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NEWS | Aug. 30, 2023

Naval Academy Midshipmen Connect to Engineering Community in Warfare Center Internship

By Thomas McMahon, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme

Three midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy recently took a deep dive into the world of engineering duty officers (EDOs) at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD).

As they prepare to chart their careers in the Navy, the second-class midshipmen gained insights in the field by connecting with EDOs and civilian engineers, touring sites where they support the fleet and working on an engineering design project during a month-long internship with NSWC PHD in late May and June.

EDOs are naval officers with advanced degrees who provide technical and business leadership to the fleet in areas such as design, acquisition, construction, maintenance and modernization. With a total of around 800 EDOs across the Navy, the community is relatively small and attracts a small percentage of midshipmen at the Annapolis, Maryland-based Naval Academy.

The annual internship at NSWC PHD aims to boost awareness of the outsize role of EDOs, who manage about 65% of the Navy’s budget, according to Lt. Zachary Braida, the command’s Fleet Readiness Portfolio Directorate officer.

Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) sponsors the internship for midshipmen at NSWC PHD. PEO IWS is one of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA)’s seven affiliated program executive offices responsible for all aspects of life cycle management of assigned programs. PEOs report to the NAVSEA commander for planning and execution of in-service support, and to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition for acquisition-related matters. PEO IWS develops, delivers and sustains operationally dominant combat systems for sailors.

Allison Webster-Giddings, a PEO IWS research engineer at the Naval Academy, serves as faculty sponsor for the internship. She said the goal is to “educate and inspire midshipmen by broadening their scholarship and leadership experiences, developing their critical thinking skills and deepening their appreciation for practical applications of their academic studies.”

Last year, the midshipman interns explored the EDO career path by touring engineering-related facilities and shadowing NSWC PHD department officers. In 2021, the internship focused on a project, with the midshipmen designing a robotics obstacle course.

This year’s internship at NSWC PHD combined the highlights of the previous two editions, according to Braida, who oversaw the midshipmen with Lt. Ashley Edmond, a shipboard project officer at the command.

“We decided to have them work on a project in the morning, then take them on tours in the afternoon to show how Port Hueneme Division supports the fleet,” Braida said. “Overall, I think the combination was a good balance between applying the acquisition framework to an engineering project while also understanding the role of the EDO through tours.”

Engineering experience
The three midshipmen who interned at NSWC PHD are rising juniors studying engineering disciplines at the Naval Academy.

John Doughty of Waldorf, Maryland, and Riley Haugen of Austin, Minnesota, are majoring in robotics and control engineering. Gus Reed of Montrose, Colorado, is majoring in electrical engineering. All three said they are considering the EDO career path.

The first stop in the midshipmen’s summer internship was in San Diego, where Braida met up with them to tour ships and sites connected to the EDO community. Those included a Zumwalt-class destroyer, a littoral combat ship, NSWC PHD’s Mission Module Readiness Center and Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific.

Up the coast at Naval Base Ventura County, Edmond led the midshipmen around key NSWC PHD assets, including the Self Defense Test Ship, the Underway Replenishment (UNREP) Test Site and the Surface Warfare Engineering Facility (SWEF) in Port Hueneme and the Directed Energy Systems Integration Laboratory (DESIL) at Point Mugu. They also visited the EDO School on the Port Hueneme section of the base.

For all three midshipmen, one of the tour highlights was DESIL, NSWC PHD’s oceanfront facility for testing lasers, high-power microwave weapons, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems in a maritime environment. The command recently installed its first directed energy system at DESIL, the Laser Weapon System Demonstrator, which the interns saw up close.

“It’s cutting-edge technology, and everyone there is super knowledgeable and super excited about what they’re working on,” Reed said.

Haugen said he also enjoyed seeing innovation in action at NSWC PHD’s Engineering Development Lab in SWEF and the Reverse Engineering, Science and Technology for Obsolescence, Restoration and Evaluation Lab, known as the RESTORE Lab, at NIWC Pacific.

“They use the engineering design process to engineer things normally, and then reverse engineer them,” Haugen said. “It’s neat how they applied that process to make products that are functional for the fleet.”

The midshipmen did their own engineering design work in a robotics-related project at NSWC PHD’s Fathomwerx Lab at the Port of Hueneme. Greg DeVogel, the command’s chief technology officer, guided the interns and explained how the Navy acquisition process supplies the fleet with new technology to support Sailors.

At the end of the internship, the midshipmen delivered a preliminary design review for their project, followed by a discussion with three major program managers from PEO IWS: Capt. Jonathan Garcia, Capt. Sid Hodgson and Capt. Tim King.

Making connections
The internship offered numerous networking opportunities, which the midshipmen said was especially valuable. They met multiple Naval Academy alumni who are now EDOs, as well as civilian engineers who work alongside them.

Edmond, who is qualifying as an EDO while working at NSWC PHD, said that making those connections gives the midshipmen a leg up in their future careers.

“Networking is such a huge part of the EDO community, and now they are building their networks with contacts they can reach out to after they graduate,” Edmond said.

In addition to picking up business cards that could prove useful down the road, the meetings gave the midshipmen a broad view of the EDO community.

“Being able to have conversations with them, we got a better understanding of their jobs and the capabilities they have to ensure a level of fleet preparedness,” Haugen said.

Naval officers can become EDOs either upon commissioning or through a mid-career lateral transfer, after completing a surface or submarine warfare qualification. EDOs typically rotate between working as program managers in different program offices and taking on field leadership positions.

In the realm of leadership, the midshipman interns said they gained valuable insights from NSWC PHD’s commanding officer, Capt. Tony Holmes.

“He gave us a lot of leadership advice, which was really helpful,” Doughty said.

Career directions
The three midshipmen said the internship helped inform their professional planning by giving them a firsthand look at the naval engineering community.

“I’m glad I got to come see it all in action,” Reed said. “It turned EDO from an idea into something I can see myself doing and enjoying.”

Haugen said the experience exposed him to a variety of career possibilities.

“The internship really opened my eyes to the wide range of applications I can use my major in,” Haugen said.

Reed said he has been weighing whether to go into the EDO world or Marine Corps ground combat for his professional path, and his time with NSWC PHD may have tipped the balance.

“This internship is leaning me more toward EDO, especially after seeing all the benefits and getting to know what the community does and the culture of the community,” Reed said.

Those benefits, he added, include earning a master’s degree, working in a tight-knit, dedicated community and preparing for a good career after military service.

For NSWC PHD, hosting the annual internship helps spread the word about how the command supports the fleet, from technical assistance for combat system issues to UNREP engineering and training.

“If the mids go to ships, they can spread the word about who NSWC PHD is and how we support the fleet,” Braida said. “And if they’re in higher positions later in their careers, they could be advocates for Port Hueneme Division and many of the other facilities and programs they were introduced to during their time here.”