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NEWS | Aug. 8, 2022

Naval Academy Interns Explore Engineering Duty Officer Careers at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division

By Thomas McMahon, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division NSWC Port Hueneme

Midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy learned about the impact of engineering duty officers (EDOs) as well as civilians in the Navy during an internship at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) this summer.

The eight interns from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, gained early exposure to the EDO community — which many midshipmen aren’t aware of — as they shadowed NSWC PHD officers, interacted with civilian engineers, and toured ships and facilities over the course of four weeks.

“Port Hueneme Division is a pretty big hub for the EDO community,” said Lt. Cmdr. Travis Lippman, a department officer at NSWC PHD. “By coming out here, the midshipmen can start to better understand the EDO career path and our role in Test and Evaluation, as well as being the In-Service Engineering Agent for combat systems aboard surface vessels.”

The first four midshipmen interns, who arrived at the command at the end of May, said they gained valuable insight into how EDOs and other technical experts at NSWC PHD support the fleet.

Career path

EDOs are career naval officers with advanced degrees who provide technical and business leadership to the fleet in areas such as design, acquisition, construction, maintenance and modernization. After completing a surface or submarine warfare qualification, officers can become EDOs upon commissioning or through a mid-career lateral transfer.

EDOs typically rotate between working as program managers within different program offices and taking on field leadership opportunities. Lippman said this allows them to develop professionally and understand the full scope of a program — overseeing the cost, schedule and performance aspects from the program office side, and actively supporting the testing and sustainment of systems from the organization charged with the work.

Lt. Zachary Braida, a readiness officer at NSWC PHD, described EDOs as “a very niche community” charged with great responsibility, with some 800 officers managing about 60% of the Navy’s budget. Because of the relatively small number of officers, he said, “there are not a lot of people to talk to about the EDO path” for midshipmen who are exploring career options — which is where NSWC PHD comes in.

Shifting gears

All of the midshipmen who interned at the command this summer are studying engineering disciplines, including robotics and control, mechanical, aeronautical and ocean engineering. Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) is sponsoring the internship.

Last year, NSWC PHD hosted four midshipmen, most of whom worked on projects with the command’s research and technology transition department. Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Jett, a department officer at NSWC PHD, said that this summer’s shift in focus to learning about the EDO community stemmed from feedback from PEO IWS.

“This year's internship focused on providing an overview of all the different work across the command, rather than utilizing the project format that we tried out last year,” Jett said.

Allison Webster-Giddings, a PEO IWS research engineer in the Weapons, Robotics and Control Engineering Department at the Naval Academy, serves as faculty sponsor for the NSWC PHD-hosted internship. Midshipmen applied in January, and Webster-Giddings selected eight candidates — twice as many as last year — based on both academic and professional performance. She said that this year’s internship has two key goals.

“One is to increase the midshipmen’s understanding of the engineering duty officer in supporting the warfighter,” Webster-Giddings said. “The other goal is to help them understand what the engineering design process looks like in the Navy. That’s important, because all of our midshipmen on this internship are engineering majors.”

To meet those goals, a group of officers at NSWC PHD developed a four-week itinerary for the midshipmen to witness the work of the EDO community.

EDO experience

Along with Jett, Lippman and Braida, the officers at NSWC PHD who planned this summer’s internship itinerary included Lt. Cmdr. Levi Jones, a department officer, and Lt. Matthew Bogue, Self Defense Test Ship officer.

Throughout June, the officers gave the first four midshipmen interns an up-close look at key facilities and activities at NSWC PHD. That included tours of the Self Defense Test Ship, the Underway Replenishment training facility, the Mission Package Support Facility and the Surface Warfare Engineering Facility. The interns also visited several of the command’s laboratories, including Fathomwerx Lab at the Port of Hueneme and the Directed Energy Systems Integration Laboratory at Point Mugu.

Midshipman 2nd Class (junior) Alyse Ray of Lewes, Delaware, and Midshipman 2nd Class Daniel Wall of Tucson, Arizona, both robotics and control engineering majors at the Naval Academy, said they were interested to learn how NSWC PHD uses 3D printing to provide parts for ships and meet other needs.

“I gained an appreciation for the behind-the-scenes operations of the Navy — seeing all the working parts behind the curtain,” Wall said. “Everyone has their mission, and all of them come together to form the big picture.”

The midshipmen also spent a day shadowing NSWC PHD’s department officers to observe their work as EDOs. For example, Ray followed Lippman as he took part in a Test and Evaluation status meeting, a command update brief and an Executive Steering Group meeting that covered management topics.

Shadowing department officers was an eye-opener for Midshipman 2nd Class Carter Weymouth of New York City, who is a robotics and control engineering major.

“I didn’t know much about the EDO community (before the internship),” Weymouth said. “Getting to shadow people and see what they do on a day-to-day basis was really interesting for me.”

Midshipman 2nd Class Nick Aown, an ocean engineering major from Boyne City, Michigan, said that the internship at NSWC PHD combined his academic interest in engineering with his military interest in supporting Navy surface vessels and their weapons systems.

“This was a really cool opportunity to learn about a community that we don’t get much exposure to at the Naval Academy,” Aown said. “I think I still ultimately want to be a Marine officer, but I’m very happy to have had this experience.”

Even if the midshipmen interns end up not choosing the EDO path, Lippman said that what they learned and saw at NSWC PHD will help them in their naval careers.

Broad benefits

Beyond learning about the EDO community, the internship at NSWC PHD exposed midshipmen to the role of civilians in the Navy. According to Lippman, this is an important lesson for any naval officer.

“It wasn’t until much later in my career that I truly understood how many proud civilians — who are all about the mission — it takes to support the Navy,” he said. “For the midshipmen coming to Port Hueneme Division where we have nearly 3,000 civilians, it’s a tremendous opportunity. The result will be more commissioned officers who have a better understanding of the civilian footprint and how vital it is to the success of the Navy.”

For NSWC PHD, one of the advantages of hosting the internship was increasing awareness of how the command supports the fleet.

“There’s a benefit to informing the midshipmen what we do and giving them contact cards — that can start to pay dividends,” Lippman said. “They might go out in the fleet and talk to other junior officers, and all of a sudden we have junior officers who know about the 24/7 help desk at Port Hueneme, and they’re emailing us to see how we can support them.”

Braida added that the internship was also an opportunity to attract talented officers for the command’s EDO billets.

“Even if one of the midshipmen comes to work here, that would be a successful interaction,” Braida said.

The next four midshipmen interns arrived at NSWC PHD in late June. For four weeks in late June and July, they followed an itinerary similar to what the first four midshipmen experienced, with command overviews, facility and ship tours, and officer shadowing.