UPDATE: The Okinawa Liberty app, now owned by MCCS Okinawa, is live and available for download here -- https://www.mccsokinawa.com/mol/?withurl=1
They weren’t forced or “voluntold.” They simply volunteered their talents and dedication, and won. Marines stationed in Okinawa, Japan swept the competition away when it came to mobile-application development, winning two of three categories during the first Commandant’s Innovation Challenge.
Captain Christopher L. Curry, an intelligence officer with 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, describes his last app-developing process as ‘painful’ but worth it.
“I spent a lot of sleep-less nights, literally, a lot of sleep-less nights,” said Curry, an Odenton, Maryland, native. “I feel like the hard work paid off.”
There are 1-billion smartphone users in the world, according to Forbes, and that number is growing by 42% a year.
The world is constantly modernizing and so must the Marine Corps. This powerful, war-fighting Corps is filled with countless hidden talents that, when used, enhance our capabilities in many ways.
The Marine Corps held the challenge from Sept. 15 thru Oct. 15, 2016. Marines were encouraged to cultivate an idea and develop a mobile-phone application that would better the Marine Corps.
Marines had the choice to submit their apps to a war fighting, physical fitness or quality of life category.
Curry, alone, was the winner of the ‘war fighting’ category. His app, “Blue Order,” includes an iPhone global positioning system to provide real-time satellite and topographic imagery. It also includes maps and charts to allow users to develop combat-related scenarios for practical application during exercises.
Due to this new, readily-available technology, units could move forward quicker and more efficiently. This type of innovation could save a significant amount of time. Instead of Marines having to carry maps and plot coordinates in the field, they could retrieve all the information with a tap of their thumb on a hand-held device.
The challenge was first brought to his attention by a fellow Marine, said Curry. He had just finished a master’s degree in computer science from the Johns Hopkins University and he felt that this challenge was a calling for him to give back to the Marine Corps.
The ‘quality of life’ category was won by a group of Marines and civilians from Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Air Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
The group included Master Sgt. Brantley E. Friend, Sgt. Jonathan M. Kelly, Lance Cpl. Alexander B. White, Cpl. William J. McClean, Lance Cpl. David N. Ervin, Lance Cpl. Cooper M. Hedtke and 1st Lt. Johnathon P. Marshall. Three civilian spouses, Mrs. Jinyoung Englund, Mrs. Jennifer Beatly and Mrs. Natalie Mazur, helped with the framework and styling of the app.
The app, called “Liberty Okinawa”, includes information about different places in Okinawa, Japan, a link to Google Maps to find their locations, the liberty rules and guidelines, an alarm when your liberty curfew is approaching and important contact numbers in case of an emergency.
Though there is no monetary price for the winners, they received letters recognizing their participation and thanking them for their efforts, said Col. Kyle Dewar, a command, control, communications and computers enterprise data center technologist.
“Commands are encouraged to complement these letters with appropriate recognition on proficiency or conduct markings, fitness reports, or formal awards,” said Dewar. “The participants each exemplified innovation, perseverance, and amazing technology skills that were impressive and worthy of recognition.”
Sgt. Kelly, a tactical data system administrator, and one of the main developers, said he hopes to see the app in the hands of Marines in Okinawa someday.
“I think that would be great,” said Kelly, a Honolulu, Hawaii, native. “That means I can leave something behind that I know I worked on. I gave back to the Marine Corps. I’ll have a legacy to leave with the Marine Corps. It’s pretty cool.”
Challenges such as these provide the opportunity for all Marines to better the Marine Corps through their talents. From accomplishing an exercise faster and more efficiently to learning the safest ways to go on liberty in Okinawa, Japan, these types of innovations help advance the individual Marine and the Marine Corps as a whole.