DAHLGREN, Va. – The people and mission of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) in support of the Fleet were highlighted at a change of command ceremony, here, April 24.
The command’s military and civilian members – joining local elected officials and guests, including former NSWCDD commanding officers – welcomed Capt. (sel) Stephen ‘Casey’ Plew, incoming commanding officer, and bade farewell to Capt. Godfrey ‘Gus’ Weekes, who led NSWCDD since 2016.
“For a hundred years, the scientists, engineers, support personnel, and technicians at Dahlgren have the served the Navy and their nation with distinction,” Rear. Adm. Eric Ver Hage, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Warfare Centers, told an audience of nearly 300 people. “What started with gun powder, bullets, and smoke a century ago has morphed into lasers, cyber (engineering), ballistic missiles, and countless other technologies. The common thread throughout its century of service is the patriotism, work ethic, and innovative spirit of those who come to work every day through those gates.”
NSWCDD celebrated a centennial of technological innovation that revolutionized surface warfare at a grand finale ceremony in October of 2018.
“The men and women who serve here – they possess incredible resolve, resourcefulness and they’re the backbone of the Navy and NAVSEA’s science and technology, research and development, and in-service engineering efforts,” said Ver Hage, who presided over the ceremony – a time honored naval tradition marking the transfer of authority, responsibility, and accountability from one accomplished naval officer to another.
During the ceremony – the 47th transfer of command authority at NSWCDD – Ver Hage presented Weekes with the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious service as a pioneering and strategic leader who transformed the 4,400 member Dahlgren Division workforce into a technologically rigorous center of engineering innovation and excellence while concurrently executing critical technical work supporting operational forces.
“We have been visited by the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations); the U.K. Royal Navy First Sea Lord; two ASN RDAs (Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition); numerous local state and federal elected officials, and they all come to Dahlgren because of the incredible work that you all do – the mission you all perform,” said Weekes at the event held on the Potomac River Test Range overlooking the Potomac River. “I am so proud to be a part of this team, I cannot express it.”
Ver Hage and Weekes highlighted Dahlgren’s impact on several technical programs since Weekes took command in November, 2016.
“The first flight of a maneuverable hyper velocity projectile from a Navy ship didn’t happen with Dahlgren alone but it was great team effort and your team deserves so much credit for that,” said Ver Hage.
The hypervelocity projectile is a next-generation, guided projectile capable of completing multiple missions for gun systems such as the Navy 5-inch, 155mm, and future railguns.
“Construction and occupancy of a much needed new Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) Support Facility and the successful at sea firing from the Navy’s first Virtual Combat System – the Virtual Twin,” occurred during Weekes’ tenure, the admiral pointed out.
The SLBM facility features state-of-the-art labs, offices, and equipment for scientists, engineers, and technical experts who develop, test, and maintain critical portions for current and future strategic systems.
In 2018, NSWCDD led the design, development, and execution of the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) and USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) Aegis Virtual Twin demonstrations, accomplishing the Virtual Twin pilot technical goals under aggressive schedules and with limited resources. Moreover, the Virtual Twin demonstrated its capability to control the SPY-1 radar during live operations at sea aboard the USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) last December.
“Our electromagnetic railgun engineers successfully demonstrated a 10 round per minute firing rate at tactically relevant muzzle energy at Terminal Range,” added Weekes. “This is where the Navy will eventually go. It will be electric weapons. Let there be no doubt – we are, you all are, the center of gravity for all Navy laser programs.”
Weekes, who grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, also spoke about the command’s 2018 Leadership in a Diverse Environment event where Dahlgren employees questioned and interacted with panelists and speakers concerning the challenges and opportunities facing today’s leadership. “It’s all about ensuring that we have a diverse and inclusive work environment,” said Weekes regarding the initiative that encouraged new hires, journeymen, supervisors, and those with decades of civil or military service to use contemporary tools while embracing diversity and inclusion as a business imperative.
“We just celebrated our 100 years of innovation last October and based on our mission, we will be here for a hundred plus more,” said Weekes. “Never lose sight of why we are here – we are in the threat business. I have seen that realization on your faces every day that I have had the privilege of coming to work as your CO.”
Weekes concluded his remarks and marked the occasion with a five-round burst from a nearby 5-inch Mk 45, Mod 4 gun. As five shots rang out across the gun line and throughout Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren, the audience applauded.
After Weekes and Plew each read their respective orders, Plew then greeted his new command.
“There are five key areas that I believe lead to a successful command,” Plew told his audience. “We must have the tools to do our job. That includes the training and buildings necessary to execute those duties. We must be safe from intentional physical, mental, or emotional abuse. I can’t stand for that. We have to work as a team. Nothing happens as a lone wolf, we have to be a team. I believe everyone has value and a voice. We have to reinforce that voice and make that our mission. Our mission must be clearly articulated. In short, our mission at NSWC is to provide the research and development for the weapons on our surface ships that our Sailors need to execute our nation’s defense. We do not sail ships into battle. We sail warships into battle. The kinetic end of that warship is developed here at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren – that’s been true for a hundred years and it will continue to be true. We will execute those duties with a purpose and we will do it urgently.”
Plew concluded his remarks by addressing his predecessor (Weekes), the NSWCDD Technical Director John Fiore, the Dahlgren workforce, and his family.
“Capt. Weekes, Mr. Fiore, and the Dahlgren team – you guys are awesome in the truest sense of the word,” said the new NSWCDD commanding officer. “Mom, dad, and family – you gave me the base for who I am and my wife always keeps me solid on that foundation. I have great mentors and friends and former leadership and we will focus on the mission of Dahlgren and the people who execute that mission.”
In his next tour, Weekes will serve as the program manager for the Littoral Combat Ship Mission Modules Program.
NSWCDD is a premier research and development center which serves as a specialty site for weapon system integration. The command's unique ability to rapidly introduce new technology into complex, warfighting systems is based on its longstanding competencies in science and technology, research and development, and test and evaluation.