PLATTSBURGH -- The enemy was staring Cpl. Steven Micanko in the face.
Hunched over a microscope, the 22-year-old Peru native peered through the lens, searching for a blown fuse or bent capacitor that had crippled a piece of his U.S. Marine Corps unit's equipment.
As a micro miniature technician serving at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Micanko is tasked with servicing the circuit cards that power the equipment of his II Marine Expeditionary Force.
While the fixes are small, the savings they generate are enormous: parts that cost $800 to $6,000 to replace can be repaired for as little as 21 cents.
But Micanko wasn't thinking about that as he worked his way through 41 card repairs from January to March of this year.
"I was just doing what I do on a daily basis," he said in a recent phone interview.
It wasn't until he was called into the office of Brig. Gen. Robert F. Castellvi that Micanko learned he had saved the Marines $116,874.79 through his repair work.
That was enough to earn the young man a Gold Disk Award recognizing outstanding cost savings for component-level repairs for April 2015.
He was told the last time a Marine had won the award was in 2012 at Camp Pendleton in California.
"Mostly the Navy micro maintenance technicians win the award because they work on more high-dollar circuit cards," Micanko said.
He was also presented with $2,000 in cash and a letter of commendation from Vice Admiral P.H. Cullom, deputy chief of naval operations.
It was an astounding honor for what Micanko said often felt like business as usual around the repair shop.
"It was more monotonous than anything else," he said.
But he felt the award did reinforce the importance in any job of staying focused through the more tedious work and learning and memorizing the details of one's tasks.
It was being able to quickly recognize, sort and solve common problems that let him repair that many cards in that amount of time, he said.
"The more I can learn about the gear I'm working on, the better I can pass on that knowledge and make my job become easier," he said.
Micanko never needs to be told to study up on his work, his repair supervisor, Cpl. Philip McElroy, said.
"Any aspect of the job he's trying to improve on, even if it's outside of his regular work," he said.
That tinkering spirit was largely passed down to Micanko by his grandfather, the late Steve Micanko, who had also served in the armed forces as an Air Force mechanic.
Steven remembers his grandfather letting him help repair cords for battery chargers and power tools.
"He was always big into fixing it yourself rather than having to pay someone to fix it," he said.
Steven said he still finds himself offering repair services to friends.
"A few people will come over and tell me, 'Hey, I have a broken XBox or broken charging cable,'" he said.
That Steven took an engineering position in the Marines came as a surprise to Dana Poirier, Security and Law Enforcement Academy instructor at CV-TEC in Plattsburgh.
Unaware of his technical interests, Poirier had thought Steven might pursue the path of military police.
What wasn't surprising, he said, was that his former student would be recognized for his discipline and hard work.
Through the student promotion system, Steven achieved the rank of class supervisor, which tasked him with scheduling and overseeing various student activities.
"Pretty much when a kid ends up in charge around here, they're in charge," Poirier said.
At his 2012 graduation, Steven was named both outstanding student in his law-enforcement class and most outstanding student overall for the Class of 2012.
"I think anything he decides to do, he's going to be successful at it," Poirier said.
RUMORS OF CUTBACKS
But those practical skills, said Steven's stepfather, Bob Fleury, are especially valuable to his stepson's future.
"He's in a field he can do even when he gets out of (the service)," he said.
A retired Marine corporal, Fleury said he was proud to see Steven follow him into the military.
He is also proud to see Steven offering guidance to others in his unit.
"He's been doing training in the shop, teaching the other guys how to do the work he's been doing," he said.
Steven has heard rumors that micro maintenance may see training cutbacks, but he hopes news of the Gold Disk Award highlights the position's value.
"Over time, one Marine can save the Marine Corps hundreds of thousands of dollars just with that training," he said.