time span in late 2019.

The M2 base weapon has an almost century-long history of being a reliable weapon system. Picture of CWO5 Al Matthews, 11th Marines Regimental Survey Officer in Kuwait(Figure 2: Picture of CWO5 Al Matthews, 11th Marines Regimental Survey Officer in Kuwait)

“The M2 Heavy Barrel Machine Gun known as the ‘Ma Deuce’ has been a favorite of warfighters of all services throughout every conflict since WWII,” says Matthews. “It has been in use longer than any other service weapon with the exception of the M1911 .45 caliber pistol. When we started researching M2A1 serial numbers, many of the WWII receivers were still in use. The receiver for the M2 machine gun has been rebuilt many times. Some of the initial manufacturers of the M2 machine gun in WWII were like Singer Sewing Machine Company and an elevator company. American companies throughout industry changed their manufacturing lines to support the war effort during WWII.”

Matthews says the M2A1 configuration was a change for the operator.

“The M2A1 is the primary Heavy Machine Gun for the services and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),” says Matthews.  “With the M2 Heavy Barrel Machine Gun, the operator manually adjusted the headspace and timing. The M2A1 was a big change from the base weapon in that the operator no longer adjusted headspace and timing.  The dual phase testing was critical to obtaining an understanding of the root cause for the malfunctions that were occurring with the M2A1.”  

The NSWC Crane small arms team was recognized in 2020 for this critical and responsive ‘first-of-its-kind’ efforts in support of the Marine Corps. Figure 2: Group Photo with Col Stower (PfM GCES) at the SWAF during the M2A1 TestMatthews, who led this team and initiative, executed the two phased test plan in a short planning window of three weeks. (Figure 3: Group Photo with Col Stower (PfM GCES) at the SWAF during the M2A1 Test)

The citation continues, “[Matthews] executed the largest and first-of-its-kind reliability and endurance test on the M2A1. [His] management and analysis of the firing of 500,000 rounds created an understanding of the root cause of the malfunctions, supported the design of a new Marine Corps maintenance strategy, and exponentially improved the reliability of the weapon system. [His] testing techniques ensure the safety of the warfighters who employ these critical weapons systems.”

Matthews says the recent testing posed a challenge.

“Given that the Marine Corps had issued a safety stand-down for the live-fire operations of the M2A1, it was urgent to figure out what was causing the malfunctions,” says Matthews. “We had really smart people involved; there was a lot of research and looking up historical data in the early analysis which helped us set up the test. The other part of the challenge was that since it was an urgent need, we needed to find a location that could accommodate the testing in a timely manner.  NSWC Crane provided PM IW the best options for timely support of a very complicated testing effort.”

 In his sixteen years of testing Marine Corps equipment, he has completed dozens of tests for a wide variety   of groups and weapons systems, including the Office of Naval Research, Marine Corps Warfighting   Laboratory, and U.S Special Operations Command. (Figure 4: M2A1 testing setup)

 “I gather data and conduct testing so that decision makers can make the best decisions possible,” says   Matthews. “A lot of the equipment I have tested including rifles, suppressors, optics, and more has been   fielded to the Marine Corps. Almost every effort has resulted in new equipment being fielded, issues being   resolved or valuable data being captured in order to allow decision makers to make difficult acquisition decisions in regards to cost, schedule, and performance of those items that were tested.”

Matthews credits his success to being a group effort. Figure 4: Al Matthews, Test Manager, PM Infantry Weapons, running the Demonstration Day for NDIA Small Arms at A.P. Hill(Figure 5: Al Matthews, Test Manager, PM Infantry Weapons, running the Demonstration Day for NDIA Small Arms at A.P. Hill)

“I like to quote a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) friend of mine who once said, ‘I am like a turtle on a fencepost; I didn’t get here by myself.’ Many people from the Marine Corps and from NSWC Crane put forth a huge effort to complete this test and the many other tests that I have conducted since I started testing Marine Corps systems back in 2005. I may be the conductor, but I have a superb orchestra that supports me in all that I do, both at PM IW and at Crane. It’s important to get Marines the best equipment in a timely and cost effective manner.”


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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