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By David Creed
DCMA Boeing Seattle
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in DCMA’s 2021 INSIGHT Magazine, which highlights the agency’s warfighter-support story and its global acquisition professionals who use insight and expertise to enhance that story each day. The online version of the magazine can be found here.
On June 10, 2021, Defense Contract Management Agency Boeing Seattle will celebrate 100 years of continuous service to the warfighter. It is the government’s oldest continuously serving plant representative office, or contract management office. In June of 2020, the office began a yearlong series of activities celebrating and educating employees, alumni and customers on the office’s history. The yearlong celebration will culminate in a formal ceremony and celebration on the day of the office’s 100th anniversary.
To know how DCMA Boeing Seattle came to be a high performing office in the agency, one must look back at how it all began.
On April 7, 1921, the secretary of war, John Wingate Weeks, sent a telegram to William Boeing announcing that the Boeing Airplane Company had been selected to produce the MB3A aircraft. With the aircraft order came the need to establish an office that would represent the interests of the Air Service and the government.
When the first commander and civilian, Charles Creswell, stepped off the train in Seattle on June 9, 1921, he was unaware of the impact he would have at the Boeing Airplane Company. Just a couple days prior, he had been given orders reassigning him from his position at the Army Material Division, McCook Field, Ohio, to the newly established office inside the Boeing Plant in Georgetown Station. Creswell could not have known that after his first day of work he would spend two decades ensuring the “warriors of the air” received quality planes quickly and at a fair price.
During his tenure, Creswell transitioned between the position of commander and acting commander as military leaders rotated into the office to gain valuable acquisition leadership experience.
For much of the office’s history, the commander had a dual role as both the senior administrative officer of the unit and the senior aircraft acceptance pilot. More than once, they have had to join the “caterpillar club” by hanging on to their life by the silk threads of a parachute or climbing out of the wreckage of a crashed plane. Evidence of this can still be found scattered amongst the terrain in the Pacific Northwest. To date, fifteen people – military and civilian – have died while on duty with the office. Several more have been prisoners of war, missing in action and even killed in action.
The office’s history has evolved much the same as the air service it supports. In the beginning, it supported an Army Air Service, which purchased planes made from spruce wood and fabric, and whose main internal competition was with observatory balloon battalions.
Military aviation firsts, many of which are on display at the contract management office’s very location, became a catalyst for the establishment of the next evolution of the air arm, the Army Air Corps.
While each of the air arm predecessors helped the nation strengthen its air power, it was the Army Air Forces of World War II that demanded new mechanical marvels. Chief among them were the thousands of B-17 Flying Fortresses, which would blot out the Sun above Nazi Germany, and the B-29 Super Fortress that would take the fight to mainland Japan. Its most dramatic evolution was to an independent Air Force.
This new Air Force demanded weapons systems such as the B-52 and KC-135 to project power globally and space vehicles to provide new capabilities to see and communicate from the ultimate high ground of outer space. Indeed, the construction of the Lunar Roving Vehicle crisscrossing the moon in 1971 was overseen by the little plant representative office that Creswell established some 50 years before. As can be expected, the plant representative office evolved and underwent many name changes as the military propelled from a mostly domestic force to a global superpower. It began as the Air Service PRO, next to Air Corps PRO, then to Air Force PRO Boeing and finally to DCMA Boeing Seattle.
The Post-World War II era saw the dawn of jet propulsion. The little office had grown tremendously from a mere six employees – to more than 400 people located not only in Boeing Plant 2, but also at Paine Air Force Base in Everett, Washington; the Renton factory; the Boeing Wichita, Kansas, factory; Larson Air Force Base in Moses Lake, Washington; Air Force Plant 77 in Ogden, Utah; and missile silo locations in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Great Falls, Montana.
After WWII, AFPRO Boeing began to focus on providing Strategic Air Command with the bombers and missiles needed to contain the communist threat during the Cold War. The creation of the flying boom on March 28, 1948, for “Operation Drip” allowed aircraft to fly longer and go farther. The Boeing flying boom was a tubular structure with a telescoping section permitting extension from 25 to 45 feet.
During this time, the office’s own aircraft known as “The Shrimpboat” ferried pilots and staff between various locations. As the 1950s ended, the age of strategic bombers gave way to nuclear missiles.
Year after year throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, AFPRO Boeing demonstrated its determination and competence winning award after award for unit excellence. So far, historical research has uncovered a presidential citation, a secretary of the Air Force award, a DCMA Director’s Cup, two DCMA Herb Homer awards, three Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, and eight Air Force Organizational Excellence Awards. Beyond these impressive unit awards, unit personnel have accumulated dozens of Distinguished Flying Crosses, Air Medals, campaign ribbons, and even knighthoods.
While it is tempting to try to chart the size of the office by sheer personnel numbers alone, that does not tell the whole story. The AFPRO Boeing of the 1940s, 50s and 60s also had responsibility for Air Force contracts in the entire Seattle region. This workload was carried by a subordinate division (a contract management office group equivalent) of the AFPRO Boeing Command, which was integrated during WWII when the Air Corps Representative at Boeing was dual-hatted as the Seattle District commander. After the war, the Air Force contracts workload was transitioned to other military contracting offices before finally making its way back under the umbrella of DCMA.
The workload would eventually be transitioned to what is known today as DCMA Seattle.
During this time in 1965, the Navy’s separate plant representative office dissolved. This resulted in transferring responsibility to AFPRO Boeing for reimbursable work on major programs for the Navy, Army and NASA. This included tanks, railroad-based guns, hydrofoil ships, missiles, rockets, and even the lunar rover itself. The office’s two biggest programs during this era were the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile and the KC-135 tanker aircraft.
In addition to missiles and tankers, the office began focusing on airborne command and control such as the E-3 AWACS, E-6 TACAMO, E-4 National Airborne Operations Center, the T-43A Navigator training aircraft, and the VC-137A, otherwise known as Air Force One. They were also involved in experimental aircraft like the YC-14, Boeing’s entry into the next generation airlifter program that became the C-17, and NASA’s Quiet Short-Haul Research Aircraft.
In June 1990, the office officially transferred to the Defense Contract Management Command under DLA and became DPRO Boeing Seattle before another name change was made to DCMC Boeing Seattle in 1996. Throughout the last quarter century, the office has worked on aircraft such as the B-2A, F-22A and the Airborne Laser. Today, the mainstays of the office’s workload are the P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft, VC-25B Presidential Airlift Recapitalization and the KC-46 Pegasus tanker.
Throughout nearly a century of service, DCMA Boeing Seattle has been the nation’s key to ensuring “more”– more quality, affordability and lethality – providing the means to defend this nation and her allies. Whether it be in the air, on land, at sea or from outer space, DCMA Boeing Seattle has ensured the lethality of the warfighter since 1921. When the nation turns to the Boeing Company in Puget Sound for the aircraft it needs for its defense, DCMA Boeing Seattle has been a key to ensuring more quality, affordability and lethality.
Editor’s Note 2: Dr. David Creed and his team of researchers from DCMA Boeing Seattle reviewed hundreds of articles for more than a year to provide a synopsis of the CMO’s 100 years of continuous operation. Their work is ongoing, but in this article, the DCMA Boeing Seattle team cite several casualties as a result of aircraft mishaps, crashes, and other untimely deaths. Due to the large volume of records at the time of publication, the total number of deaths is not fully determined. Many of the pre-WWII records in the National Archives are yet to be reviewed. Currently, DCMA Boeing Seattle places the casualty figure at 15 but there are likely more. We recognize the families and honor those individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the Warfighter and the nation.
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