WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- In 2015, the top implementers of Lean and Six Sigma across the Army yielded a cost savings or avoidance of some $1.1 billion dollars. In theory, that savings could enhance Army readiness by funding about 44 infantry brigade combat team rotations at one of the Army's combat training centers, at a cost of $25 million each.

Under Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy presided over the awards ceremony for the 2015 Army Lean Six Sigma Excellence Awards Program, known as LEAP, held on Wednesday, Sept. 14, in the Pentagon. A total of 10 awards were given, though two organizations, 21st Theater Sustainment Command and Corpus Christie Army Depot, each took home two awards.

Murphy said that of the 1,374 projects submitted for consideration, the 10 projects chosen as winners yielded some $1.1 billion in cost savings to the Army.

"You are all getting after it, on behalf of our Soldiers," he said. "It makes such an incredible difference. And we are so incredibly grateful."

Murphy, a one-time congressman from Pennsylvania who is familiar with government funding, said in recent years the Army budget has been cut dramatically. When he left office as a congressman in early 2011, he said, the Army budget was about $240 billion. The enacted Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which the Army operates under now, is $148 billion. That's a reduction of about $92 billion.

Today, he said, the operations tempo for the Army is still high, adding, "[But] we are going to have to do more with less," he told Lean and Six Sigma practitioners who attended the awards ceremony. "What you are doing to do more with less, and what you are doing to lead by example -- is just awesome."

CW4 Ronald Baird of the Indiana National Guard attended the awards and was himself an award recipient. He won the award for his leadership on a project to reduce costs associated with the purchase of wet cell batteries for tactical vehicles.

"We were able to do the data analysis to expand the life expectancy of the batteries," he said.

He and his team found that the wet cell batteries in their tactical vehicles were losing their charges as a result of not being properly maintained. As a result, he said, units had to buy new batteries. That came at a substantial cost to the Indiana National Guard.

Baird explained that by using solar chargers, they could maintain fully charged vehicle batteries all the time and avoid the cost of new batteries. Additionally, they changed the type of batteries they used to gel-filled versions. Those, he said, are also more environmentally friendly.

"Not only did we save money but we reduced the environmental impact, because there's no more hazardous waste with these types of batteries," Baird said.

Additionally, the gel-filled versions are more robust and ready to go at lower operating temperatures than wet cell batteries. That, he said, increases unit readiness.

Of the award, he said, "It's a team effort. I appreciate the guys back in Indiana that helped. This was outstanding. It not only shows we're able to go fight the fight but also save money for our citizens."

Dr. Donna Whittaker serves as the Lean Six Sigma deployment director of Army Medical Command, one of the award recipients for Lean and Six Sigma programs in 2015.

Whittaker said she believes MEDCOM's Master "Black Belt" training program contributed to MEDCOM's recognition this year. A "black belt" designates the highest level of expertise in the implementation of Six Sigma process improvement.

"We have a training program that's really second to none for our master black belts," she said. While Headquarters Department of the Army actually trains Six Sigma black belts, she said, MEDCOM's program is meant to prepare those who will attend that training.

As a result of preparation within the MEDCOM course, she said, there were "zero failures on the master black belt exam."

According to Whittaker, this is the second year in a row that MEDCOM has received a Lean and Six Sigma award.

"It really validates that we have a strong program and we are really focused on improvement and innovation," she said.

Whittaker also cited Angela Koelsch as contributing to MEDCOM's success. Both Whittaker and Koelsch serve as co-directors of MEDCOM's Lean Six Sigma deployment program.

The 2015 Lean Six Sigma Excellence Award Program winners are:

-- The 2015 Lean Six Sigma Headquarters Department of the Army Principal Staff Organizational Deployment Award: Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Accepting the award were Fred Moreno, acting deployment director, and Dr. Beverly Knapp, acting director, human systems integration.

-- The 2015 Lean Six Sigma AR 10-87 Organizational Deployment Award: U.S. Army Medical Command. Accepting the award were Dr. Donna Whittaker, MEDCOM Lean Six Sigma deployment director and Robert Goodman, MEDCOM chief of staff.

-- The 2015 Lean Six Sigma Subordinate Organizational Deployment Award: 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army European Command. Accepting the award was Lt. Col. Chris Bachmann.

-- The 2015 Lean Six Sigma Excellence Award Program Process Improvement Project Team Excellence Award, non-Enterprise Level, Black Belt: 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army European Command. Accepting the award was Lt. Col. Chris Bachmann.

-- The 2015 Lean Six Sigma Excellence Award Program Process Improvement Project Team Excellence Award, non-Enterprise Level, Black Belt: Abrams Program, Ground Combat Systems Program Executive Office. Accepting the award were Larry Marino, team lead, and Andrew DiMarco, project director.

-- The 2015 Lean Six Sigma Excellence Award Project Team Award, non-Enterprise Level, Green Belt: Aberdeen Test Center of the Army Test and Evaluation Command. Accepting the award was Tracy Sheppard, director, survivability and lethality.

-- The 2015 Lean Six Sigma Excellence Award Project Team Award, non-Enterprise Level, Green Belt: Corpus Christie Army Depot, Army Materiel Command. Accepting the award were Pamela R. Janek, team lead, and Mark Wagner of Aviation and Missile Command.

-- The 2015 Lean Six Sigma Excellence Award Project Team Award, non-Enterprise Level, non-gated: Corpus Christie Army Depot, Army Materiel Command. Accepting the award were Eric Andreas and Mark Wagner of Aviation and Missile Command.

-- The 2015 Lean Six Sigma Excellence Award Project Team Award, non-Enterprise Level, non-gated: Program Executive Office -- Simulation, Training and Instrumentation. Accepting the award were Dr. Jeremy Lanman, team lead, and Col. Timothy Domke, program manager.

-- The 2015 Lean Six Sigma Excellence Award Project Team Award, non-Enterprise Level, non-gated: Army National Guard. Accepting the award were CW4 Ronald Baird, project lead, Brig. Gen. Wayne Black, assistant adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard, and Col. Christopher Michael Pfaff, with the Indiana National Guard J-5.