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By Air Force Maj. Christian Balmaceda
DCMA Pacific Singapore
Among the many challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign nation’s locking down borders was a unique difficulty for Defense Contract Management Agency’s International field commands. But the obstacles also inspired creativity and innovation in order to maintain mission success and readiness.
Recent limitations of in-person access to contractors in New Zealand resulted in a collaboration between DCMA Pacific, DCMA Lockheed Martin Fort Worth, and DCMA Aircraft Integrated Maintenance Operations North Texas. The team-effort developed low-cost, interim solutions to fill a critical quality assurance role.
In Christchurch, New Zealand, a single quality assurance specialist position manages quality oversight on depot maintenance for 13 Air Force ski-equipped LC-130s supporting the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic mission. The role has been vital to the success of the program as the aircraft were built in the 1970s and ‘80s.
But with the nation’s borders closed due to the pandemic, the QA role has remained vacant since May 2021 — an untenable position according to Kevin Amstutz, DCMA Pacific Singapore Quality Team supervisor.
The long-term fix was secured by selecting QAS Carl Roach from DCMA LMFW to fill the position. Roach received orders in December, and was ready to move, but New Zealand denied his initial visa request. After extensive coordination with the U.S. Embassy Defense Attaché Office in Wellington, New Zealand, the best case scenario was Roach’s paperwork would be reviewed by March or April 2022.
Amstutz said his team was fast approaching a critical point in the contracts maintenance program and was running out of time to get Roach qualified and on the ground inspecting aircraft.
DCMA AIMO North Texas LC-130 Quality Assurance Specialist team pictured from top left: Jamie Philp, Shawn Cocker, James Gilmore, Robert Pierce. Bottom row: Carl Roach and Cody Harpole. (Photo illustration courtesy Darrin Grunwald)
“After nearly a year without an in-person QA, months of virtual surveillance and two Level II Corrective Action Requests, hope was no longer an option,” said Amstutz. “With New Zealand’s borders shut down, we faced a severe challenge to send a certified C-130 quality assurance specialist into Christchurch to qualify Mr. Roach upon his permanent change of station. Our team came up with both an interim workaround and a long-term fix for Mr. Roach to receive immediate C-130 training.”
The team’s interim solution was coordinated through DCMA Pacific with buy-in from the contractor and Air Force program office to execute a virtual surveillance strategy from Singapore, using resident specialists with existing C-130 experience.
“We had to get creative using a mix of live streaming video, voice, digital photos, and assistance from the on-site administrative contracting officer, Mr. Paul Curley, when eyes on were needed in order to get the job done,” said Mark Sim, DCMA Pacific Singapore quality assurance specialist. “This flexible strategy allowed the program to continue moving forward.”
In addition to the mandatory employment of remote quality assurance surveillance, Roach’s new contract management office leadership leveraged the collaboration team to put his several weeks of waiting time to good use until New Zealand allowed him in country.
“We reached out to several DCMA C-130 maintenance and overhaul sites for training opportunities,” said Air Force Col. Joseph Jenkins, DCMA Pacific commander. “We wanted to use this time wisely, and we found a spot with DCMA AIMO North Texas, who accepted the request and graciously hosted Mr. Roach for a 3-week temporary assignment that provided in-depth training on the aircraft.”
“By capitalizing on the delay and leveraging the available expertise across the agency, we were able to increase Mr. Roach’s mission readiness,” said Jenkins. “It would have not been possible without the collaboration between all parties involved, and we’re looking forward to watching Mr. Roach excel in his support of the Antarctic mission.”
Amstutz was grateful for the virtual capabilities available during the pandemic. He also praised the collaborative efforts from across the agency for solving the accessibility challenge.
“The pandemic has made routine matters non-routine, but persistency coupled with quick thinking has allowed us to tackle and overcome any obstacles thrown our way,” he said. “But, we are certainly looking forward to a little normalcy with Mr. Roach settled in New Zealand.”
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