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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Nov. 3, 2022

Problems with an electronics system? Do this first

By Senior Chief Petty Officer Christopher Tanner and Senior Chief Petty Officer Shelldon Green

When an electronics system fails on a cutter, where’s the first place you should turn for help? 

If you guessed the Miniature Microminiature/Module Test Repair (2M/MTR) lab, take a bow. This program – which often allows units to quickly diagnose and fix such problems – is available on nearly every cutter. It’s also a proven success: in 2022, alone, 2M/MTR helped the Coast Guard avoid $2 million in costs for repairs and lost operational availability.  

Unfortunately, units still often fail to use it. 

 “It’s been around forever, but it isn’t properly utilized,” says Senior Chief Petty Officer Shelldon Green.  

Green and Senior Chief Petty Officer Chris Tanner, the 2M/MTR program managers, are on a mission to change that. “We want to remind people that this might be a way to fix the problem you’re having in-house and to do it more cheaply.“   

When something goes wrong with the hull, mechanical, or electrical systems on a cutter, it’s often due to a faulty circuit card assembly (CCA). One option is to have the CCA – a flat board with connected electronics components – replaced or repaired by a Navy depot facility. This is expensive, however, and takes time, which can result in logistical delays and equipment down time that impact operational readiness.  

The Coast Guard adopted 2M/MTR from the Navy to improve self-sufficiency by helping units diagnose and repair these defective cards and electronics modules on site. The system provides a suite of programs (the MTR), which are loaded into a computer onboard. While a proficient technician can reliably screen cards for faults or failed components, this software speeds up the process. Once the problem is identified, the cards are turned over to certified technicians who have been trained and given the proper tools to repair them at an in-house lab (the 2M part). 

If the repairing the CCA is beyond the ship’s capability, afloat technicians should send it to the local Weapons Augmentation Team (WAT), which can handle more complex issues. Either way, by keeping diagnosis and repairs within the Coast Guard, a part that might have taken several months to fix, could be back in weeks, for a fraction of the cost. The 2M/MTR program is also effective on shore, where it has helped the Coast Guard resolve electronics issues with Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Cyber, and Intelligence (C5I) functions. 

“This program allows us to make repairs at the lowest level,” Green said. In fact, it’s policy (CI 4790.2) for all cutters to screen a card before they decide they need to replace it. “It’s much better for the Coast Guard to pay 60 cents to replace a bad resistor than having to buy a $10,000 new card or to discover a card has no failure evident (NFE) before sending it out.” 

Technicians must complete Miniature and Module Test Repair training at Training Center Yorktown to be certified to use 2M/MTR.  They also may qualify for incentives. The Navy awards every Navy and Coast Guard 2M repair technician that meets the cost avoidance thresholds a Navy Letter of Commendation and a military cash award of up to $5,000. MTR technicians can also earn a military cash award for developing test routines for the database. In Jan 2022, Adm. Karl Schultz praised Petty Officer 1st Class David Chaffin, an electronics technician assigned to the Weapons Augmentation Team (WAT) Charleston in for repairing a circuit card for $2 that would have cost $23,000 to replace. 

At a time when cutters are operating far past their expected lifespans, 2M/MTR is one of the most valuable tools the Coast Guard has for maintaining and sustaining its fleet. Used properly, it has been proven to save money and time, which improves operational ability. 


2M/MTR at a glance: 

What it does: Diagnoses and repairs circuit card assemblies and electronic modules that are often the source of problems. 

Where it’s used:  WMEC, WMSL, Weapons Augmentation Teams (WAT), Electronics Support Detachments, Electronic Repair Facility (ERF) Baltimore, and Aviation Logistic Center (ALC) Elizabeth City are equipped with capabilities to troubleshoot complex systems and the ability to screen and repair faulty circuit card assemblies (CCAs) and electronic modules (EM).