Profiles in Test: Steve Sargeant, CEO of Marvin Test Solutions

-September 13, 2013

Anyone working in the mil/aero market knows it has unique testing needs, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Steve Sargeant, CEO of Marvin Test Solutions and a retired Major General in the US Air Force (USAF) to talk about how mil/aero test has changed, and how much farther it needs to go.

(Ret.) Maj. Gen. Steve Sargeant was named CEO of Marvin Test Solutions in 2012. A 1978 USAF Academy graduate, his military career culminated as the commander of the Air Force Operations Test and Evaluation Centre, and he retired from the USAF in January 2012 at the rank of Major General. A few months ago, I met Steve for a cup of tea where we talked about the changes at Marvin Test Solutions as well as his career in test. He was incredibly engaging and obligingly answered all of my questions about mil/aero field test, like where is the depot? What does it look like? Without hesitation, I asked him to participate in this month’s Profiles in Test!

Janine: What did you ‘train’ as in your college career and early Air Force career?
I was an Air Force Academy graduate with a major in national security and international affairs. Then, I learned how to fly and was flying brand new fighter jets where we were still making modifications to the acquisition system. Then I applied to the USAF weapons school, where I received a master’s level education in tactics, armament, and weapons. This led to me becoming the chief instructor pilot for weapons. When I returned, I stayed in the weapons school, and eventually led it. Our tactics were proven in Kosovo and the 1st and 2nd Gulf Wars. Basically, we stretched the limits of technologies in order to match the capability of the airplanes.

Janine: How did you get involved with test?
I was selected to run the Air Force Operations & Testing Command, consisting of joint services and coalition partners, and defense primes. We had to acquire developmental tests. Because of my weapon and ops experience, I was able to interact with the test core to make sure they had what they needed in the field.

Janine: Why did you first get into this career?
My father was a Korean War vet in the Air Force. He, however, was the most surprised when I said I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy. He was pleased as well! Basically, I wanted to fly. (Steve's on the far right in the image below. Note the huge smile!)

Janine: What synergies have you found between your experience in the military and your role at Marvin Test Solutions?
Knowing all of the players is very useful. And, knowing how the players interact is crucial. I understand the acquisition process in the defense industry and how we interact as a supplier. I’ve been able to leverage my domain expertise, including developmental and operational test, as well as my experience as a weapons officer.

Janine: What do you find fascinating about engineering/test?
It is exciting to hear from young airmen/soldiers what they are trying to do to maintain something they love: airplane, helicopter, etc. They turn to our engineers with their problems, and then I get to watch the “wheels start grinding.” Our engineers start to frame a solution, and then they stop and ask lots of questions about the deployments. That’s a really nice thing about Marvin Test Solutions, I get to see engineers make that solution real. They are making the test (maintenance, sustainment, production test) easier.
Next: Surprises?

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