Mettle Ops Wants to Know Your Favorite Patriotic Song

We want to know your favorite patriotic song! Share your favorite song with us and be entered to win FREE Mettle Ops apparel.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Go to our Facebook page.

  2. Post your favorite patriotic song in the comments and feel free to tell us why it’s your favorite.

  3. Fill out the form at the bottom of this page.

  4. Check our Facebook page the week of July 8 to see if you were chosen as the winner!

For inspiration, check out our staff’s favorite patriotic songs!

Katie: Proud to Be an American

Mark: Army Song

Veronica: National Anthem and America the Beautiful

Stephanie: America the Beautiful

Danielle: God Bless America

Enter to Win

Name *
Address *

3 Newcomer Tips for Traveling the Defense Acquisition Industry

A strange language, a new culture, and a unique landscape best describes what one would experience if traveling to a distant country. Traveling to new places and experiencing different cultures can be an enlightening adventure, but it will come with certain difficulties. Defense acquisitions can be the same as traveling to a new place. Known as the world’s most difficult and complex acquisition system, the U.S. defense acquisition operation is much like visiting an unknown country. I have the privilege of exploring this new country, and it’s an experience that I cannot forget.

My first encounter in defense acquisitions was eye opening. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and it came with a ton of questions. First, what even is defense acquisitions? Up to this point, I have had zero contact with the defense world in any respect. Imagine being dropped off in a country that doesn’t speak your language, that was my first encounter. I was hired as a program analyst for a defense contracting company, and thankfully, my boss knew my ignorance and guided me into Defense Acquisition University classes and office explanations. This significantly reduced the culture shock and confusion. Slowly, I began to learn this new language and understand the culture of defense and industry. Almost one year has passed since I began this journey, and trust me, I’m nowhere close to being an expert. Defense acquisitions can be daunting for the beginner; fortunately, I had help with my understanding of the system. The first help was a mentor who was knowledgeable of the system. Someone who can spend one-on-one time with you and explain the little details will be an asset to one’s journey. The second help is Defense Acquisition University (DAU) classes. DAU offers online courses that takes one through the entire process of defense acquisitions. This is crucial and necessary to understand and to move forward in a defense career. Lastly, a group of experienced people that one can network and share information. I’m lucky to be able to attend a Friday breakfast group that deals with defense works in their separate businesses and lives. I usually sit back and listen to the wisdom of years of experience and advice.

Defense acquisitions can be overwhelming as a newcomer. If one has the resources and the help, it can be conquered. Utilize these three tips to gain priceless wisdom of what to do and what not to do while traveling the defense world.

1. Find a mentor to guide you one-on-one, this makes the learning process much easier.

2. Take DAU online courses, for many companies it is a requirement, and it gives you a leg up on the competition.

3. Build relationships with those who have endured the learning and have been successful in the industry.

Matthew Nini Sheppard.jpg

By: Matthew Sheppard

Book Review: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell is a compilation of stories depicting socially viewed underdogs who achieved advantages from their shortcomings. These stories portray a classic protagonist who, while facing all odds, overcomes the obstacles and tribulations associated with their story and emerges successful. What Gladwell exposes is the other side of these stories and how these characters had the advantage over their supposed obstructions.

This book starts with the Biblical story of David and Goliath, a classic underdog story. Anyone who has read or heard this story remembers the fierce and physically imposing Goliath who challenges the enemy to single combat. The lowly shepherd, David, bravely faces the giant and kills him in front of both armies. This triumphant story is paraded as the prime example of how a minnow defeated a shark. However, when you break this story down and read between the lines, the reader will find this is not the whole story.

As the story highlights, Goliath is an intimidating giant who had great success in hand-to-hand combat. Historians will point out that a typical soldier at this time would have been suited in heavy armor making it difficult for quick movements. David is a small shepherd who had to defend his herd from vicious animals using a sling and rocks. This training makes him the ideal candidate for projectile combat, a branch of the army used for long distance combat. In addition, historians believe Goliath suffered from a pituitary tumor which could explain his stature. This could also explain the words he chose when confronted with David. He asks David to come closer, and mistakes his weapon for multiple weapons. Historians believe this to mean the tumor was crushing his optical nerve and causing sight complications. This health issue gave David a colossal advantage on the battlefield and inevitably led to Goliath’s death.

As these details of the story are exposed by historians, the entire perspective of the story shifts. The perspective shits from a lowly shepherd facing a giant, to a well-executed attack from a skilled soldier on an ill, former champion. Throughout this book, Gladwell highlights stories with this theme to illustrate how history gets it wrong and how a few details can shift the perception of the story.

To every young professional out there, I recommend this book to help you understand how your perceived disadvantages do not need to hold you back. You can achieve success by thinking outside the box. If David did not analyze the situation, think outside the box, and apply his competent skills, he would not have succeeded.


Mettle Ops Honored as One of the 2019 “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” 

Mettle Ops has been recognized as one of the 2019 “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch,” an awards program presented by Michigan Celebrates Small Business (MCSB). In addition, Mettle Ops has also been recognized by MCSB as one of the 2019 “Best Small Businesses.” Michigan Celebrates Small Business is the most prestigious, small-business awards program in the state of Michigan.

The mission of the program is to honor and recognize Michigan’s small business people as well as those champions and advocates that support them. The program allows organizations to raise awareness of small business in Michigan while building a network of entrepreneurial companies.

“We are honored to be selected for the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch award as well as a PTAC Best Small Business honoree from Michigan Celebrates Small Business,” said Katie Bigelow, President of Mettle Ops. “We recognize that our most valuable asset is our team.  As Mettle Ops continues to grow, we hope to truly make a difference for the warfighter, our ultimate customer.”

The Michigan 50 Companies to Watch award recognizes 50 Michigan headquartered companies that are high-potential and in their second-stage.  

To be considered, the company must meet the following criteria for the year ending 2018:

  • Be a privately held, commercial enterprise that has not received the award in the past (not a nonprofit, not publicly traded, not a subsidiary or division of another company).

  • Be past the startup stage and facing issues of growth, not survival.

  • Employ 6-99 full-time equivalent W-2 employees (including the owner).

  • Have between $750,000 and $50M in annual revenue or working capital from either investments or grants.

  • Be headquartered in Michigan.

  • Demonstrate the intent and capacity to grow based on:

    • Employee or sales growth.

    • Sustainable competitive advantage.

    • Other notable successes.

Companies recognized as a “Best Small Business” through Michigan Celebrates Small Business were selected by their regional Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), Small Business Development Center (SBDC), or SmartZone. Honorees are selected based on their demonstration of successful growth and contributions to the economy of Michigan. 

The 15th annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business awards gala is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8, 2019 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. Small business owners and the advocates that support them will be in attendance from across the state. 

“We at the Michigan Celebrates Small Business organization are proud to recognize these exceptional companies. They are a tremendous part of Michigan’s success and we are excited to see what the future holds for them,” said J.D. Collins, State Director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center and a member of the Michigan Celebrates Small Business Board of Directors. 

Winners were selected by Michigan-based judges from the banking, economic development, entrepreneurship development, and venture capital communities.

About Mettle Ops 

Mettle Ops is an U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a), Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned, Small Business (SDVOSB), Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business (EDWOSB), Women Business Enterprise (WBE), Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB), National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC), Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE), and Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB). Headquartered in Sterling Heights, Michigan and founded in 2013, Mettle Ops specializes in research, development, reverse engineering, program management, ground vehicle design, test and evaluation experience, system integration capabilities, and facilitates manufacturing and fabrication. Mettle Ops’ team includes war veterans with 35 years combined experience in Army service. Inspired by courage and tenacity and so-named Mettle Ops.  

Mettle Ops | Warfighters Serving Warfighters | 

3223 15 Mile Road, Sterling Heights, MI 48310 | | 586.306.8962 

U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a) Certified 2027 

DUNS: 07-908-4144 | CAGE: 6XYB2 

 About Michigan Celebrates Small Business

Michigan Celebrates Small Business (MCSB) is a collaboration of trusted statewide founding organizations who offer resources for small businesses. Since 2005, Michigan Celebrates Small Business awards gala has placed a spotlight on how small businesses positively impact our communities and state. The MCSB organization is focused on supporting, promoting and celebrating small businesses in Michigan.

The Michigan Small Business Development Center is the managing partner of Michigan Celebrates Small Business in 2019. Michigan Celebrates Small Business was founded by the Michigan Small Business Development Center, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, U.S. Small Business Administration - Michigan, Edward Lowe Foundation, Michigan Business Network, and the Small Business Association of Michigan. 

Founding sponsors are the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, PNC Bank, AF Group, and Dynamic Edge, Inc.


PTAC Best Small Business Honoree.png


Hawaii soldier awarded State Medal of Valor for hurricane rescue

A Hawaii National Guardsman received the State Medal of Valor last weekend for his heroic actions that saved the lives of six people during a hurricane.

Staff Sgt. Gregory A.Y. Lum Ho, of Bravo Company, 777th Aviation Support Battalion, was given the prestigious award on Feb. 9 by Hawaii Gov. David Ige at Wheeler Army Airfield.

"You epitomize the citizen-soldier and are a shining example of what valor is,” Ige said at Saturday’s ceremony honoring Lum Ho.

A State Medal of Valor is given to “individuals who distinguish themselves through a performance of an uncommon act of personal heroism involving the voluntary risk of his/her own life,” according to an Army release.

Lum Ho was assigned to Task Force Hawaii, which was created in response to the eruption of the Kilauea volcano. On Aug 23, 2018, Task Force Hawaii’s mission changed to one of flood support with the advent of Hurricane Lane, which would produce the second highest amount of rain of any hurricane in the U.S. since 1950.

While Lum Ho and Pvt. Justin Dejesus were on a security patrol, they came across a family who were cut off from assistance by flood water and whose house was on the verge of collapse. Lum Ho worked with first responders to drive them to the family in his Humvee.

Lum Ho executed “a series of very difficult decisions … that would save the lives of a family of six, and one family pet,” Ige said at the ceremony.

During Lum Ho’s acceptance speech, he credited both the leadership training he received in the National Guard for preparing him for emergencies and his fellow service members for always having his back.

It was a team effort, he said. “[From] my co-driver who helped me navigate through the debris ... to the mechanics that actually got my Humvee ready every night and kept it safe for me, without those guys, none of this would happen.”

​The Fallacy of “Low Hanging Fruit”

We were in discussions with a prospective client about supporting their efforts within the DoD space, and one of the directors made a comment about “low hanging fruit.” He proceeded to say that they weren’t interested in taking years to build opportunities or relationships and want the low hanging fruit that will provide quick revenue streams for their product lines.  There are multiple issues with this scenario that need to be addressed.  

1. No such thing as “Low Hanging Fruit”: The Urban Dictionary provides a great definition of targets or goals which are easily achievable and which do not require a lot of effort.  OTAs are the closest thing to low hanging fruit that I know of and they still take a lot up front work to get to the winner’s circle. Typically, it will take two years or more before you break into a serious contract.  

2. Defense Is Unlike Other Industries: The amount of information required to understand the defense industry is a barrier to entry for most businesses.  Sometimes it takes years to break in and then you are still bogged down with cyber, reporting, and other regulatory requirements.

3. Education and Understanding: There are multiple ways to attack this, but it all takes time, effort, and money.  For most small businesses, there isn’t enough of this to go around. Three potential courses of action (COAs).

a. COA 1 - Do It on Your Own – Find your local PTAC and get signed up for classes.  
b. COA 2 - Hired Gun – Hire a part-time consultant to help.  
c. COA 3 - Capital Investment – Hire a great BD professional who knows the business.

4. Skin in The Game:  Are you willing to put some skin in the game?  This gives your potential customers confidence in your ability to withstand the peaks and valleys that come in the defense business.  

Are you willing to take the time to build meaningful relationships and learn the business?  Are you willing to spend the money in education and resources to learn the business?  Are you willing to risk everything to enter the Defense Industry?  

At the end of the day you must ask yourself – “What are you willing to do to get to where you want in the Defense Industry?”  

Mettle Ops Announces GSA Contract Award

On Jul 23, 2018, BIGELOW FAMILY HOLDINGS LLC (dba Mettle Ops) was awarded GSA Contract No. 47QRAA18D00C5 under GSA Schedule 00CORP, The Professional Services Schedule (PSS). Below are the details relating to the awarded IDIQ Contract.

GSA CONTRACT NO.           47QRAA18D00C5
GSA SCHEDULE                   00CORP
SINS                                      871 1, 874 1
DUNS                                    079084144
CAGE CODE                         6XYB2
PRIMARY NIACS                  541330

The GSA Contract Services were provided by GSA Focus, Inc.

Book Review: Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

I just read a great book by Brian Tracy on productivity called Eat That Frog.  Let’s face it.  We can all streamline, prioritize, and execute more efficiently.  I highly recommend it for anyone’s reading list.  Every chapter is full of actionable items that can be implemented immediately.  Here is a thought that stuck with me…

At whatever level you are in your organization, find the people who are doing it the best.  Ask them what they are doing, and DO IT.  When you move up, find new people at your new level, and ask them.  This is completely brilliant!  Imagine if a colleague turned to you and said, “I see that you do this task well. Will you teach me your technique?”  Most people would be happy to share their ideas.  And maybe, in turn, that colleague will come to you for help in an area that they have a weakness.  We could improve the efficiency and profitability of entire organizations.

Ask questions like:

  • I see you have a great set of employees that seem dedicated to their work. How do you do this?

  • You accomplish so much daily. How do you manage your time so efficiently?

  • Your marketing materials are top notch. Can you make some suggestions?

  • How on earth do you keep up with all the email? I’m drowning!

  • You are such a great networker. How do you get a conversation going with a prospect?

earn from your coworkers, competitors, and counterparts, and share what you know with them. Make yourself better and be willing to build up those around you who have the wisdom to ask. 
Written By: Katie Bigelow

Do Unto Others…Even in Business

The other day I contacted a customer for late payment on a Net 30 contract.  She informed me that the definition of Net 30 is payment in 28-34 days.  I seriously doubt my vendors would agree.  I do understand the billing cycle is set to a specific interval.  We do that, too, but we ensure that a bill due on or after 30 days gets paid at the earlier billing cycle.  After my initial surprise, I decided that they can do business however they want.  They are an organization that runs on a process that their leaders are satisfied with.  I also decided after that call, that my organization will not run like that.  My company has grown into an entity; we are long past a freelance business.  But, I, and the people I choose to join my organization can still choose to follow a standard that each and every one of us should set for ourselves.  Treat others, even in business, the way you want to be treated.  

So often I hear, “This person did it to me, so I can do it someone else.”  It’s a sad state of our culture that we look for an excuse to behave badly.  How about, “This person did it to me, and it caused damage.  I choose NOT to do it to anyone else.”?  Let your freedom allow you to choose what is right and noble. Don’t let it be an excuse to cause more harm.   

Written By: Katie Bigelow

​War Story 3

There I was… a typical sunny day in Iraq when called on a mission along one of the main supply routes (MSRs).  We didn’t have much information except a 9-line for an urgent patient and a grid location. When we arrived, we landed alongside the road about 50 meters from a clump of trucks and personnel.  Presumably the patient was in the middle of the mix, so my medic jumped out to assess the situation.  I noticed he didn’t bring his medical bag with him. We were in the open dessert with no enemy in site, so I sent my crew chief to meet the medic and deliver the med bag.  The next thing I know our crew chief is on his way back.  Only this time, he is moving at about half speed and watching his feet.  It looked oddly like a game of hopscotch.  What seemed like an eternity later, the crew chief arrives, plugs in, and announces that we have landed in a mine field.    

Written By: Katie Bigelow

Photo by Spc. Audrey Ward

NIST 800-171 Compliance for Small Business

Small organizations that are working on military platforms…or hope to in the future…face a difficult challenge.   Late last year, the Department of Defense (DOD) implemented a DFARS clause (204.252-7012) that requires compliance with a cyber security standard called NIST 800-171.

The standard is focused on a specific set of data referred to as Controlled Unclassified Data (CUI).  At a high level this data includes design specifications, product material data, and procedures used to engineer, test, and manufacture both land and air-based military platforms.   It has 110 requirements that include a mix of technical and process controls focused on protecting CUI.   An organization’s inability to comply with the requirements effectively serves as a barrier to entry for working in the industry.  Many proposal solicitations are requiring compliance with the standard as a qualifier for bidding on a project. 

No-Nonsense Approach

So, where do you begin?  For small companies, meeting NIST 800-171 requirements can be especially difficult…but there are a few simple steps that can simplify the process.

1)     Minimize the “footprint” of CUI data.  In other words, try to keep the physical and virtual versions in common storage areas.   Keep it off individual desktops/laptops and on a consolidated server.

2)     Do not use email to exchange CUI data with partners, vendors, or customers.   Utilize secure data exchange frameworks that are available from most tier 1 vendors.

3)     Leverage commercially available templates for process content (policies, incident response plan, awareness training, System Security Plan). 

4)     Have a 3rd party help you with areas of the NIST standard that require clarification.  Most consulting firms are open to answering some questions without charging for a full engagement.   Be honest and tell them that you don’t really need help but had a few questions you were hoping they could answer (but keep it to 1-3 total questions).  

Immediate Action Items

Near term, the most important details to complete are the system security plan (SSP) and plan of action (POA).  The SSP defines scope and approach for compliance while the POA provides a timeline for addressing identified gaps.  Both items were due for completion at the end of 2017.  Online resources like the CSET self-assessment tool can help with identifying compliance gaps and developing the remediation plan.   There are also online templates available for the SSP and POA, which can speed up the process of developing and completing the document.    

Keep in mind that the goal of NIST 800-171 is to protect information that is largely digital so many of the required controls will deal with computer and network technology.   If an organization does not have internal expertise to help sort through the technical details, this part of compliance is where money is best invested with external (consulting) assistance to identify gaps and develop a plan to address them.  

Planned Implementation

Once the SSP and POA are completed, the balance of NIST 800-171 compliance is reliant on following the defined implementation plan.  As the project evolves, any unforeseen obstacles or delays will necessitate updates to the POA.  Stay on top of the schedule and track progress accordingly.  Store all related documentation in a common network folder and when the program is fully implemented, plan on conducting an annual audit, risk assessment, and security assessment.   

By Guest Blogger: Rob Cote of Security Vitals

War Story 2

There I was…after a long day of desert qualification flights in Kuwait.  We were working on the docks reassembling aircraft, test flying them, and then instructor pilots were taking them out to qualify all the pilots in dessert operations.

Dock operations are the safety officer’s nightmare.  Hundreds of soldiers are working to restore dozens of aircraft packed for ocean travel to flyable condition.  The aircraft are shrink wrapped with cellophane for transport.  Once these aircraft are reassembled, test pilots taxi out and fly off the edge of the dock over the water to complete their evaluations.  There was a control tower on a narrow strip of land that ran out into the water.  Next to the control tower was a helipad where the typical procedure was for aircraft to air taxi from the dock across the water to the helipad and receive clearance from there for takeoff.  Conversely, returned aircraft would land on the helipad and receive clearance to air taxi across the water for parking and gas. 

As I recall, it was my first day to fly in the Middle East.  I had no idea what the real desert looked like until I was flying over it.  I could literally see puddles of oil seeping out of the ground.  The coast of Kuwait had the potential to be incredibly beautiful; however, was a paradise of trash…everywhere.  Kuwait could have benefitted from borrowing the ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’ slogan.  The message would have likely been lost in the translation.  The coastal waters consisted of floating oil and trash.  This is the stuff environmentalists’ nightmares were made of.  

It was late in the day and we were returning on bingo fuel.  The instructor pilot had pushed the typical fuel reserves to squeeze one more set of qualifications in for the day.  We were cleared to land to the pad next to the tower and were anxiously requesting clearance to taxi across the water to parking since our fuel was extremely low.  The tower controllers would not have been happy if we had to shut down on the approach helipad and wait for a fuel truck.  

As the seconds are ticking by and tower continues the instructions to hold, we insisted on clearance to move to parking and was denied.  Seconds later, a pilot from our unit called us on another radio to inform us that an “incident” had taken place on the dock, outside of our view.  We were told to shut down the aircraft and wait.  Bored and unaware of the true nature of the incident, I pulled out the Blackhawk manual and reviewed the fuel flow charts based on the amount of fuel left in our tanks.  Sitting there on the ground, I discovered that we had not had enough fuel on board required to cross the water.  Based on the charts and the gas gauge, our flight would have ended in the disgusting Kuwaiti water. And we would only have lived by God’s grace.  

The incident prevented us from a water landing.  A test pilot and co-pilot had not cleared the rotor blades thoroughly during ground taxi and taxied the aircraft into a robust light pole.  The pole was only scuffed.  In fact, two years later when I returned to that very dock, the scar was still there.  The aircraft sustained almost a million dollars’ worth of damage as well as damaging many other aircraft around it.  Despite the hundreds of soldiers on the dock that day and the material damage, not one soldier was injured in the incident.  Without which, I may not be here to share this story.  

Written By: Katie Bigelow
Courtesy Photo

How to Greet a Woman in Business Situations

I honestly don’t know the “proper” thing to do in this situation, but here is my perspective.  Your greeting should not take on a gender spin, ever.  If you would shake a man’s hand, you should shake a woman’s hand.  If you want to hug the man, then I suppose you can offer a hug to the woman, too.  

Please consider carefully here.  Choose a universal greeting that you are comfortable offering anyone. And I mean anyone, regardless of gender, hygiene habits, etc.  If your chosen greeting is as intimate as a hug, then be prepared to offer it to everyone equally not just people with fluffy lady parts.  

As an added note, please don’t involve the use of your lips in any greeting with anyone who is not your spouse. Your victims will appreciate you keeping your lips to yourself and so will their husbands. 

Written By: Katie Bigelow

Lasting Lesson from an OPD Session

Sitting with the officers of a high-powered Field Artillery unit, we thought we were the best thing since sliced bread.  The Battalion Commander proceeded to ask each of us what we considered a successful career within our given profession.  Our answers were most likely typical responses from young company grade officers; Battalion Command is what flowed around the circle.  Each of us thought this was the pinnacle of a successful career.  He proceeded to take the wind out of our sails and provide a lesson that has stuck for years.  He took about 20 minutes to teach us about professionalism through learning.  As he put it, becoming a “student” of your profession is more important than any other trait, and that will make you successful.  How does one become a “student” of any profession?  

1. Education
2. Training
3. Seek out a Mentor
4. Mentorship
5. Relationships
6. Networks

Master these items above, and success will happen. 

Written By: Mark Bigelow

War Story 1

“There I was…inverted with my air medals hanging in my face…” is the way Army aviators start a war story.  There are few rules other than that teller of the story gets to be the hero of the story (if he/she so choose) and the facts need to be as accurate as the memory allows.  My memories of the events, once vivid, have sadly begun to fade a bit.  But, for the sake of storytelling, I will do my best to be accurate.  Embarrassingly, I am almost never the hero of my stories but generally the sidekick and even more often than that, the buffoon.  Be gentle in your judgement.  Enjoy the story.  Stop and share one of your own, if you are brave enough.  

While I will never admit to having been inverted, I intend to stick with Army aviator tradition and tell the story as I remember it.  

There I was…a hot spring day in southern Iraq, number two in a flight of six.  This wasn’t my first time in Iraq, but it was the first time I was flying north out of Kuwait with no plans to return.  We attempted to bring everything but the kitchen sink.  Someone probably tried to pack one of those in a hell hole, too.  It was hot, and our aircraft were heavy.  We were in a war zone with a tank of gas, a map, bullets, food, bedding, and possibly a kitchen sink.  It was HOT.  I don’t mean Florida hot or high noon in July on the beach hot.  I mean so freaking hot it was hard to believe that life would continue at this temperature.  Now, I remember spring time hot fondly, as I had no real idea what hot was. 

Any aviator reading this, would by now deduced the high temperatures combined with a heavy packing list have degraded the aircraft maneuverability which would be of concern in an emergency.  I was flying left seat with CW2 Phil Johnson.  As we continued northward, we performed standard fuel checks with normal results. At first, the situation wasn’t obvious, a minor split in the fuel levels between tank one and tank two.  But as we left civilization (I use the term loosely) farther and farther behind, the split in fuel tank levels was becoming increasingly more significant. Mathematically, we had plenty of fuel to make it to the first planned fuel point at an airfield still an hour away.  But, visually, tank one was holding steady while tank two was in the yellow.  We attempted precautionary procedures to switch the fuel handles, so that the fuel would draw from tank one and even us out a bit.  Despite the switch, the indicator in tank two continued to approach the red.  

Could we limp in 40 more minutes to the airfield with what gas remained?  With one, almost full tank, it seemed like we could.  The last thing we wanted to do was land in a war zone with no commo and try to flag someone down for help.  Phil made the called.  Pilots and crews of five other aircraft were ticked that we were declaring a precautionary landing for a possible maintenance issue while we were amid a ground war.  

Phil and I landed safely in the desert, a highway just over the berm to the east.  Within seconds of landing, engine two failed.  Seconds later, engine one failed.  Had Phil not made the decision to put the aircraft on the ground when he did, gravity would have made the decision for us seconds later.  We had been flying too low, too fast, with too much weight to safely autorotate.  We would have balled up our aircraft, crew, and kitchen sink in the desert of Iraq before we even had a chance to join the fight.

By this time, we were all a bit curious as to the cause of our near doom.  An inspection of the log book revealed the fuel system had recently been repaired.  Dismantling the repair, we discovered that a valve had been placed backwards and refused to allow fuel to flow out of tank one.  We had literally run the engines out of gas seconds after we landed.  

The repair was made, gas was delivered by truck, and we moved on to fight the war.  Phil and I didn’t like each other very much, but we flew together often.  Ultimately, he would not return from war with us, but that is a very sad story for another day. 

Written By: Katie Bigelow

Mettle Ops Receives $4.26 Million in Additional Funding for Department of Defense Contract for Solider Safety and Survivability

Mettle Ops and TARDEC continue partnership on U.S. Ground Troop Efforts
Sterling Heights, MI – A recent adjustment to a contract between Mettle Ops and U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) features a funding ceiling hike of $4.26 million. This previous contract of $9.1 million, which was created as a Research and Development project, has the aim of putting soldiers’ survival as number one priority. Mettle Ops’ signed contract, known as the DoD (Department of Defense) Ordnance Technology Consortium (DOTC) Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) Contract, now totals more than $13 million.
The hike is due to increased budgetary funding allowing TARDEC to aggressively pursue survivability solutions for increased soldier safety. With this additional funding line, Mettle Ops will continue supporting their government customer and be able to make an even larger impact for America’s ground soldiers. 
"We are excited to receive this increase, as this shows that the DoD is taking this topic seriously and allowing TARDEC to pursue survivability solutions for increased soldier safety which is our passion," states Katie Bigelow, President of Mettle Ops.
Both Mettle Ops and TARDEC have unique specializations, and this collaboration makes for a well-rounded service provider.
Mettle Ops is responsible for the program management, design, modeling and simulations, analysis, and documentation aspect of the process for the agreement.
The deal will continue to provide both virtual and physical prototypes for tracked and wheeled ground vehicles, specifically Abrams Main Battle Tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, Combat Vehicle Prototype, and Next Generation Combat Vehicle.
TARDEC is continuously seeking the latest technologies to affordably and effectively enhance vehicle and crew survivability for existing and future ground vehicle systems. This collaboration with Mettle Ops will assist TARDEC in achieving its goals.
“Our chief goal is to serve the warfighter.  Survivability effort deals like this provide soldiers with equipment that protects them better in wartime environments,” Bigelow said.
Both organizations are committed to providing consumers with high-quality, efficient products with safety as the number one priority.

What are the Characteristics of a Good Performance Parameter?

does not equal sign.png

Too often today, legacy performance requirements are invoked on new military ground vehicle programs without giving any thought to whether they will result in a suitable capability or not.  It is assumed that by invoking legacy requirements from the M1 or Bradley, that a new vehicle program will enjoy comparable performance.  That is simply not the case.

So, if available legacy performance requirements are insufficient to ensure suitable operational capability, what characteristics need to be considered for updated performance parameters?  There are a few.  

First and foremost, each invoked performance metric should be operationally relevant.  That means that metrics should assess capabilities required to complete an operational mission; not simply testing for testing sake.  One example of this type of outdated metric is the ability to ascend and descend a paved 60% grade.  Paved 60% surfaces occur nowhere except at test facilities.  Paved roads grades are typically capped at no more than 8%, but may have short stretches up to 15% grades; well below the typical legacy test requirement for military vehicles. It is understood that military vehicles should be able to traverse terrain that may not be passable by commercial vehicles.  So, is there a better way to assess a military vehicle’s capability to ascend and descend grades?  The answer is ‘Yes”.  Instead of evaluating a vehicle’s grade climbing ability on a dry solid surface, it would be more operationally relevant to assess that capability on natural soil.  

Another feature of good performance parameters is a metric that assesses multiple vehicle features with a single test.  An example of a multidimensional metric is speed on grade.  This parameter considers such features as torque available at the drive sprocket or wheel hubs, capability of the cooling system to stay within operating temperature limits when under load for an extended time and transmission gear ratios and shift points.

The last key feature of good metrics is those that are unambiguous.  Good metrics identify test conditions such as weight (curb, gross vehicle, or both), (air conditioning on or off), fuel type, air temperature, etc. as well as a detailed test procedure.

The bottom line is there are performance parameters that are much better suited to providing appropriate operational capabilities than those invoked on many legacy vehicle systems.  Requirement developers and testers need to try and avoid simply plagiarizing metrics from previous programs and ask themselves “Is there a better way?’

Guest Blog Written By:
Bill Ross, Sr. Mobility Systems Engineer
Nevada Automotive Test Center