NORFOLK (NNS) -- One of the most difficult things for new scientists to do is to figure out how to adapt science and technology to naval challenges from their desk. That tasking, however, is getting progressively easier with a new program called, Scientists Engaging Sailors.
Part of the Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) Workforce Development project for fiscal year 2016 hosted by Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic's Science and Technology competency, the program gives employees the opportunity to talk and interact with fleet Sailors during tours of ships and facilities at Naval Station Norfolk. The program is an ongoing effort to bring fleet experiences to SSC Atlantic employees who support naval projects, but do not normally work aboard ships.
Cmdr. Scott Thompson, SSC Atlantic Hampton Roads' Officer in Charge, helped develop the idea for the program about a year ago, while looking for a way to close the gap between concept and reality when it came to his organization's mission of rapidly delivering information warfare capabilities to the warfighter.
"[Scientists Engaging Sailors] gives employees a chance to get out from behind a desk, see what the Navy is really like, and go back to develop better products for our Sailors, who often work in more constrained environments in terms of manning, space and connectivity that are not experienced in a lab," Thompson said.
Thompson developed an agenda for the program consisting of recurring familiarization tours of various Navy vessels and facilities directly involved with SSC Atlantic's mission. The focus of the tours is to provide SSC Atlantic's civilian and military employees the opportunity to personally interact with the fleet Sailors they serve, and take that experience back with them to the workplace.
"We have included employees from a variety of competencies and each has said it was a positive experience. Over 30 civilian and military employees have attended since we started the program about a year ago, and we plan continue to facilitate more tours and events to further educate our workforce," Thompson said.
The most recent event, conducted April 12-13, brought together eight SSC Atlantic employees from the Hampton Roads Detachment and its main office in Charleston, South Carolina, for tours of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic (NCTAMS LANT), the Los Angeles class fast attack submarine USS John Warner (SSN 785), and the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3).
Two fellow Clemson University graduates, Matthew Csernica and Nicholas Loe, both SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic engineers based in Charleston, South Carolina, participated in the most recent 'Scientists' tour and found the experience rewarding and beneficial.
"A lot of what I work on involves sitting in a cubicle looking at a computer screen, and I'm fine with that, but this program actually gives us the opportunity to interface with those who are using the products SSC Atlantic is providing," said Csernica, who works in the Requirements and Systems of Systems Engineering competency. "I thought it was fantastic! It added a personal touch to things, and became a lot more real in a sense that the work that I'm doing is actually impacting people and having consequences."
Prior to their tours, the only ship either one had ever been on was the USS Yorktown (CV 10) aircraft carrier museum in Charleston.
"Probably the biggest highlight for me was the ship and sub tours... Especially the behind the scenes stuff like the Combat Information Center. That was really cool to see. It's something many only see in movies," said Loe, who works in the Land Systems Integration competency. "[The experience] gave an extra sense of diligence and importance to our work. It helped reinforce the need for us to do the work to the best of our ability because of how it directly impacts Sailors and Marines in the field."
The program is primarily focused on employees working in Engineering and Science and Technology competencies; however, program coordinators hope to expand the program in the future to all employees.
"I'd like for this to continue long term," said Robert Regal, principal investigator of NISE Workforce Development project for the fiscal year 2018 iteration of the Scientists Engaging Sailors program. "We've limited it to scientists and engineers who are young to SSC Atlantic and the Navy, but in the future, it would be nice to include a wider array of folks. Our Norfolk team can accommodate them, but we are budget limited right now. Next year, we will request more [funding] and expand the program, potentially even tying it into the new professional program."
SSC Atlantic is a Navy information technology (IT) and cyber engineering command that provides information warfare (IW) solutions to the warfighter. The SSC Atlantic team rapidly delivers and supports IW solutions that enable naval, joint, national and coalition warfighters. SSC Atlantic develops, acquires, and provides life cycle support for Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems, IT and Space Capabilities. A leading edge Navy engineering center, SSC Atlantic designs, builds, tests, fields and supports many of the finest frontline C4ISR systems in use today, and those being planned for the future.