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Embracing the Dream: NSWC Dahlgren Division Employee Wins Award for Impacting Business and Laser Programs

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications | July 31, 2020

DAHLGREN, Va. – When Bret Coons marched the grounds of Dahlgren as a Navy Sea Cadet, he dreamed of working at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) where he too could make a difference for the warfighter.

Coons’ dream came true, not only when he began his career at NSWCDD, but when he was formally recognized with the Paul J. Martini award for his contributions to the mission.   

Coons joined the NSWCDD workforce as a student employee, which led to full-time employment as an acquisition advocate followed by another position – platform integration lead for the Solid State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM), one of the Navy’s high energy laser systems.

“In the Integrated Combat Systems department, I was doing a business-centric position. As SSL-TM’s platform integration lead, I provide the Sailor’s perspective for the project,” said Coons, who is also a Navy reserve officer supporting Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 18 based in California. “My experience in the Navy has given me the ability to bridge the gap between the civilian service and the active duty Sailor community.”

According to the award citation, Coons was selected for his “vast knowledge, corporate approach, and superb customer service” across the NSWCDD Integrated Combat Systems Department.

“I’d like to thank Jim Sherman, Michael Till (Weapons Control and Integration Department head), and Dave Richardson (Readiness and Training Systems Department head) for their leadership and for putting me in a position to succeed. They gave me a seat at the table, and the autonomy to lead my team well,” said Coons.

Although he started at NSWCDD as a student employee before graduating from Old Dominion University, Coons’ experience with the Navy began much earlier than that. “As a teenager, I was a Sea Cadet. The program is like JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps), except there’s a lot more exposure to the active duty community,” he said. “I got to travel all over the country to shadow active duty folks, get on the job training, and learn about different career fields in the Navy. It definitely facilitated me joining the Navy later.”

As a student employee, Coons worked under a program called the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) that gave students an opportunity to work at NSWCDD as a temporary employee with the possibility of transitioning to a full-time position. Although SCEP no longer exists, programs like Pathways and STEM-student employment program still create the same opportunities for students.

Paul J. Martini awardees are selected for their excellence in an administrative or support function with a record of commitment and dedication to their duties. The award is named to honor Paul J. Martini, a former head of Engineering Support Directorate of the Naval Ordinance Laboratory from November 1951 to December 1973.

Coons is one of 90 individuals and 39 teams honored with various awards and featured in a special NSWCDD Honorary Awards video program released to the workforce on July 27 and is scheduled to be posted to the NSWCDD YouTube Channel. NSWCDD Commanding Officer Capt. Casey Plew, NSWCDD Technical Director John Fiore, and U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, congratulated and commended awardees and their families in the video presentation to be posted on the command’s YouTube page.