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San Diego, CA - Group photo of BENFOLD Sailors and SPAWAR scientists. (Photo by LTJG Kaitlin O’Donnell)
USS Benfold Sailors Visit SPAWAR to Foster Relationships, Concoct Solutions
By Ensign Dane Boudreau, USS Benfold Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO - A group of USS Benfold’s (DDG 65) most innovative and proactive thinkers recently mustered at Point Loma, Calif., to collaborate with a group of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SPAWAR) scientists.

Benfold Sailors shared their experience about the Navy and shipboard life and gained exposure to the state-of-the-art scientific efforts being applied to developing war-fighting systems.

The group of visiting Sailors and officers was greeted by SPAWAR shipmates Roger Voss and Josh Kvavle.

Voss opened the day with a brief introduction to the inner-workings of SPAWAR, illustrating SPAWAR’s “striking similarity to small business,” followed by Benfold’s Lt. j.g. Kaitlin O’Donnell’s presentation of naval fundamentals; the rank structure, chain of command, and ship’s routine. Later, conference participants split into groups to tour SPAWAR’s incredible laboratory facilities nestled in the beautiful Point Loma cliffs.

Following the tour, Benfold Sailors and SPAWAR scientists sat down together and discussed solutions for the technical problems plaguing the Navy.

“Engineers and scientists love nothing more than to solve problems,” said Kvavle. “But [they] need the experiences of Sailors to bridge the gap between the laboratory and the ships at sea to provide practical war-fighting solutions.”

The Benfold group immediately rose to the occasion and provided scientists and engineers with insights and suggestions for viable solutions to current problems that would not require replacing existing systems.

During an open forum discussion, Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Crystal Ochoa focused on the user interface for the Tomahawk waypoint plotting software.

“If it was possible to simply improve the user interface on the console there would be drastic improvements in firing times,” said Ochoa.

As the open forum came to a close, Sailors and scientists paired up to focus on the specific problems faced by individual sailors and came up with solutions tailored to the expertise of their SPAWAR counterparts. The groups were encouraged not to dwell on the problem itself or any one solution, but to explore the entire realm of possibilities regardless of feasibility.

This tactic afforded each group an un-stifled creative environment as they advanced toward an ultimate solution, which they would eventually have to pitch to the entire conference in only two minutes. By the time a 30 minute timer expired, the groups had conceived innovative solutions to specific problems, and developed abstract mock-ups of the solution constructed from a variety of provided crafts materials.

The resulting projects were astounding. Chief Fire Controlman (SW) Barry Adams teamed up with a computer scientist to create the most popular solution to a problem, described by Adams as “the collapsing bubble effect,” that takes place during contact tracking in the Combat Information Center.

To ensure constant situational awareness, Adams and his partner designed virtual reality goggles that allowed the user to look in every directional axis and track and mark contacts.

By the end of the last presentation, everyone in attendance was thoroughly excited by the new possibilities for the Navy and the relationships they had formed through the solution-finding process.

“This is what I come to work for; to improve the strength of the Navy and the lives of its Sailors,” said Kvavle during his closing remarks.

“What blew me away today was the immediate yet genuine collaboration between sailors and scientists. We have some very junior folks here that are providing insightful, innovative ideas,” said Cmdr. Rich LeBron, Benfold’s commanding officer. “We stress to the crew that rank has nothing to do with good ideas; innovation doesn’t care how many years of service someone has. I think today’s interaction with SPAWAR proves the viability of that mindset.”

Benfold is currently undergoing a CNO availability in the ship’s homeport of San Diego. Those interested in getting involved in the innovative process or participate in the next Athena project should contact
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