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USMC innovation: How one sergeant changed the game with his invention

2nd Lt. Jorin Hollenbeak

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

When searching on the internet, dirt is defined as "a substance, such as mud or dust, that soils someone or something." However, for Marines, dirt is simply a coat of honor worn after a day, or more often, months' worth of hard work.

This same substance, "Dirt," is exactly what powdered off Sergeant John Evans, a U.S. Marine Corps Bulk Fuel Specialist with 7th Engineer Support Battalion (ESB), on each step taken as he walked back to his barracks room after a long stint in the field. Evans hung his uniform on the wall, took a shower, finally sat down to relax, and was immediately ambushed by a familiar feeling that often plagued his calmer hours... boredom.

However, in this specific moment of boredom, Evans opened Microsoft 3D paint and created an 11.24 MB file that would eventually evolve into a groundbreaking invention, improving productivity and safety for all bulk fuel specialists and water support technicians.

United States Marines are no strangers to innovation and problem-solving; Evans exemplifies this. The innovative device that Evans created can attach to any existing hose reel base unit. The device then allows one Marine to safely reel and unreel hoses, which usually takes three to four Marines.

Additionally, Evans's invention enables the Marine to stand at a safe distance of three to five feet from the hose reel base unit, improving safety and mitigating injuries immensely. Evans has already gone operational with a prototype model, saving his Marines from extra work and injuries.

The voyage Evans's original drafting underwent, from Microsoft Paint to implementation, is almost as miraculous as the invention itself. On the same night as its creation and eager to share his invention, Evans pitched his rough blueprints to his barracks duty.

"One of my Corporals was on barracks duty that night, and for my own amusement I went and pitched my blueprints to him." Evans said, "And as fate would have it, the officer of the day that night was a Warrant Officer who was in charge of the fabrication shop. He overheard my conversation and told me to let him know if I needed any help."

Sergeant John Evans, Marine, Innovator, and self-proclaimed small-town farm boy from the middle of nowhere, took that Warrant Officer up on his offer.

After coordination with the Warrant Officer and 7th ESB leadership, Evans briefed his invention to the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) command. The invention received full acceptance and approval from I MEF, and the construction of Evans's first prototype commenced.

Over the next two years, Evans worked diligently and tirelessly with the 1st Maintenance Company to create a working prototype. After much coordination and improvements of his blueprints, Evans Prototype was fabricated.

"I've researched roughly what it would cost to make my invention with aircraft aluminum, and I could easily make final product units for under $1,200." Said Evans, "Not only that but with this budget, higher quality supporting materials could be used, resulting in a durable and effective product that can be packed up and easily transported in the back of a car."

Innovation has always been at the forefront of Marine Corps tactics and training. As Marines strive towards the requirements of Force Design 2030, the Marine Corps has placed a focus on encouraging innovation as a means of adapting to ever-changing threats and environments.

At the heart of this effort is the Marine Corps Innovation Unit (MIU), which is composed of Marines and civilian innovators tasked with identifying new technologies and ideas that can help the Marine Corps achieve its goals. While technology certainly plays a role in innovation, the Marine Corps recognizes that the most powerful weapon at its disposal is the minds of its Marines, like Sergeant Evans.

Evans hopes his invention will be mass-produced and issued to each Bulk Fuel and Water Support Technician Unit. He intends for his innovation to enable Marines to do more with less and save them from the potentially severe injuries that traditional methods of reeling hoses can incur.


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