By Elizabeth Szoke
DCMA Public Affairs
Mervin Sam, a supervisory quality assurance specialist with Defense Contract Management Agency, stands in front of a SH-60B that was taken out of service and put on display at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. Sam worked on the helicopter in 1994 through 1997 when he served as an active duty Navy Chief Petty Officer aboard the USS Fife (DD-991). DCMA photo by Elizabeth Szoke.
Mervin Sam gets a view through the looking glass of his past career in the Navy through his office window where a SH-60B helicopter sits on display – a reminder of his time spent on a Spruance-class destroyer.
“That aircraft was assigned to my command, the Warlords of HSL-51 when I was there as a Navy chief petty officer,” said Sam. “Being one of the oldest helicopters in the Navy, it was a complex maintenance effort ensuring it would be reliable and safe to fly for the aircrew. Because of the age of this aircraft, most maintenance crews were partial to it because of its long history.”
Sam is now a supervisory quality assurance specialist with Defense Contract Management Agency Japan, a contract management office within DCMA International Command. His time in the Navy continues to benefit his civilian career.
“My experience and familiarity with this aircraft while I was in the Navy served as a force multiplier now that I’m with DCMA,” said Sam. “The aircraft underwent regularly scheduled periodic maintenance intervals at a Japanese contractor facility located near our office, so I conduct surveillance on it on a regular basis.”
The first SH-60Bs were manufactured in the mid-1980s and have since been modified and upgraded to be a multi-mission capability to modern warfare. According to the Navy, it has the most improved maintainability and reliability over any other helicopter in the Navy’s inventory. It serves as an anti-submarine warfare asset aboard cruisers, destroyers and frigates. It can also be used for search and rescue missions.
When Sam began working for the agency in 2004, he worked on the F-18, P-3, H-46, H-60, and E-2C aircraft platforms performing depot-level repairs surveillance at one contractor site. Since then, DCMA Japan has expanded to include a F-35 Final Assemble and Checkout in Nagoya, a F-135 engine production facility in Mizuho, a V-22 maintenance depot at Kisarazu, an H-1 maintenance facility in Okinawa and a F-18 depot line in Iwakuni.
“Merv’s technical experience coupled with his knowledge of Japan’s total contribution to DCMA Pacific has been fundamental to the smooth growth we have had here,” said Navy Cmdr. Juan Varela, commander of DCMA Japan. “He is an individual who is worth his weight in gold and we are fortunate to keep him here.”
Sam attributes a lot of his aircraft knowledge to his Navy career, and DCMA has offered even more training opportunities to ensure his success.
“Some of the training was intense, specifically Lean Six Sigma, which was an eye-opener to project management,” Sam said. “When I first started with DCMA, we had more military quality assurance specialists, but those positions were reassigned at some point. This meant we had to do additional itinerant work outside of Japan.”
The DCMA Japan office conducts additional delegated quality assurance work in China, Philippines, Taiwan and occasional support in New Zealand. Sam was once assigned to an ammunition production facility in Taiwan where DCMA provided him with ammo courses and on-the-job training.
“I was fortunate to play a role in the development of a foreign contractor who had never worked with the U.S. government,” Sam said.
The mission provided an opportunity for Sam and other DCMA Japan members to build a foundation of what to expect when dealing with new foreign contractors. The lessons learned helped build a program that ensures the contractors provide contractually reliable products from the start. It has also provided opportunities for team members to work closely with their military partners.
“I feel working with service members at these locations has created a stronger bond between us, which in turn gives us a better understanding of what the military commands need and expect from us,” Sam said.
While Sam is able to reflect on his Navy career daily as he walks into his office, he still looks ahead at his role with DCMA.
“It’s been a true privilege to be a member of one of the finest Department of Defense agencies that provides contract management at the many facilities around the world,” said Sam. “I enjoy being a part of a team that supports our warfighters by ensuring they receive the most reliable quality products that helps them be successful in executing their mission of keeping us safe.”
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