By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs
Retired Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport Deputy Technical Director Don Aker has earned the Department of the Navy Superior Civilian Service Award, the second highest honorary civilian award bestowed by the U.S. Navy. Aker retired on July 1, 2022, after 39 years of service to Division Newport and U.S. Navy.
“Aker distinguished himself as an exemplary technical leader and visionary who helped shape Division Newport’s highly skilled civilian workforce and develop a culture of innovation, collaboration, and excellence that is recognized throughout the Warfare Centers and the Navy,” the award states.
”His efforts to foster this culture of business and technical excellence and share division processes/best practices across the Warfare Center enterprise are his legacy.”
Aker, a resident of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, got his start at Division Newport when he was hired as a software programmer in the Surface Ship Sonar Department of the Naval Underwater Systems Center located in the New London, Connecticut detachment in June 1983. He transitioned to Newport as part of the 1992 Base Realignment and Closure and held a variety of positions during his tenure, including AN/SQQ-89 program manager from 1997-2000; head of the System Definition Division from 2000-02; and head of the Surface Undersea Warfare Department from 2002-04. He was selected as the Division’s technical operations manager in March 2004 and served until 2007.
He was also promoted to the rank of senior scientist technical manager (SSTM) and has served as deputy technical director since January 2007.
One of the highlights Aker’s career was hosting the Advanced Naval Tech Exercise (ANTX) from 2015-19. Those ANTX events, with approximately 180 organizations, introduced potentially game-changing Navy technologies and brought more than 2,600 attendees to Division Newport. Outcomes included a $74 million Innovative Naval Prototype program, novel fuel cell applications, a novel sonar source, and first-time Navy involvement for over 80 small businesses.
Aker also led the development and implementation of an 18-month cross-departmental rotation program, where individuals completed three six-month rotations in one of the following five tracks: combat systems, cybersecurity, analysis, test and evaluation, and payload integration. These rotational programs have been shared across the Naval Seas Systems Command’s 10 warfare centers.
“Over the last 20 years, Aker has led workforce analyses and established leadership and workforce development initiatives that have been instrumental in shaping Division Newport’s highly skilled civilian workforce,” the award states. “His many impactful contributions have demonstrated his dedication to Division Newport and the U.S. Navy.”
Aker was presented the award during a retirement ceremony held on July 30.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.
Join our team! NUWC Division Newport, one of the 20 largest employers in Rhode Island, employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals, as well as talented business, finance, logistics and other support experts who wish to be at the forefront of undersea research and development. Please connect with NUWC Division Newport Recruiting at this site- https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/Warfare-Centers/NUWC-Newport/Career-Opportunities/ and follow us on LinkedIn @NUWC-Newport and on Facebook @NUWCNewport.