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NEWS | Sept. 25, 2019

NSWC Panama City project manager inducted into U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Athletic Hall of Fame

By Katherine Mapp NSWC PCD Public Affairs

A Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) employee was inducted into the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Athletic Hall of Fame Sept. 20.

Jena (Jeffries) Rhea, project manager for Amphibious Assault Systems Integration and the lead test director for the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) 100/ Ship Interface Test at NSWC PCD was inducted into the Hall of Fame for her athletic achievements in volleyball and softball while serving at the academy from 2000-2004.

 “I was honored and filled with gratitude for all of the people that helped me achieve this,” said Rhea. “I am only the sixth woman to be inducted into the USMMA Athletic Hall of Fame so to me it means I’m carrying the torch for all of the women that helped get me here and all that will come after me.”

Rhea said playing softball and volleyball at USMMA has shaped her life.

“What I’m most proud of is the fact that I was able to play two sports for all four years I was at USMMA, and I was on successful teams with amazing women that left our mark on the history of the academy. I did all of this while earning a degree and accumulating 360 days at sea,” said Rhea. “Having the chance to share this with my family, especially my children, is the most special part of all this.”

According to Rhea, USMMA taught her service above self and to live by the Academy motto “Acta non Verba,” meaning deeds not words.

“The academy is where I developed my love for ships and a drive to do what I could to help our warfighter. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering, a U. S. Coast Guard Third Assistant Engineer License for Unlimited Tonnage Vessels (steam, gas turbine, and diesel), and was commissioned as a strategic sealift officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.”

Rhea served at USMMA in New York during the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and flew out a few months later to complete her first sea year period with Military Sealift Command. Her ship deployed to the Persian Gulf with 7th Fleet where she spent her time resupplying Navy ships with fuel, supplies, and ammunition.

“This time changed the direction of my life and I’m proud that I’m still able to support and interface with the Fleet in my job today,” said Rhea.

Today at NSWC PCD, Rhea provides a broad spectrum of support in the amphibious warfare mission area with ships that interface with LCAC(s).

Rhea gives gratitude to her family, coaches, teammates, mentors, and coworkers for providing her with support and hopes that she will inspire younger individuals to excel in academics and sports.

“I truly believe sports instill leadership qualities that can’t be taught or learned anywhere else,“ said Rhea.

In addition to the Hall of Fame recognition, Rhea was also the 2003 recipient of the Julie Berke Trophy as the Academy’s top female student-athlete. She was a four-year starter for both the USMMA volleyball and softball teams. On the court, Rhea was a member of the 2000 and 2001 Skyline Conference Champion Mariner volleyball teams, and was an All-Skyline Conference selection and two-year team captain.

On the softball diamond, she led the USMMA Mariners to back-to-back Skyline Conference Championships in 2003 and 2004 as the team captain, while also being selected as the Eastern College Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2004 and to multiple All-Region Teams over three seasons. Rhea was the Skyline Rookie of the Year in 2001, two-time Skyline Player of the Year in 2003 and 2004, and a four-time All-Conference First Team selection. She lead the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III in batting average during 2003 and still holds USMMA records in batting average, runs batted in, doubles, triples, and slugging percentage.

The USMMA is a federal service academy that educates and graduates leaders of exemplary character who are inspired to serve the national security, marine transportation, and economic needs of the United States as licensed Merchant Marine Officers and commissioned officers in the Armed Forces. This induction highlights Rhea’s athletic achievements in volleyball and softball while serving at the academy.