OKINAWA, Japan --
III Marine Expeditionary Force Logistics Innovation Cell won the Marine Corps Logistics Organization of the Year for Innovation in June 2021. The award is open to all Marine Corps units and personnel that have demonstrated an outstanding contribution in a logistics field through development or advancement of concepts, doctrine, technology or procedures that contribute to the improvement of modern logistic practices.
The Innovation Cell branches throughout all the subordinate commands of III MEF. Lt. Col. Mathew Neely, the logistics innovation officer with III MEF, described the cell as a group of Marines that develop and test ideas to improve the Marine Corps’ warfighting capabilities. Anybody can be a part of the innovation cell regardless of rank or Marine occupation specialty. The only requirement is to have a good idea.
Many Marines have joined the Innovation Cell by submitting their ideas through the Big Ideas Challenge, a contest that began in 2020 for participants to submit their ideas for consideration. Ideas submitted to the Big Ideas Challenge are reviewed by the III MEF commanding general, with the best ideas receiving consideration from III MEF for submission to Headquarters Marine Corps. Last year’s contest yielded over 70 submissions covering a variety of topics including administration, equipment, logistics, tactics, and quality of life.
“I love the Big Ideas Challenge because it gives the total force the ability to put an idea out there,” said Neely. “This process gains efficiency because instead of saying it was a good idea in the barracks or the office spaces, we put it on paper and watch it grow. That is motivating.”
Once the Innovation Cell identifies a promising idea, Neely works with individual Marines to better formulate and refine their ideas. He also connects them with other people who can help advance the idea and assists with approvals to proceed with experimentation.
Neely introduced one project as the atmospheric water generator. The concept envisions a generator capable of producing safe drinking water for Marines without access to a source of water or need for additional purification equipment.
“It works just like a dehumidifier, except it has a filter that uses water from the air and purifies it,” said Neely. “It is a commercial off-the-shelf technology that we can hopefully put in areas that Marines may not have water. When we try to have a small footprint, you don’t want to add another Marine just to purify water for three to five Marines. We can add this kind of asset as a low-cost solution.”
The Marines continue to work through maintenance issues of the atmospheric water generators, as they can purify about four gallons of water before the device starts to malfunction. Despite the setback, the process generated valuable information for the Innovation Cell.
“Not everything is a success story,” said Neely. “As we experiment, we feed data up to HQMC so they can see the value-added or if it’s not working out.”
Adaptability is one of the keys to success for the Innovation Cell and Big Ideas Challenge, Neely said. He explained that the award validates the III MEF Innovation Cell with excellent ideas and the motivation to keep going.
“It was good seeing the team win,” said Neely. “One person doesn’t come up with everything by themselves. My job is done once I connect people who can help make it happen together. It's just good to be a part of the team and see the team get some recognition.”