CAMP COURTNEY, OKINAWA, Japan -- The second annual Big Ideas Challenge concluded with an awards ceremony held virtually between Okinawa, mainland Japan, and Hawaii on September 15th, 2021. Lt. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, III, the III Marine Expeditionary Force Commanding General, awarded Maj. Jenkyn Kittrell and GySgt. Luis Feliciano for their submissions.
“There is no credit for me in this,” said Clardy. “All the work, all the ideas, everything is developed by either the staffs, or the Marines or Sailors.”
The Big Ideas Challenge began on April 28th, 2021 and remained open for submissions until June 6th, 2021. The first Big Ideas Challenge had over 70 submissions. This year, a total of 94 participants submitted their ideas. The top 11 submissions received awards and recognition for their submissions.
“This is not the first one, this is the second one, and there will be a third,” said Clardy. “I’ve also talked to Headquarters Marine Corps on a couple occasions…this is something we believe should have a broader reach, not just here within III MEF.” The challenge was open to all branches, military spouses, SOFA, and non-SOFA personnel in III MEF.
“Specifically for enlisted, [the Big Ideas Challenge is] a way to get our voices, our concerns, our ideas heard,” said GySgt. Luis Feliciano, one of the III MEF Marines awarded for his submission. “The award feels great. It lets me know that at a minimum, a panel of senior officers at the MEF level can recognize the validity of my idea. It also helps because now I have something tangible to show junior Marines that they can make a difference.”
Each submission was screened by officials and Clardy. Winning submissions were sent to Headquarters Marine Corps to be analyzed for potential implementation into the Marine Corps.
“The creativity, the innovation, frankly the articulation that’s present within our commands across the board is impressive,” said Clardy. “Particularly when you start reading from all the ranks, I was completely overwhelmed by the thought and the effort that was put into these.”
Winning ideas were both physical and non-physical. Some of the top ideas were Feliciano’s idea of a proposed new Chief Warrant Officer billet to coordinate fire support, and Maj. Jenkyn Kittrell’s idea of a field water distribution system, among others.
“[The] creation of a Warrant Officer rank, specifically to take over fire support coordination responsibilities,” said Feliciano when asked about his Big Idea. “I have been thinking about the topic for years. I have picked the brains of several peers and seniors from my community as well as a few from the 03 community for opinions on feasibility, how to get it done and possible road bumps to making this come to fruition.”
“I say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it…improve it,” said Kittrell, another III MEF Marine awarded for his submission. “Thank about improvements that can be made anywhere you see them, whether it’s specifically in your job or not. Even small improvements can have a big impact.”
Kittrell came up with the idea while doing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Philippines. The system consists of ten small garden hoses attached to a PVC pipe resting on top of an A-frame, connected by adaptors to existing water purification systems. Ten people can walk under the A-frame and fill any container with clean drinking water.
The Marine Corps is constantly pushing to be an innovative fighting force, continuing to evolve and grow to remain able to be the first to fight. Competitions like the Big Ideas Challenge keeps the Marine Corps fresh and III MEF ready to fight now.