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By Taft Coghill Jr. and Madeline Thompson, NSWCDD Corporate Communications
When Tiernan Blunkosky awoke the morning of Oct. 20, the 11-year-old homeschooler had little desire to leave the comforts of his house.
However, his father had other ideas.
Bob Blunkosky, a software developer with the Integrated Combat Systems Department at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), encouraged his son to join him at the second annual Dahlgren Downtown Forging Community Partnerships event at The Silk Mill in Fredericksburg.
While Tiernan may have been reluctant initially, he found himself enamored with the various STEM exhibits, including the Van de Graaff generator that made his hair stand on end, a challenge to build a boat that could survive waves and a station with liquid nitrogen.
“I’m sure he’s glad he came now,” Blunkosky said with a laugh.
Tiernan was joined by youth of all ages at the daytime event, which featured various NSWCDD displays, including relics, miniature missiles, projectiles from military guns and a robotics system for dealing with explosives among other exhibits.
Rappahannock High School physics teacher Preston Ailor brought a large group of students for a field trip and said he believes the event is inspirational to future engineers and scientists.
Rappahannock senior Andrew Maldonado, who plans to attend a four-year college to study engineering, said the trip “really makes me consider working at Dahlgren.”
“It’s about exposing kids to opportunities they don’t even know exist,” Ailor said. “It’s nice to have these kids who are enthusiastic to learn something new.”
Michael Clark, NSWCDD’s Potomac Tech Bridge Director, said his team “loves the opportunity to provide hands-on activities for youth across the region.”
“At the Dahlgren Downtown event, it was great to see students visiting each station and finding things that interested them personally,” Clark said. “One of the goals of our program is to get students excited about careers and possibilities in STEM fields.”
The evening portion of the two-part community outreach effort took place inside The Silk Mill banquet hall for NSWCDD personnel and welcomed distinguished guests.
The program was hosted by NSWCDD Commanding Officer Capt. Philip Mlynarski and Technical Director Dale Sisson Jr., SES. The masters of ceremonies were NSWCDD Director of Corporate Communications Alan Black and Public Affairs Officer Logan Limbo.
The event kicked off with the posting of the colors by the King George High School’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, followed by the national anthem and invocation by Naval Activity South Potomac Chaplain Lt. Wale Giwa-Alaka.
Black and Limbo welcomed attendees to the event, and delivered a brief recap of the Navy’s history, followed by a video presentation demonstrating a glimpse into the technology and capabilities that NSWCDD provides to the warfighter.
Throughout the evening, featured guest speakers from all over Fredericksburg and the surrounding areas addressed the attendees, with the President of the Dahlgren Heritage Museum Ed Jones providing the first remarks and giving tribute to the late Charles Cohen.
“To some, the Navy warfare center at Dahlgren may be best known for the booms of its firing range. But the life of Charles Cohen is a reminder that Dahlgren’s greatest claims to fame are the contributions of the remarkable men and women who worked there,” Jones said.
Cohen is remembered for many of his trailblazing achievements, such as becoming one of the world’s leading authorities in the use of large digital computers to solve critical problems, helping to confirm the earth’s pear-shaped gravity field and leading the efforts to develop GPS.
Black and Limbo also honored the impressive career of Dr. Gladys West, whose support of Cohen’s work helped lead to the modern GPS. West was represented by her daughter, Carolyn Oglesby, at the event. Dr. West recently received the Exploration and Innovation Award at the Freedom of the Seas Gala hosted by the National Museum of the Surface Navy in Los Angeles, California.
Associate Provost for Career and Workforce at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) Kimberly Young, President of the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance at UMW Curry Roberts, and Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw also spoke during the event. Collectively, they highlighted the impressive, innovative work at NSWCDD and commented on the value of collaboration.
Mlynarski thanked the group for their support before mentioning NSWCDD’s purpose.
“Our mission is to build the best weapons possible to support our warfighters so they can fight and win every time.” Mlynarski said. “That is why we are here, to make sure our Sailors have every tool they need. It’s not just a day job, it’s what we do.”
Sisson expressed the importance of NSWCDD’s mission and partnerships.
“We are in a very serious business,” he said. “We are advancing the state-of-the-art in so many areas and disciplines, not just the weapon systems themselves, but the science and mathematical disciplines that make them up. It’s the partnerships here in this room and across the commonwealth and the nation that allow us to do that.”
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who serves the 7th District of Virginia, was the keynote speaker for the evening. Spanberger emphasized the importance of the event’s “Forging Community Partnerships” theme and highlighted a national initiative.
She noted that the NSWCDD workforce continues to keep the Navy prepared for moments of calm and chaos, stating that its technological expertise and unwavering commitment preserves the supremacy of the Navy.
“Thank you for your service, your research, the expertise you bring to the table and your devotion to keeping America’s military the greatest in the world,” Spanberger said. “You are the reason we are all here tonight.”