MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. - The lead satellite communications engineer for Marine Corps Systems Command’s Networking and Satellite Communications will receive the 2014 Copernicus Award Feb. 11, in San Diego, Calif.
James Mayers, who works in Marine Air-Ground Task Force Command, Control and Communications — or MC3 — at MCSC, will receive the honor for his role in helping the Marine Corps transition to lighter, more efficient consolidated satellite communications terminals.
“It feels good to be recognized,” Mayers said. “But there were many others — from the logisticians, capabilities officers and the policy folks, as well as Capt. Kelly Haycock who did the cost and analysis — who deserve recognition for these accomplishments. I share this recognition with them.”
The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and U.S. Naval Institute present the Copernicus Award annually for individual contributions to naval warfare in command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, information systems and information warfare. They awarded 31 Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard active-duty military and civilians for superior performance in those fields in 2013.
“James’ receiving the Copernicus Award comes as no surprise to us in MC3 or in the engineering competency,” said Col. Peter Reddy, program manager for MC3. “James is recognized across the Marine Corps and in many joint forums as a premier satellite communications engineer.”
In 2013, Mayers served as lead engineer on an integrated product team charged with evaluating the cost, benefits and risks of consolidating the family of wideband satellite systems into a single program. The team’s goal was to provide recommendations that would significantly reduce the satellite communications footprint and cost, and lighten the transportation load for the MAGTF.
“Before [Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom], the Marine Corps relied on x-band satellite terminals, but after OEF and OIF, there were not enough terminals or bandwidth to go around,” Mayers said.
As a result, the Corps expanded its use of satellite terminals such as Support Wide Area Network Variant 3, or SWAN/V3, which operate on commercial bandwidth versus strictly military bandwidth. As the number and type of SATCOM terminals grew, so did the need to upgrade and maintain them.
“Rather than upgrade all the different terminals, we decided to do a consolidation that allowed us to select the best terminal and shed some of the older systems — which were larger and weighed more — while keeping the needed capabilities,” Mayers said.
One such terminal, the Phoenix Tactical SHF Satellite Terminal, weighs 24,000 pounds and has to be transported using two Humvees and a generator trailer. The team is in the process of upgrading SWAN/V3, which weighs only 5,000 pounds and can be transported using a trailer with an onboard generator, with an x-band satellite link to allow the Corps to retire the Phoenix and other legacy SATCOM terminals still in use by Marines.
Part of Mayers’ job is to look at Marine Corps satellite communications systems and consider what commercially available systems can be folded into the military systems. Another accomplishment that earned him Copernicus recognition is leading an effort to have Marines test the suitability of an inflatable satellite communications antenna, or ISA, in the field.
“I’m really excited about the ISA because it’s far more portable than other systems,” Mayers said. “It packs up into a 100-pound case and really drives toward the commandant’s vision of a lighter, more expeditionary force.”
Mayers hopes it will one day be available throughout the Corps.
“What’s most rewarding is when we get to field something to the fleet that helps users,” Mayers said. “In the engineering field, very few things happen quickly, so it’s nice when you get to actually see [the systems] being used by Marines. Our work is never done. We have to keep improving things for our users.”