An employee of the Crane Division’s Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC Crane) received the Department of the Navy (DoN) Superior Civilian Service Award (SCSA), the second highest honorary award in the DoN.

Alan Matthews, the SCSA recipient, was recognized for his excellence as Program Manager Infantry Weapons (PM IW) Test Manager, NSWC Crane, November 2011 through August 2020. Matthews says the Marine Corps has been an integral part of his life.

“After 30 years of service, I retired from active duty as Chief Warrant Officer 5 in the Marine Corps,” said Matthews. “I joined when I was 17. I’ve always looked after my marines. As a test manager for PM IW, I can continue to look after my Marines throughout the Marine Corps. ” ((Figure 1: Al Matthews, Test Manager, PM IW during Squad Common Optic LUE)

His award ceremony states, “As a test manager in one of Marine Corps Systems Command’s most visible and dynamic program management offices for 9 years. [Matthews] planned, monitored, and conducted tests for multiple systems ranging from night vision devices to thermal systems to vehicle towers and weapons, and supported more than $ 390 million in program money. “

His award specifically recognizes his recent extensive efforts to conduct critical live-fire tests to identify potential problems with the relatively newer configuration of the M2 heavy-barreled machine gun, the M2A1. These tests took place over a period of three months at the end of 2019.

The M2 basic weapon has been a reliable weapon system for almost a hundred years. Image by CWO5 Al Matthews, 11th Marines Regimental Survey Officer in Kuwait(Figure 2: Image by CWO5 Al Matthews, 11th Marines Regimental Survey Officer in Kuwait)

“The heavy-barreled M2 machine gun, known as the Ma Deuce, has been a favorite of war fighters of all services in every conflict since World War II,” says Matthews. “With the exception of the M1911 .45 caliber pistol, it has been in use longer than any other service weapon. When we started looking for M2A1 serial numbers, many of the receivers from WWII were still in use. The receiver for the M2 machine gun has been modified several times. Some of the first manufacturers of the M2 machine gun during World War II were the Singer Sewing Machine Company and an elevator company. American companies across industry changed their production lines to support the war effort during World War II. “

According to Matthews, the M2A1 configuration was a change for the operator.

“The M2A1 is the primary heavy machine gun for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) services and organization,” says Matthews. “With the M2 Heavy Barrel Machine Gun, the operator manually adjusted the headspace and timing. The M2A1 was a big change from the base weapon as the operator no longer adjusted the headspace and timing. The two-phase test was critical to understanding the root cause of the malfunctions occurring with the M2A1. ”

The NSWC Crane Small Arms Team was recognized in 2020 for these critical and responsive “one of a kind” efforts in support of the Marine Corps. Figure 2: Group photo with Col Stower (PfM GCES) at the SWAF during the M2A1 testMatthews, who led this team and initiative, executed the two-phase test plan in a short three-week planning window. (Figure 3: Group photo with Col Stower (PfM GCES) at the SWAF during the M2A1 test)

The quote continues: “[Matthews] performed the largest and first reliability and endurance test of its kind on the M2A1. [His] The management and analysis of the firing of 500,000 rounds have provided an understanding of the root cause of the malfunctions, assisted the development of a new maintenance strategy for the Marine Corps, and exponentially improved the reliability of the weapon system. [His] Test techniques ensure the safety of the warfighters using these critical weapon systems. “

Matthews says the recent tests have been challenging.

“Given that the Marine Corps had issued a security interruption to the M2A1’s live-fire operations, there was an urgent need to find out what was causing the malfunction,” says Matthews. “We had really smart people with us. There was a lot of research and historical data searching in the early analysis which helped us set up the test. The other part of the challenge was that, since it was urgently needed, we needed to find a place where the tests could be done in a timely manner. NSWC Crane offered PM IW the best options for timely support for a very complex test effort. “

In his 16 years testing Marine Corps equipment, he has performed dozens of tests for a variety of groups and weapon systems, including the Office of Naval Research, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, and the U.S. Special Operations Command. (Figure 4: M2A1 test setup)

“I collect data and run tests so decision makers can make the best decisions possible,” says Matthews. “Many of the devices I tested, including rifles, silencers, optics, and more, have been used in the Marine Corps. Almost every effort has resulted in new equipment being deployed, problems resolved, or valuable data captured so that decision makers can make difficult acquisition decisions about the cost, timing, and performance of the items being tested. “

Matthews attributes his success to group work. Figure 4: Al Matthews, Test Manager, PM Infantry Weapons, on the NDIA small arms demonstration day at AP Hill(Figure 5: Al Matthews, PM Infantry Weapons Test Manager, hosts NDIA Small Arms Demonstration Day in AP Hill)

“I like to quote a friend of mine in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who once said, ‘I’m like a turtle on a fence post; I didn’t come here alone. “Many people from the Marine Corps and NSWC Crane went to great lengths to complete this test and the many other tests I’ve done since I started testing Marine Corps systems in 2005. I may be the conductor, but I have an excellent orchestra that supports me in everything I do, both PM IW and Crane. It is important that Marines receive the best equipment in a timely and affordable manner. “

About NSWC Crane

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The Warfare Center is responsible for supporting technologies and systems that enhance the capabilities of today’s warfighter across multiple domains, multiple spectrums, and the entire life cycle.

Join our team! NAVSEA employs a diverse, well-educated, trained and skilled workforce – from students and entry-level professionals to seasoned professionals and people with disabilities. We support today’s sophisticated ships, aircraft, weapon systems, and computer systems of the Marine and Marine Corps. We’re constantly looking for engineers, scientists, IT and cyber specialists, and professionals in commerce and other fields to ensure the U.S. Navy can protect and defend America. Please contact NSWC Crane Human Resources at