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NEWS | June 21, 2023

Carderock Recognizes Best of the Best in Magnificent Eight Awards Ceremony

By Todd Hurley, NSWC Carderock Division Public Affairs

Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Carderock Division recognized the best of the best during the command’s 24th Annual Honor Awards, commonly referred to as the Magnificent Eight, in West Bethesda, Maryland, on June 13.

Carderock’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Matthew Tardy gave his opening remarks where he commented on the importance of these awards and commended the awardees for their hard work toward receiving the awards.

“To be named a Magnificent Eight is an immediate identifier of someone who has achieved excellence, while also a recognizing a person of history who has lent their name to these awards, who served our Navy with honor, courage, commitment and with the end goal of having a world-class Navy in mind,” Tardy said. “You, who are here to receive one of these prestigious awards, are the best of the best within Carderock. To be the best of the best implies that everyone is the best, and as far as I can tell in my short time here at Carderock, that is true… I look forward to the years ahead as I continue to witness the innovation and dedication of every one of you. Thank you for your hard work and ingenuity, and for your commitment to Carderock’s role in maintaining maritime dominance.”

The Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr. Award for Achievement in Diversity and Inclusion

Danielle Gerstner

The Gravely Award recognizes individuals or teams who promote an inclusive workforce by inviting diverse viewpoints, encouraging collaboration and modeling appreciation and respect towards colleagues by engaging and retaining employees and ensuring all individuals and groups are represented and feel included, leveraging differences for a more effective, innovative and productive workforce. This year’s Gravely Award recipient is Danielle Gerstner, Materials for Advanced Systems and Sensors Branch Head.

Gerstner is recognized for her tireless leadership in improving diversity and inclusion (D&I) at Carderock. In addition to her duties as a branch head, Gerstner is the Chair of Carderock’s D&I Working Group; a member of Carderock's D&I Leadership Focus Area team; Chair of the new Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility Employee Resource Group; and Chair of the Leadership in a Diverse Environment Event (LDEE) Planning Committee, which was held on March 1.

“Receiving this award is a reminder of the hard work that not only myself, but many others within our organization have put toward trying to make Carderock a better place,” she said. “It serves as a beacon of hope, illuminating a path toward the future where every person is valued, respected, given equal opportunities and is overall happy to come to work every day.”

Gerstner is also a founding member and facilitator of Branch Head Coffee Corner, which was designed for branch heads and section managers to have an informal opportunity to share experiences and knowledge with one another and ask for help in a non-judgmental and discreet setting.

The Rear Adm. Grace M. Hopper Award for Excellence in Organizational Support

Jessica Williamson

The Hopper Award recognizes an individual who, within the past two years, has successfully managed and completed a significant project that has had a positive impact, at least at the department level. This year’s Hopper Award recipient is Jessica Williamson, Executive Assistant, who received the award for successfully leading the Headquarters Facilities Operating Model pilot initiative, which increased local responsibility for facilities sustainment functions and increased the contracting capability.

At the request of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Headquarters, Williamson took the lead in the review and evaluation of the facilities services function at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., highlighted by significant service slippage in fiscal year 2022. Her hard-changing fact-based approach and proven work practices helped NAVSEA begin to correct years of deteriorated management practices and meet simple day to day operational needs. Through research and information gathering, Williamson substantiated significant costs savings to the command, which provided the necessary data to continue pursuing this effort through the Deputy Secretary of the Navy.

“The focus of the effort was to assess the responsibility of infrastructure functions, reduce the number of financial transactions and complexity and expedite infrastructure support,” Williamson said. “From this effort, Carderock gained the sustainment function, which includes building systems, preventive maintenance and on-demand facilities service ticket work. One of the most rewarding aspects of this experience for me was to not only work with diverse and talented leaders from across the Navy, but watch the benefits come to realization from the months of hard work we put in.”

The Rear Adm. Benjamin F. Isherwood Award for Exceptional Fleet Support

Amphibious Combat Vehicle Team

The Isherwood Award recognizes teams or individuals for innovation and expertise in the effective assessment, development, execution or deployment of technical solutions for operational fleet needs. The award highlights unusual personal insight, originality and persistence impacting fleet readiness. This year’s Isherwood Award recipient is the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) Team.

The ACV Team award winners consists of: Robert Iannuzzi; Dana Colegrove; Alexander Tsarev; Jason DeLisser; Fred Behnaz; John Noland; Drazen Hadzialic; Alan Becnel; Lawrence Snyder; Brian Chirozzi; Margaret Vulih; Ryan Fisher; Maximilian Kinsey; and Eric Dau.

In September 2021, the Commandant of the Marine Corps suspended water borne ACV operations, following multiple mishaps resulting from unintended tow line release and tow line breakage. The first scheduled ACV operational deployment was less than a year away, and every day that the vehicles were unable to be operated caused increased risks.

Under significant schedule pressure, the ACV team helped provide an independent failure mode and root cause analysis to aid in identifying the system components in need of re-design or modification. The team performed ground-based testing to determine system loads required to release the tow line, load correlation testing to identify sub-system and component limitations, structural analysis to determine failure limits of the vehicle structures and supported at-sea testing to provide data and operation proof-of-concept on the proposed mitigations.

“I want to congratulate all the team members recognized today on this great accomplishment and to personally thank all the engineers, technicians and staff that contributed to the overall success of this team. It takes a tremendous amount dedication and coordination between all of the technical and support codes to achieve this level of efficiency and effectiveness,” Colegrove said. “The contributions made by this highly efficient tiger team with expertise in towing, testing, seakeeping, structures and materials ultimately resulted in the Commandant of the Marine Corps lifting the restriction on the vehicles use in water, and we as a Carderock team should be extremely proud to have contributed to this effort and always remember our work as an organization directly impacts the marines and sailors we support.”

The Vice Adm. Emory S. Land Award for Collaboration Excellence

Lunch Break Team

The Land Award recognizes an individual or small group that has made significant contributions by establishing new relationships, fostering communication and promoting the value and benefits of collaborative working relationships at all levels in order to provide high quality, effective products and services to the fleet. This year’s Land Award recipient is the Lunch Break Team who demonstrated creativity, technical acumen and resilience bringing world class analysis, development, engineering and testing to solve an emergent real-world crisis.

Carderock’s Lunch Break Team consists of: Stephen Cronin; Amanda Fosbrook; Ryan Hess; Daniel Luvisi; Nick Middlebrooks; Joe Moder; Kelly Mick; Greg Rackley; Brandon “Bee” Bagwell; Stephen Minnich; Douglas Griggs; Samantha Lee; Zach Heinkel; Alysson Mondoro; Josh Duck; Anthony Baiocchi; Dan Root; Roy Sims; Adam Smith; Ann Marie Powers; Miguel Quintero; Jason DeLisser; and Sean Wills.

The Carderock team collaborated internally and externally with NSWC Dahlgren and Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee, to rapidly design, build and test a contested logistics Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) to infiltrate grain from Ukrainian Black Sea ports in a survivable manner given threats in the area of operations. For this effort, Carderock personnel provided expertise in naval architecture, USV controls, autonomy, fabrication, testing, rapid prototyping, mechanical engineering and materials engineering.

“The Lunch Break project was an emergent effort to develop an unmanned, tradable cargo handling vessel system capable of being rapidly manufactured and operated with a limited infrastructure. Due to the urgent global security, economic and humanitarian relevance, every effort was effort was made to advance the schedule through the project,” Bagwell said. “To that end, a multidisciplinary team was assembled to complete in record time multiple spirals of design, analysis, simulation and prototyping, model scale and full-scale testing. At Carderock alone 69 individuals were assigned across 28 branches, 11 divisions and four departments. Technical experts included structural sea keeping, maneuvering, powering autonomy, controls, perception, mechanical, electrical, hydrostatic hydrodynamics, manufacturing fabrication, welding materials, testing, instrumentation and boat handling.”

The Rear Adm. George W. Melville Award for Engineering Excellence

James Sracic

The Melville Award recognizes outstanding engineering contributions in the application of knowledge toward research and development of materials, devices and systems or methods including design, development and integration of prototypes and new processes. This year’s Melville Award recipient is James Sracic, a mechanical engineer in Carderock’s Submarine Onboard Signatures Branch, for his support in the pursuit of acoustic superiority for nuclear powered submarines in the U.S. Navy. 

Sracic led a team of engineers and technicians during the Ice Exercise 2022 (ICEX22). After developing test plans for acoustically measuring a submarine in extreme cold-water environments, he spent five weeks at sea on USS Illinois (SSN 786) in the Arctic Circle.  Following this ICEX22 event, SSN 786 immediately conducted a NAVSEA-sponsored acoustic trial at Carderock’s Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility (SEAFAC) in Ketchikan, Alaska. He performed analysis, comparisons and summarizations of the data sets. Shortly after returning home, he compiled the results of ICEX22 and the SEAFAC acoustic trial event and provided a data driven summary to Naval Reactors. Sracic’s relentless pursuit of analytical excellence had a significant and positive impact on future ICEX events, special testing and design enhancements for SSN(X).

“I’ve been fortunate in the past few years to be tasked with planning out and executing some first-of-their kind tests that required new approaches to how we collect and analyze data, and as a result, I’ve spent a lot of time at sea in some interesting places doing some very cool work with amazing teammates,” Sracic said. “The work we do helps to keep our Sailors safe by ensuring that they remain undetectable. The sacrifices they make in service to our country are tremendous, and to me, bringing them home is what matters most. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that when we pore over data in a lab or an office, but when you sit in crew’s mess with the A-ganger that tells you he’s only spent two days with his newborn daughter, you get a different perspective. Those interactions are one of my favorite things about this job.”

The Capt. Harold E. Saunders Award for Exemplary Technical Management

Jayson Geiser

The Saunders Award recognizes exemplary achievement in leadership of a major technical area or management of a complex technical project. This year’s Saunders Award recipient is Jayson Geiser, the Submarine Propulsor Production Manager in Carderock’s Advanced Propulsor Management Office, who received the award for his leadership in the Columbia-class Propulsor and Shafting Project, while also being the Virginia-class Propulsor Project Manager.

Geiser managed the manufacturing and delivery of submarine propulsors for the Virginia and Columbia Classes, associated acquisitions, research and development and design activities. His annual budget was roughly $200 million dollars, executed across a variety of government and contractor organizations. For this effort, Geiser delivered improved capability to fleet submarines, reduced risk to meeting ship construction schedules and expanded the propulsor industrial base. His technical management has led to tangible performance improvements to fleet assets while reducing overall risk to Navy shipbuilding schedules.

“I worked with a great team of engineers that's always available to support urgent needs, offer creative solutions and then I can delegate important tasking too,” Geiser said. “Additionally, we have a great trust and open communication with the industrial base that allows us to identify risks early in the production process and mitigate them in a collaborative environment.”

The Dr. Murray Strasberg Award for Lifetime Achievement

Willard Sokol

The Strasberg Award recognizes an individual who demonstrates the highest standards for more than 25 years of federal service. This year’s Strasberg Award recipient is Willard Sokol, Acquisition Systems Engineering Branch Head.

Sokol’s professional naval architecture career began in 1987 at the Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. He joined Carderock in the early-2000’s and currently serves as a branch head.

“I am excited to receive this award and to share the story of my journey with you, acknowledging the incredible individuals who have shaped my career and supported me along the way,” Sokol said. “Moments like this are opportunities to remind everyone of the impact we each have on each other, our U.S. Navy and the world. Throughout my career, I have had the privilege to serve with truly world-class technical talent and the hardest working civil servants and industry partners out there.”

The Rear Adm. David W. Taylor Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement

Dr. Kuangcheng Wu

The Taylor Award recognizes outstanding scientific contributions to the development of future maritime systems through the creation of technology based upon research. This year’s Taylor Award recipient is Dr. Kuangcheng Wu, computational methods lead in Carderock’s Structural Acoustics Branch.

Wu received the Taylor Award for his efforts in providing technical advice to the Director and Chief Scientist of the High-Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP) on future roadmap development, HPC hardware acquisition and software application development. He supported the Office of Naval Research Structural Acoustics and SSN(X) projects, conducting signature assessments of submarine concepts over the last five years. Wu interacted with the Navy design community, Platform Integrity and Naval Architectures departments and subject matter experts (SMEs) at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport in Rhode Island. In 2021, Wu and his team developed a Rapid Finite Element Generator which translated design information into a format that the SMEs in the Signatures Department can use with their existing computational tools.

“I have been working on the structural acoustics field for almost 30 years,” Wu said. “You could say structural acoustics is the corner stone of acoustic signatures as it is working closely with other acoustic disciplines. Recently in supporting SSN(X) related projects, my team developed a tool called Rapid Finite-element Generator (RFG) that can rapidly translate design data to 2D and 3D. The RFG could reduce engineers’ labor from 5-weeks to within few days and cut down potential human errors. This new capability enables us to effectively support SSN(X) on concept assessments and design space exploration. I’m truly honored and humbly received the Rear Adm. David Taylor Award.”

The award ceremony concluded with final words from Carderock’s Technical Director Larry Tarasek.

“It is always great to see the breadth of all the technical work done here at Carderock — congratulations to all the award winners,” Tarasek said. “These awards are given to some great individuals and teams who are doing some great work for the Navy… I’m always humbled and honored to be part of this ceremony, to hand out these awards and hear the stories of your accomplishments.”