INDIAN HEAD, Md. – Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division (NSWC IHD) recognized individuals and teams who made significant contributions to the command’s mission at the annual Honorary Awards ceremony, May 17 at the College of Southern Maryland’s Velocity Center.
“One thing my senior enlisted master chief mentors from my Navy career taught me is the importance of proper recognition of your people when they do a good job and lean in hard to get the job done,” NSWC IHD Commanding Officer Capt. Eric Correll said. “That is what we are here to do today; whether a simple pat on the back or a Bravo Zulu, a coin or a medal, or bringing a large number of the group together to be able to formally honor and recognize through our annual Honorary Awards program. I am very proud and honored to serve with all of you.”
Command leadership presented 18 Honorary Awards to recognize the significant contributions of more than 100 employees.
ROGER M. SMITH TEAM AWARD: Roger Smith, NSWC IHD technical director from October 1989 until his death in February 1999, believed the ability to work as a team was the key to continued success. This award recognizes team efforts to improve the command’s performance and effectiveness in providing products and services to meet customer requirements. Presented to the PBXIH-143 team: Timothy Appleby, Thomas Breen, Jock Brewer, Thomas Byerley, David Clark, Dale Cornette, Joseph Craven, Nicholas Falcone, David Fuller, Sean Hancock, Johnnie Hart, Dr. Darlene Galloza Lorenzo, Dr. Anne Haslam, Darryell Johnson, Christina Kasmer, Emily Leitsch, John Luense, William Marks, William McConnell, George McDaniel, Thomas McGrath, Dr. Joseph Olles, Samuel Paras, Erik Saar, Gabrielle Sandy, Stephen Stiles, Garvin Thomas, Melvin Thomas, Dr. Francis Vangessel, John Van Kirk, Daniela Wagus, Mark Williams and Travis Yon. The realization of a new underwater explosive is a once in a generation event, and the path to qualify the first new underwater explosive in decades required expertise from across the organization. With a harmonious team from the Safety Office and the Systems Engineering; Energetics Manufacturing; Research, Development, and Test and Evaluation Departments; the PBXIH-143 team demonstrated a producible underwater explosive with significantly more output than its predecessors. PBXIH-143, slated for qualification in FY23, will improve the lethality of the U.S. Navy’s torpedoes and mines.
EXCELLENCE IN SAFETY AWARD: This award recognizes an individual or group who made a significant effort to enhance safe work practices in their area. Presented to Alexis Leaf, who has been the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Department’s go-to safety representative for many years, and in the past year has gone above and beyond with new responsibilities and contributions to both the department and command. Leaf recently took on the role of the Safety Review Committee Rapid Improvement Event chairperson, where she led a diverse team which had diverging interests and needs. As the department’s Safety Technical Rigor Pillar representative and Safety Committee Chair, Leaf’s dedication to ensuring both workplaces and processes are safe and efficient has benefitted both the department and the command.
EXCELLENCE IN SYSTEMS ENGINEERING AWARD: This award recognizes excellence in systems engineering proficiency as applied to execution of roles within projects or improvements to corporate pillar area processes, tools, metrics and knowledge and awarded to an individual or group who demonstrate an ability to implement a high degree of technical proficiency in systems engineering to ensure the most effective and efficient methods, tools and proficiency are applied. Presented to Todd Rininger, Maritime System Safety Branch team lead, whose tireless work, technical rigor and selfless contributions have significantly contributed to the success and safety of NSWC IHD, the Systems Engineering Department and the fleet. Rininger is recognized for his tireless work over the last year, in both official, acting managerial capacities and voluntarily as team lead, to assist the Energetics Systems and System Safety management and staff in the transition to the System Safety Division and subordinate branches.
EXCELLENCE IN QUALITY EXECUTION AWARD: This award recognizes excellence in applying quality program proficiency during execution as it relates to our quality control systems. Excellence in quality is essential to realizing consistent delivery and demand for our products and services. Presented to Kelly Maguire, who voluntarily stepped into the role of Lab Quality Manager for the Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) Department’s Applied Analytical Laboratory, and led efforts to establish and improve the quality program. Over the past year, Maguire was integral in establishing, maintaining and enforcing the needs for the command’s quality pillar, resulting in improvements to the program and fulfilled NSWC IHD’s commitment to become ISO 17025 compliant.
EXCELLENCE IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT AWARD: Project management is the application of leadership, communication and technical rigor — processes, tools, templates and personnel proficiency — to successfully execute project activities to meet organizational and customer expectations. Behind every high quality project is a project manager who is responsible for motivating project teams and accomplishing project objectives to safely deliver quality products or services that meet customer technical requirements within budget and schedule using effective and efficient methods to execute this disciplined pillar role. Presented to Dr. Jill Phillips, Project Management Community of Practice lead, and Dr. Alfred Wooten, EOD Department’s Project Management Pillar lead, for their support to the department and the command. They were instrumental in furthering the project management process and rigor for the department and providing valuable contributions to the command’s Project Management Technical Rigor Pillar. Their continued efforts to find efficiencies within project management processes and provide documentation, training and useful resources for the department continue to make a lasting impact on EOD Department’s technical rigor in project management.
INTERNAL CUSTOMER SERVICE AWARD: This award recognizes an employee who has provided excellent service to internal customers. Presented to Austin Garruba for his support to the NSWC IHD travel community. Garruba receives regular accolades from travelers as he assists them in their endeavors. Garruba was also presented the Command Coin personally by Capt. Correll for taking an after-hours call where a traveler’s flight was cancelled with no available flights until the next day. He was able to help him so that he could get home in time to be with his family for the 4th of July holiday.
EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AWARD: This award recognizes the achievements of an individual or group who excelled in extending equal opportunity to those desiring federal employment or by assisting federal employees in achieving their highest potential and productivity. Presented to the Command Culture Working Group: Becky D’Ambrosio, Lisa Griffith, Michelle Hinkle, Johnna Robinson, Shari Thomas, Barbara Wagner and Stuart White. The team implemented a framework to drive a command culture that reflects NSWC IHD’s organizational tenets. They developed the content for culture continuous learning and identified and defined the command’s values and signature behaviors. The group also developed the culture campaign “Stronger Together” to promote and integrate the values and signature behaviors of NSWC IHD.
CONTINUOUS PROCESS IMPROVEMENT AWARD: This award recognizes efforts resulting in significant improvement made to administrative, business, or technical processes accomplished through Lean and/or Six Sigma, yielding benefits in cost, schedule, quality and/or risk. Presented to the EOD Publications Sub-Integrated Product Team (IPT) Leads Robert D. Breaux, Robin Breaux, Matthew Lohn and William R. Wilson, who served as the EOD Department leads for the SublPTs and co-led the efforts with representatives from PMS-408, with participation from other subject matter experts and the EOD service detachments. The leadership of their individual IPTs and integration of their solutions into a combined EOD publications prioritization engine and dashboard allowed for greater planning, execution and reporting of EOD publications.
CAPTAIN H. E. LACKEY AWARD FOR COMMUNITY SERVICE: Captain Henry E. Lackey was the NSWC IHD commanding officer from 1917-1920. This award is given to an individual or team who, on their own time, provides significant contributions to the community. Presented to Janine Van Niekerk, a member of the RDT&E Department’s Research and Development (R&D) Division, who has volunteered her time and support to “Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (oSTEM).” oSTEM’s mission is to empower LGBTQ+ people in STEM to succeed personally, academically and professionally by cultivating environments and communities that nurture innovation, leadership and advocacy. Van Niekerk has been involved with the organization for almost 10 years, beginning when she was in college. After graduation, she worked as the logistics chair for their annual conference, and shortly after, became their Director of Design. She is currently the Vice President of Marketing and Communications. This past year, Van Niekerk co-led a team to launch their first scholarship program, which provided $50,000 in scholarships to 11 LGBTQ+ students studying in a STEM field.
EXCELLENCE IN BUSINESS OPERATIONS: This award recognizes individuals whose performance or achievements in business operations are exceptional in nature, have resulted in a significant organizational contribution, and have exceeded expectations for what is required of the position. In general, the individual has helped evolve business operations with a focus on leveraging new opportunities, enhancing mission readiness and achieving execution excellence in the face of a rapidly changing warfighting environment. Presented to Eric Arcement, whose knowledge in Chemical, Biological, and Radiological (CBR) Defense demonstrate dedication and commitment as the RDT&E Department’s senior business and engineering manager supporting Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). He oversees the cost, quality and delivery of all NAVSEA chemical and biological defense commodity areas supported by nearly 50 government and over 100 contractor full-time employees across three warfare centers and in more than 10 locations around the world. Arcement’s efforts have been critical in ensuring that the use of CBR threats are never a determining factor during adversarial engagements but that they always provide the Navy with the advantage.
SPIRIT OF INDIAN HEAD AWARD – RISING STAR: This award recognizes an employee or student who has less than three years of employment with this command and has already contributed in a significant manner to our mission in their short time with us. The contribution can be proactive initiative to improve execution to include product and process, engagement in additional areas of interest of the command, drive to improve self and their work areas/efforts, and being in support of Indian Head as a whole. The employee/student is seen by many as a rising star. Presented to Gabrielle Sandy, who is a true rising star at NSWC IHD. This past year Sandy took the reigns as the lead test engineer for the Mark-54 MOD 2 torpedo program. Sandy stepped up to oversee the warhead test program, laying out plans for qualifying this advanced warhead in one of the Navy’s highest priority programs. One example of her effectiveness and drive to get the job done is stepping in when Northrop Grumman Defense 8 Systems needed support in the development and testing of the warhead Peripheral Initiator, a vital component used in warhead initiation.
SPIRIT OF INDIAN HEAD AWARD – THE EMERGING LEGEND: Recognizes an employee who is within 8-15 years of employment with Indian Head Division and who has directly made multiple, significant contributions to our mission in different areas of the command and DoD/DoN efforts for our mission. This can include increasing the discipline, proficiency, excellence, and benefit of the warfighter by taking details to key offices, transfers to multiple areas across the command, and supporting and focusing on excelling the Indian Head mission. The employee is distinguished as having the potential of being a future senior leader by peers and senior leadership. Presented to Dr. Demitrios Stamatis, who has grown into an emerging legend during his tenure at the command. As a senior scientist in material effects, Stamatis has built novel capabilities, mentored less experienced employees, and contributed to countless energetics research programs at NSWC IHD since he began as an American Society of Engineering Education postdoctoral researcher in 2011. Since then, he spearheaded research efforts relating to chemical and biological weapon neutralization, reactive materials and metal powder formulations. He recently helped develop shock initiation experiments on polymer bound explosives using light gas gun interrogated with ultrafast emission spectroscopy. Stamatis has published a total of 13 peer-reviewed journal articles and one patent during his career and received two awards, one of which commended him for his efforts to ensure a coworker’s safety after a worksite injury. The leadership of these efforts has required him to work collaboratively both inside and outside of NSWC IHD, and he regularly interacts with scientists at other warfare centers in addition to academia and industry. Aside from his scientific endeavors, Stamatis has also excelled in mentorship of less experienced employees. He is unmatched in his ability to motivate, guide and support those around him and serves as an example of outstanding character.
SPIRIT OF INDIAN HEAD AWARD — THE LEGEND: Recognizes an employee who has served the Indian Head mission for 25 years or more and has made repeated and significant impacts to the mission’s execution and workforce. Employee has directly made multiple, significant contributions to the Indian Head mission by influencing not only Indian Head aspects, but also DON and/or DoD related mission areas. Employee has served internally and externally, representing the command and its mission with the highest proficiency and professionalism. Employee is distinguished as a senior leader by peers in senior leadership, the command, and the workforce. Lasting impact and legacy of employee’s career contributions is evident for the betterment of our mission execution now and into the future. Presented to Gary Williams, who has dedicated his career in loyal support of the command and its mission. Williams started working for the command in 1972 in the Electronics Department as an electronics apprentice. As a journeyman, Williams routinely operated beyond his grade by making quick and correct decisions in troubleshooting electronic instrumentation to minimize costly downtime of equipment in the Ordnance Department at the then Naval Ordnance Station. As the Ordnance Electronics Manufacturing branch manager, he provides the necessary framework to encourage growth, stability and quality products. Williams is a living legend who has provided quality products to our warfighters across the fleet for nearly five decades. His knowledge of ordnance electronics systems is unmatched; his stalwart focus, keen problem solving mind and singular drive to support the warfighter through these systems is precisely what a career NSWC IHD professional should represent.
A.J. PERK OUTSTANDING OPERATOR/TECHNICIAN OF THE YEAR: During his long tenure at the command, A.J. Perk was devoted to providing customers with excellent products and services by “doing the job right.” He was fair, firm, decisive and cared about employee interests. This award recognizes a model employee who serves as an example to others. This award is presented to Johnnie Hart, who is the highest level senior operator and subject matter expert on all Explosives & Energetics Division’s vertical mixing and grinding operations. He has been a vital source of information during hazards analyses and the lead training resource for many operators, technicians and engineers in mixing and grinding. Hart has long been the most valuable resource in the cast plant. His depth and breadth of knowledge have helped train many new operators and engineers and has been vital to all cast composite projects. Hart can be counted on to go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the work is done right.
This award is also presented to Shane M. Buzby, who fixes operational and compliance issues in the Cartridge Actuated Devices test area, which regularly conducts urgent and mission critical test and evaluation. Buzby does the right thing even when no one is watching and is dedicated to serving the warfighter to the best of his ability. He has empowered other senior technicians and set the example for younger technicians who aspire to be leaders one day.
ADMIRAL HAROLD R. STARK AWARD FOR INNOVATION: As the Naval Inspector of Ordnance in charge of the Naval Proving Grounds, Dahlgren, Virginia, and the Naval Powder Factory, Indian Head, Maryland, Admiral Harold R. Stark became the Chief of Naval Operations in 1939. This award recognizes an individual or group who advances the state-of-the-art in their field of endeavor. Presented to the Research and Prototype for IED Defeat (RAPID) Team: Valja Collingwood, Lee Foltz and Chad Smith. It recognizes their assistance to the RAPID program to develop tools and techniques for countering improvised explosive devices (IED). The D Department team members created a new methodology in developing tactics and techniques by creating a circuit analysis construct, enabling an EOD technician to quickly identify and interpret complex IED circuitry with ease. Their efforts have greatly enhanced the EOD warfighter’s as well as the Public Safety Bomb Disposal technician’s chances for success in defeating improvised threats.
JOE L. BROWNING AWARD FOR MANAGERIAL EXCELLENCE: Joe L. Browning was NSWC IHD’s first Technical Director from 1962 – 1975. This award recognizes an individual who demonstrates innovative leadership principles and management skills of coaching and teaming in the development of personnel and their accomplishments. Presented to Sara Gunderson, Deputy Comptroller, who is a visionary that freely shares her innovative perspectives for the Comptroller Department, the command, Warfare Centers Headquarters and the Navy’s mission. Gunderson’s assistance to the Comptroller in the planning and administration of the department is unparalleled, and she excels at making daily operational decisions as well as periodic complex strategic decisions. Gunderson creates a work environment that motivates personnel to excel in their jobs and participate in problem solving sessions.
DR. GEORGE W. PATTERSON AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACCOMPLISHMENT: As chief chemist and powder expert, Dr. George Patterson is remembered for his work during his 41-year tenure, including developing smokeless and flashless gun powders. This award honors an individual for outstanding technical accomplishment supporting the command mission and advancing some area of technology. Presented to Terrence Connell, who was able to establish a new, much needed capability at NSWC IHD in 2021: a ramjet test stand that delivers high enthalpy air to a propulsion device that replicates supersonic flight in the Mach 2-3 range. The new facility that Connell designed and built allows NSWC IHD scientists to study ramjet performance under supersonic conditions. In the face of tremendous adversity, including a world-wide pandemic, supply chain shortages, contactor delays and a damaging electrical storm, Connell coordinated the initial calibration and equipment maintenance with contractors who supplied the industrial-grade equipment and assembled and performed all the work himself, putting in long days to teach himself how to use the new capability. Connell was driven to accomplish the mission at NSWC IHD despite the adversity he faced in order to give the warfighter every advantage.
ROBERT B. DASHIELL AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE: Ensign Robert B. Dashiell was NSWC IHD’s first commanding officer and is known for establishing the facility, including supervision of building and acquisition of staff and materials. He was also a specialist in gun mechanical design and invented the Dashiell rapid-fire breech. This award honors an individual who within the past year has made a significant contribution to the mission or operation of the activity. Presented to Craig Pilecki, the Principal for Safety for USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Weapons and Explosives Integration, whose efforts have ensured the risk of injury or death to the fleet or platform is as low as possible. Pilecki demonstrated exceptional ability and performance while supporting the Gerald R. Ford’s Advanced Weapons Elevator program, maintaining an extremely difficult schedule and providing recommended mitigations to reduce high risks to the Gerald R. Ford’s ship’s force. Pilecki has demonstrated an exceptional ability to solve significant problems and meet difficult schedules on a new, technologically advanced system.
NSWC IHD — a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command and part of the Navy’s Science and Engineering Establishment — is the leader in ordnance, energetics, and EOD solutions. The Division focuses on energetics research, development, testing, evaluation, in-service support, manufacturing and disposal; and provides warfighters solutions to detect, locate, access, identify, render safe, recover, exploit and dispose of explosive ordnance threats.