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Through Her Eyes: NSWC Crane Engineer Accompanies NAVSEA Executive Director During Visit to Crane

By NSWC Crane Corporate Communications | Feb. 28, 2018

February 28, 2018

CRANE, Ind. – Manda Schaeffer has spent the majority of her more than seven years at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) focusing on specific technologies. Schaeffer recently realized, however, that in order to continue to grow, she needed a better understanding of Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) mission priorities.

That’s when Schaeffer became interested in the Leadership and Enterprise Exposure Program (LEEP), which was designed to provide NAVSEA employees with the chance to interact directly with senior NAVSEA leaders during site visits, and expand their knowledge of the NAVSEA enterprise.

On Monday, Schaeffer had the opportunity to join the official party of NAVSEA Executive Director, James Smerchansky, during his visit to NSWC Crane as part of a nationwide tour of NAVSEA warfare center divisions – an opportunity made possible by LEEP.

“The more complete knowledge I have of both the enterprise and the technology, the more effective I can be as a leader,” said Schaeffer, a senior engineer for NSWC Crane’s Polymers and Undersea Sensors Branch. “I have been fortunate enough to have great mentors during my tenure at Crane, and I believe it is important to carry that torch to the next generation.”

Smerchansky and NAVSEA Commander, Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, are visiting the 10 warfare center divisions under the theme “One Warfare Center Team — Expanding the Advantage for the Navy”. Vice Adm. Moore will visit NSWC Crane later this year.

Schaeffer got a first-hand look at Smerchansky’s leadership style during tours of NSWC Crane’s three mission areas – Electronic Warfare (EW), Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions – and nationally-recognized technical labs.

“One of the things I really found amazing on this particular trip was the transformation of the Crane organization,” said Smerchansky, a member of the Senior Executive Service. “Crane still provides a ton of engineering support, but it’s really aligned along those three specific mission areas, which I think is fantastic.”

Schaeffer admits she’s usually a little intimidated by high-level leaders, but that wasn’t the case with Smerchansky. Schaeffer found Smerchansky to be personable and easy to talk to, something she didn’t expect from a person in his position.

“I think what makes him a really good leader is his ability to be genuine and have a conversation with everyone he interacts with,” Schaeffer said. “One of my biggest takeaways was seeing how he interacted with everyone – you could tell he wanted to engage with each individual. He really does care about the people, and he’s an excellent role model for how to be a good leader.”

Schaeffer was particularly impressed with the messages Smerchansky shared during his all-hands presentation, which focused on the top three priorities of Vice Adm. Moore’s Campaign Plan – On-Time Delivery of Ships and Submarines, a Culture of Affordability, and Cybersecurity.

“We’ve got to make every dollar count, get everything out of it that we can, treat it like it’s our own money – that’s what Culture of Affordability is about,” Smerchansky said. “It’s not ‘Do more with less’. It’s ‘Do more without more’ by finding ways to be more efficient.”

Said Schaeffer: “It’s more than just words or a nice-sounding phrase. He’s able to translate it using real-life stories.”

During the visit, Smerchansky learned more about NSWC Crane’s efforts in Trusted and Assured Microelectronics, cybersecurity hardware, EW, Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems, underwater communications, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, among others.

NSWC Crane subject matter experts also briefed Smerchansky on Crane’s culture of innovation and showed him tangible examples of that innovation, such as the Silent ATV and Wide Field of View night vision goggles.

“Something that hasn’t changed in the many years I’ve been dealing with Crane is the dedicated, hard-working and outstanding workforce that I find here at Crane,” Smerchansky said. “Crane’s ability to recruit, train and retain people here is really helping us to expand the advantage.”

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

NAVSEA – the largest of the Navy's five systems commands – comprises command staff, headquarters directorates, affiliated Program Executive Offices, and numerous field activities. NAVSEA engineers, builds, buys, and maintains ships, submarines, and combat systems that meet the fleet's current and future operational requirements. The command is also responsible for establishing and enforcing technical authority and standards in combat system design and operation to ensure systems are engineered effectively and operate safely and reliably.

Click here to watch his takeaway video from visit his at NSWC Crane: