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NEWS | May 23, 2023

Command Employees Recognized at NSWC Indian Head Division Honorary Awards Ceremony

By NSWC Indian Head Public Affairs Office

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 hosted at College of Southern Maryland’s Velocity Center in Indian Head, Maryland, May 18.

“As we increase our pace, it may be difficult to find the moments to offer our gratitude – I am grateful for this opportunity. The individuals recognized today represent the incredible work achieved across our command. Today’s awardees exemplify the message we have set forth in our Command Guidance,” NSWC IHD Technical Director Ashley Johnson said. “You have all shown what it means to innovate: to create new opportunities and technologies to outpace our adversaries in this heightening strategic competition. You have all demonstrated commitment to our tenets, to the fleet and to each other.”

Steve Mitchell, a former command executive director served as the keynote speaker for the event, shared anecdotes from his more than 30 years at NSWC IHD. He noted that despite the evolving mission through the decades, command employees remain steadfast in their commitment to service.

“I am well aware that those of you being recognized today with one of the command’s honorary awards have demonstrated a commitment to excellence, command of your craft, and expertise that are highly commendable,” Mitchell told the audience. “Today, you join the ranks of the select group of individuals who have been recognized in the past for making a difference at this command and for the generations of warfighters who rely on [NSWC IHD] to provide them with the energetic expertise needed to win the battle and return safely.” 

NSWC IHD leadership presented 19 awards recognizing the outstanding efforts and significant contributions of more than 80 employees.

SPIRIT OF INDIAN HEAD AWARD – RISING STAR: This award recognizes an employee or student who has less than three years of employment at NSWC IHD and has already contributed in a significant manner to the mission in their short time. The contribution can be a 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 Division as a whole. The employee/student is seen by many as a rising star. Presented to Jessica Bartolozzi from the Comptroller Department. Bartolozzi has stepped up to the plate and gone above and beyond her duties. In FY22, Comptroller began a path to financial transparency, and the department had many new initiatives and reports introduced to the command. Jessica supported these initiatives by identifying the need, and working to research, draft and report the metric changing initiative. She works with all of the business and technical Service Cost Center managers and suggests financial mitigation strategies with department leadership to better serve command execution standards. Her attitude and organization allows her to get things done efficiently within the budget division. Bartolozzi has proven to be indispensable to the Comptroller Department.

SPIRIT OF INDIAN HEAD AWARD – THE EMERGING LEGEND: This award 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, Department of Navy and Department of Defense 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 Mark Cavolowsky of the Systems Engineering Department. Cavolowsky excelled in the field of machine learning and artificial intelligence for ordnance systems and energetics over the past year, contributing significantly to advancing the technology, promoting greater community exposure and recognition. He is at the forefront of developing approaches for cutting-edge algorithms and techniques that have been instrumental in solving complex Navy/DoD problems. Cavolowsky has also shown exceptional skills in mentoring and establishing a team. He has mentored several junior engineers across the department, providing them with guidance and support to help them achieve their career goals and execute technically.

SPIRIT OF INDIAN HEAD AWARD – THE LEGEND: This award recognizes an employee who has worked at Indian Head Division between eight and 15 years and has directly made multiple, significant contributions to the mission in different areas of the command as well as to the Department of the Navy and/or Department of Defense. This can include increasing the discipline, proficiency, excellence and benefit of the warfighter by taking details to key offices or to multiple areas across the command, and by excelling the Indian Head Division mission. The employee is distinguished as having the potential of being a future senior leader by peers and senior leadership. Presented to Carla Bacote from the Corporate Operations Department. Bacote has more than 35 years of federal service where the majority of her career was spent serving as the command’s Labor and Employee Relations branch manager. She has earned a reputation for being dependable, professional and easy to work with. Bacote is continuously sought out by senior leaders of the organization to solve complex Human Resource challenges. She is adept at balancing the rights and responsibilities of the command with those of its employees. She is also responsible for labor negotiations and relations; acts as a liaison between the command and the union; oversees and consults on policy administration and disciplinary procedures; supports dispute resolution procedures; executes the performance development system; and administers employee recognition programs. Bacote demonstrates selfless service as an expert in her field who is well respected across the Warfare Centers.

ROGER M. SMITH TEAM AWARD: Roger Smith, Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division 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 Purpose Built Munition (PBM) Team: Arnas Bendoraitis, Christopher Bruce, Brian Cole, Robert Dame, Bryan Fiala, Mohsin Ghazali, Evan Haas, Thomas Kidwell, Emily Leitsch, Paula Loucas, Jackson Maenner, Zachary McDonough, Patricia Pickeral, Amanda Robson, Conan Schultz, John Sheriff, Timothy Smoot and James White. In December, five weeks after hardware receipt, NSWC Indian Head Division delivered 14 Purpose Built Munitions to NSWC Dahlgren Division days ahead of an urgent program deadline. The PBM Team inspected, prepped, lined and filled the units and conducted final inspections and coordinated expedited x-raying and shipping of the items. The units have since been functionally tested with extremely promising results. As a result, NSWC IHD has gained trust and improved our standing with the customer and is tasked to provide future Low-Rate Initial Production quantities in the coming years. During these tasks, the team demonstrated dedication, professionalism, perseverance and should be recognized for its key contributions and exemplary performance.

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 Christine Farrell from the Corporate Operations Department. Farrell has played key roles in several NAVSEA/Corporate Operations Department initiatives over the past year, as an advisor/leader in these initiatives all while maintaining her current workload. Farrell took on the challenge of acting Human Resources division head and she has led the human resources team effortlessly, ensuring all actions in the division are moving timely all while putting her people and customer service first.

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 Dr. Katie M. Brown from the Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) Department for her proactive and dedicated approach to laser safety improvements. Too often, increased productivity and improved safety practices are viewed as competing pursuits. Brown, through hard work and initiative, has shown that an improved safety culture and increased productivity are not mutually exclusive. Her positive attitude towards safety is contagious and her influence has improved communication between the Laser System Safety Officer and scientists within the research department. Brown’s accomplishments have illustrated how any employee can make a positive change in the safety practices and improve an already strong safety culture at NSWC IHD.

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 Christian Mezzacappa, Jr. from the Systems Integration Department. As the department’s Chief Engineer, Mezzacappa exemplifies a high degree of excellence in system engineering proficiency by instituting policies and instructions with technical rigor resulting in a cultural mindset for continual improvement to outpace our adversaries. He routinely conducts System Engineering Technical Reviews that result in risk mitigation strategies, consistent configuration management application, and results-driven test and evaluation plans, all with safety as the priority. His policies have increased the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of the products and test services the command provides.

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 the Tagging Team: Robert Beach, Christopher Burrows, Blake Dickinson, David Frye, John Hager, Colleen Jones, Justin Joyce, Paula Loucas, Melissa Puffenbarger, Diane Sabal, Jason Steffin, Iris Vazquez-Ayala, Geoffrey Williams and Cindy Yeager. The Tagging Team’s efforts resulted in quality improvements for segregation and control of materiel that is not properly tagged and therefore non-conforming. Prior to the teams’ efforts, end-users reported issues with materiel tagging. Improperly tagged materiel cannot be used for production and must be reinspected resulting in downtime, late deliveries, and additional costs to the affected programs. An Individual Excellence in Quality Execution award was presented to Arnas Bendoraitis of the Energetics Manufacturing Department. Whether assisting others in daily efforts or participating as a Production Readiness Review (PRR) panel member, Bendoraitis approaches every task in a structured manner, applying quality principles to ensure the department meets the requirements of internal instructions. Whether assisting his counterparts in their daily efforts or participating as a panel member during PRRs, he is diligent in comparing processes to those required by the Management Instruction and Quality Processes Execution Policy Guide. Bendoraitis routinely engages various departments to solve problems, recently working with three departments to design, fabricate, characterize and incorporate a piece of inspection equipment in one day.

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. Presented to RJ Nemeth from the Energetics Manufacturing Department. Each year, the command’s cartridge- and propellant-activated devices (CAD/PAD) portfolio consists of approximately 75-100 active work orders to manufacture products important to aircraft readiness and pilot survivability. This requires strategic execution of several thousand tasks subject to various changes and challenges. New methods and custom tools are essential to execute this work. Nemeth was nominated for this award based on his development of a collaborative communication methodology and tool set that improves in-house CAD/PAD production planning, communication, resourcing, scheduling and execution. His efforts support the command’s strategic imperatives and improved on-time and on-cost delivery of products and services.

LANCE CORPORAL T. J. HONEYCUTT AWARD FOR FORWARD DEPLOYED SERVICE: The Lance Corporal T. J. Honeycutt Award for Forward Deployed Service recognizes individuals who have or are deployed to a war zone or other forward deployed location providing direct support to the warfighter. This award is named for Lance Corporal Honeycutt, who on October 27, 2010 died as a result of injuries sustained from a roadside improvised explosive device (IED). The work done at the command is dedicated to helping our warfighters protect and defend this county. This includes detecting and safely disposing of IEDs to prevent further loss of life. Presented to Brent Loechler of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Department. As a member of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Multinational Assessment Field Team, Loechler made three deployments to the Ukrainian/Polish border village of Trzcianiec where he joined an ad hoc team of military and civilian foreign materiel exploitation specialists, screening captured Russian ordnance and confirming stability prior to recovery.

INTERNAL CUSTOMER SERVICE AWARD: This award recognizes an employee who has provided excellent service to internal customers. Presented to Susan Simpson from the Contracts Department. Simpson has been with NSWC IHD for 38 years, with 15 years in her current role as an Acquisition Management Specialist. Her consistent professionalism and responsiveness to the customer’s needs is recognized as a strong contributing factor to the success of the contracting process. Many have communicated their appreciation for her assistance and going above and beyond to assist them and reference her experience and knowledge of the process as superior. To put it simply, her behind the scenes efforts and excellent customer service is the reason that customer’s contract needs are met.

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 Organizational Effectiveness Team (OET): Tara Blondin, Alyssa Cunningham, Christine Farrell, Lisa Griffith, Tammy Kershner, Gabriela Kunz, Jameelah Lewis, Phillip Melton, Karla Rodriguez-Gonzalez, Laramie Snell, Barry Trotter, Stuart White and Amanda Wilmot. NSWC IHD recognized the centrality and criticality of culture, inclusion, diversity and equity within its organizational system. To provide focused efforts on the continuous cultivation of the organization’s climate and culture, the OET was formed. In 2022, the OET designed, developed and implemented multiple activities and tools that allowed individuals and teams to see, understand and embrace difference.

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 Foreign Object Debris (FOD) Control Team: Daniel Bragunier, Dale Cornette, Peter Cusack, Paul Desear, Bryan Fiala, Aaron Gentili, Christopher Gonzalez, Dwight Hancock, Sean Hancock, Michael Lateulere, John Lopes, Laura McDonald, Michael Mahaffey, Christopher Mikus, Marcia Mouer, John Packard, William Russell, Diane Sabal, Matthew Schrader, Joseph Schutt, John Shumpert and Mark Williams. The FOD control teams’ efforts resulted in a significant improvement to the quality and safety of manufacturing processes by reducing the risk of an explosive mishap due to FOD. The team used a disciplined a continuous process improvement method to improve the current process for controlling FOD in mixing, grinding, and pressing operations. The end result is a FOD Prevention Program that defines policy, training, roles and responsibilities, process controls, disposal, and reporting. The policy within the program defines FOD controlled areas, inspection intervals and provides guidance for capturing metrics. This team supported NSWC IHD Strategic Framework by acting on strategic imperatives, specifically Molecule to Mission.

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 Diane Sabal from the Corporate Operations Department. Sabal has dedicated hundreds of hours each year to the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Family-to-Family educational program. The Family-to-Family program is an evidence-based program for family, significant others, and friends of people with a mental illness. Sabal’s commitment resulted in more than 31 families in Southern Maryland receiving the support they needed in coping with mental illness conditions within their families.

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.

Presented to Timothy Murray. Murray exemplifies the type of technician and leader the command needs to deliver high quality products to the warfighter on time and on budget. He is willing to go above and beyond in all tasking he is assigned and constantly exceeds daily execution goals for the programs he is leading within the plant. His work ethic, attention to detail, and ability to problem solve are exceptional.

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 Dr. David Vaccarello, from the RDT&E Department, for his patent of an efficient and cost effective route to 2-Nitratoethyl acrylate (2NEA). “Tuna” is an acrylate compound that is becoming the backbone of novel energetic polymers for the DoD. The energetics community has been searching for simple, cheap, and effective energetic polymers for many decades but few have transitioned to military use. The benefits of Vaccarello’s patent are still being discovered as the accessibility of “Tuna” has spawned several research programs.

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 Julie Greaves-Jacko of the Contracts Department. Greaves-Jacko joined the department in 2017 as a contract specialist. In 2020, she was promoted to a Team Lead position where she supported the EOD Department, Expeditionary Exploitation Unit 1 (EXU-1) and headquarters requirements. In 2022, she was promoted as the Contracting Division C Manager tasked with providing management oversight of the Construction Team, the Other Transactional Agreements team and the team that supports requirements for the RDT&E department, the Energetics Manufacturing Department and command staff. Julie has demonstrated, not only her managerial skills in all positions, but has provided the leadership needed in this division to support the critical needs of the command. Under her leadership, the division has come together, and improved both morale and the products they deliver. Greaves-Jacko cares deeply about her employees and works tirelessly to support the NSWC IHD mission.. She constantly goes above and beyond to ensure her employees have the support they need and her customer’s needs are met, all while supporting the department and ensuring the command in moving in the right direction. Simply put, Greaves-Jacko is a model manager and leader and most deserving of this recognition.

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 Steven Possehl from the RDT&E Department. Possehl is recognized for his advancement of NSWC IHD’s capabilities in computed tomography for streamlined product screening of worldwide munition. He created techniques used to screen vital ejection seat cartridges from around the world in a streamlined process. This minimized aircraft down time and inspection turn-around time to meet critical mission requirements. Possehl also worked with U.S. and foreign national senior ranking officials to determine and implement inspection guidelines and improvements for future initiatives.

ROBERT B. DASHIELL AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE: Ensign Robert B. Dashiell was Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division’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 Dr. Benjamin C. Kirkup from the RDT&E Department. Kirkup is awarded the NSWC IHD Dashiell Award for Excellence based upon his commitment to chemical and biological defense, biotechnology, and intelligence community missions. Kirkup is the senior biologist Chemical, Biological & Radiological Defense (CBRD) Division team member and has a distinguished history of academic research in microbiology and medicine that is evidenced by his extensive list of peer reviewed publications and conference/symposia presentations. As a senior biologist within the CBRD Division, Kirkup routinely reviews current intelligence reports, interprets that intelligence, and coordinates with numerous science and technology managers at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to advise on Navy research and development needs to meet current and emerging threats. His relationships and network spans the entire biological research enterprise, including extensive contacts within the chemical and biological defense enterprise. Kirkup has been the trailblazer in establishing the command as an operational asset for the CBR intelligence community, expanding both the physical and intellectual resourcing. The ability of the nation to respond to chemical and biological threats and the great power competition has been significantly improved because he is a member of those teams. His efforts have culminated in significant advancements this past year towards establishing NSWC IHD as a center for excellence in threat relevance and biotechnology.

“As I look around this room I see the commitment, determination and pride that our workforce of public servants brings to the table every day, said NSWC IHD Commanding Officer Capt. Eric Correll. “The Navy needs you now more than ever to address the incredible challenges our nation is facing.”


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.