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NEWS | Feb. 13, 2023

Safety Doesn’t Happen by Accident – NSWC Dahlgren Division Combat System Safety Engineer Strives to Protect the Warfighter

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

Some may say safety is a journey, not a destination and requires continued diligence. Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division’s (NSWCDD) combat system safety chief engineer, Dr. Lutcher Samuel, is a valuable asset to the NSWCDD system safety engineering team.

From San Antonio, Texas, to Dahlgren, Virginia, Samuel took quite the risk and leap of faith in joining the team at NSWCDD. The interest and inspiration for working for the Department of Defense stemmed from Samuel’s parents, who both served in the United States Air Force.

Samuel always looked for the next stage when it came to his education. He earned his bachelor’s in computer science from Park City University, a master’s in organizational leadership and a Ph.D. in leadership studies from Our Lady of the Lake University.

“My mother was a large influence in my educational journey. I couldn’t stop, she never told me when to stop pursuing education, so I kept going,” said Samuel.

Initially, he studied to become an electrical engineer but quickly learned he had an aptitude for programming. He found himself assembling computers and getting an understanding of operating systems. “Once I did that, there was no looking back. I took off the electrical engineer hat and put the computer science hat on, and I have been a programmer ever since.”

Samuel’s extensive educational background propelled him to the system safety career path. His career at NSWCDD started in 2016. He has over 15 years of combined industry and government experience, focusing mainly on database development, data analytics, software programming and systems safety engineering.

Throughout his time at NSWCDD, he served in various safety positions, including principal for safety, safety lead and group leader for the Littoral Combat Ship, Surface Warfare Mission Package (SUW MP) safety program and systems safety engineer and the safety lead for both, the SUW MP Gun Mission Module and Command and Control safety programs.

“It is vital to always learn and grow within your organization. Within research and development, there is always room to improve and innovate,” Samuel said.

He also led an NSWCDD Systems Safety Engineering Division strategic initiative that resulted in deploying the Safety Multi-Relational Assessment Risk Tool (SMART). SMART is a corporate system safety engineering database that supports hazard tracking, assessment and communication efforts across 60+ System Safety Programs (SSP). This tool will enable safety data analysis and standardization across all SSPs.

In his current role, Samuel and his team inspect naval weapon systems to identify their root problems. “As a combat system safety chief engineer, I deeply analyze naval weapon systems and rule out their issues before they are deployed to the fleet. This ensures the safety of our Sailors who may be using the systems,” said Samuel.

Dahlgren has a unique mix of professionals that bring a blend of different professional viewpoints to the table. “The combination of academic and operational intelligence here is impressive,” Samuel said. “It has been an honor to collaborate and gain knowledge from individuals with a different perspective than I, and be able to come together to support the same warfighter’s mission at the end of the day.”

One thing Samuel emphasized and said he has learned over his career and would challenge the next generation with is, “no matter where you land in your career, you were selected for a reason.”

“In every position, I give my all. If you do the work, the hard work, the growth will come, and the opportunities will seek you out,” Samuel said. “Everyone has something to bring to the table, no matter their background.”

With goals in place for his career at Dahlgren, Samuel aspires to ensure the utmost safety for naval weapons systems today and in the future.