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NEWS | Oct. 31, 2023

NSWC Crane physicist continues to serve through his work as an Individuals with Disabilities Special Emphasis Program Lead

By Emily Gray, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) employee Mark Wilburn works as a physicist within the Strategic Missions mission area. Wilburn is also the Individuals with Disabilities Special Emphasis Program Lead. The program opens up opportunities for men and women with disabilities to find employment within Federal Service, to advance in their careers, and to educate employees about different kinds of discrimination that can be found in the workplace.

Mark Wilburn, a native of southern Indiana, began his career at NSWC Crane in 2018 after serving overseas for many years.

Wilburn joined the United States Army in 1984 and served until 1995 as a Microwave/Satellite Communications Technician. During this time, he was deployed to Iraq in Operation Desert Storm where he served with Delta Company, 11th Signal Battalion and attached to Delta Battery, MIM-104 Patriot Systems, with the 32nd Army Air Defense Command. He was honorably discharged and decided to pursue his bachelor’s degree at the University of Louisville. Upon graduation, Wilburn began working for various defense contracting companies as an electrical engineer.

During his early days as a contractor, 9/11 occurred which inspired him to serve again this time in Afghanistan.

After his time in Afghanistan, Wilburn began working at NSWC Crane as a physicist with the Undersea Sensors Sustainment Branch in the Global Deterrence and Defense Department. He states that his humble beginnings are what motivates him to be the best person that he can be.

“My parents were very poor, but they had a strong work ethic and they instilled within me that same virtue along with a deep respect for the military, law enforcement, firemen and all other first responders. My professional motivation comes from that work ethic and my desire to serve,” said Wilburn.

It was after his time in Afghanistan that Wilburn developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming and kicking and punching at the air. I would be completely covered in sweat and my wife was afraid of me. My pride as a soldier wouldn’t acknowledge that I had a problem,” stated Wilburn.

After a turning point in his personal life, Wilburn had decided to get the help that he needed.

“I went to the VA Medical Center and asked for help. I was diagnosed with PTSD and enrolled into a cognitive therapy program,” said Wilburn.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD is “a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, series of events or set of circumstances. It can occur in all people, of any ethnicity, nationality or culture, and at any age. Many people with PTSD need professional treatment to recover from psychological distress that can be intense and disabling and the earlier a person gets treatment, the better chance of recovery.”

“I was prescribed medication and started attending weekly personal therapy sessions. After three months, my doctor decided that my treatment plan needed to be augmented with group therapy sessions. While in group therapy, I was introduced to the idea of a PTSD service dog. I was skeptical at first, but decided to pursue it. Looking back now, two years later, I know that my service dog had the greatest impact upon my recovery,” said Wilburn. 

Once Wilburn realized his dilemma, one of the first people he talked to was his boss.

“Nobody likes to take bad news to their boss, especially when they are still in an employment probationary period. My first stop was to have a meeting with my supervisor, David Martin. My mind entertained a thousand different scenarios and none of them were good. To my relief, Dave was kind and caring. He listened intently and advised me in accordance with Crane’s policies and procedures. He then went the extra mile and talked to me about my problems and concerns. If Dave is the norm for Crane Management, then I know that other people with similar situations will be well taken care of in the future,” said Wilburn.

Wilburn’s work includes undersea sensors and cables like sonar transducers and hydrophones and is something that he is incredibly proud of since it is “critical to mission success within the fleet.”

As for his future with NSWC Crane, Wilburn believes that his opportunities are limitless. He hopes to continue growing in his field and eventually step into a chief engineering role.

Outside of his work at NSWC Crane, Wilburn is a husband and a father of four who enjoys playing guitar, working on cars, and is an amateur astronomer.

About NSWC Crane | NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.

Join Our Team! NAVSEA employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce - from students and entry level employees to experienced professionals and individuals with disabilities. We support today's sophisticated Navy and Marine Corps ships, aircraft, weapon systems and computer systems. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, IT and cyber specialists, as well as trade

and other support professionals to ensure the U.S. Navy can protect and defend America. Please contact NSWC Crane Human Resources at