VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) and Dam Neck Annex have historically benefitted from hiring young engineers with new college degrees, with many going on to long careers as Navy civilians. To fully ensure success, however, leaders soon realized that these young engineers needed to see what their customers – primarily surface Sailors – do at sea.
A program was soon born: Scientist, Engineer and Logistician (SEaL) to Sea.
“The SEaL to Sea program was established last year to get them shipboard experience that they might not otherwise get and to get a better understanding of the shipboard environment and operational use of systems they work on,” said Barry Stevens, Combat Direction Systems Activity (CDSA) Dam Neck Science Advisor, in a September 2017 interview. "This program supplements the work already being done by line managers to expose the workforce to the shipboard environment. Employee feedback has been positive across the board."
The program existed in various forms since 2012 but was formalized with funding in 2016. This past year, eight engineers embarked various ships for two to five days at sea. The junior personnel were paired with a senior engineer for shipboard familiarity and to understand shipboard routine.
“It is a great experience,” said Eddie Tirado from Dahlgren’s Warfare Systems Engineering and Integration Department. “It helps a lot to see how the final product impacts the work force and gives certain awareness for future design capabilities. In my job, I work independent validation and verification for Ship Self Defense System. Hearing from the Sailors how the system is performing, the pros and cons of the system, helps to have a better understanding and awareness for future designs.”
The riders produce a trip report on what they learned to ensure the program’s future improvement and success. “We will continue the program next fiscal year and hope to get even more engineers out,” said Stevens.
CDSA Dam Neck’s Brady Roundtree, the program’s coordinator added, “I look at our science and technology projects on various ships and then look at ship schedules to find opportunities to get the employees out to see their work in action.”
“It was a great opportunity to get underway and observe the lifestyle of Sailors and note the various technologies supported by their own facilities. We observed several weapons tests and training exercises and toured different areas of the ship, including CIC, the bridge, hangar deck, well deck, flight deck and others. It was valuable getting feedback from both the officers and enlisted about the ship and capabilities.”
CDSA Dam Neck, as a part of NSWCDD, performs research, development, test and evaluation, analysis, systems engineering and integration of complex naval systems associated with surface warfare and strategic combat and weapon systems. As a result, it relies on a workforce heavily composed of scientists and engineers who work in its laboratories and facilities performing these functions. These employees often require years of on-the-job training and experience in addition to their formal education to become proficient on projects. This makes it vital that the command not only be able to attract top talent, but retain them as well.