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NEWS | April 5, 2022

Naval Postgraduate School Meyer Scholar Shines at NSWC Dahlgren Division

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

“Why did I join the Navy?” Lt. Sasha Barnett asked rhetorically. “Since I was probably 10, I’ve always felt a calling to be a part of something bigger and greater than myself.”

Barnett, a Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division systems engineer who supports the High Energy Laser Integrated with Optical-dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS) program, speaks humbly about her Navy career that began when she commissioned as a Surface Warfare Officer with an Engineering Duty Option in 2014 after graduating from the California Maritime Academy where she received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

She embarked on two sea tours, the first from 2014 to 2017 during which she was assigned as the Main Propulsion Officer aboard the USS Hopper (DDG 70) homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Afterwards, she came to Dahlgren in the Spring of 2017 for the Combat Systems Officer/Fire Control Officer Pipeline Course at AEGIS Training and Readiness Center. That same year she was assigned to the USS Higgins (DDG 76) homeported in San Diego as the Fire Control Officer. After executing her Engineering Duty Option, she then attended the Naval Postgraduate School, where she was selected as a plankowner in the Meyer Scholar program.

She was among the first six officers in a program that currently has enrolled and graduated a total of about 50 officers, according to John Hammerer, Chair of Integrated Air and Missile Defense at NPS. Acting on the vision of Vice Adm. Jon Hill, Hammerer started the program in August 2019. Just after he announced it, he received a call from Barnett who expressed interest in joining.

“I was mainly interested in participating because I didn’t want to lose that tactical warfighting mindset. I have a well-rounded technical background and coupling that with how we think we will employ weapon systems is key in future system developments,” Barnett said.

Barnett was the perfect candidate.

“The purpose of the program is to develop officers who are competent and confident in their ability to acquire and employ advanced naval warfare systems,” Hammerer said. “I think we’re producing world class officers when it comes to combat systems,” he said, noting Barnett is one of them.

The Meyer Program was named after retired Navy Rear Adm. Wayne E. Meyer who is widely-renowned as the “Father of AEGIS.”

“Admiral Meyer’s mantra was, ‘Build a little. Test a little. Learn a lot,’ and we’re trying to get back to that – that kind of mindset. And, it’s difficult to do that with the fast-paced environment that we are in today while also trying to maintain that tactical and technical overmatch against adversaries,” Barnett said. “The Meyer Scholar Program gets us back to that and really helps us collaborate across the joint Services.”

Hammerer would agree.

“If you think about it, just like Sasha Barnett, all of these officers are going to be ready to contribute on the first day of their next assignment after graduating from the Naval Postgraduate School and in follow-on assignments as well.  Whether Engineering Duty Officers like Sasha, or Surface Warfare Officers like Capt. Casey Plew, NSWCDD’s Commanding Officer, they learn the how and why of combat system requirements, design, test, production and lifecycle support in conjunction with their regular academic programs. There are few if any other places in the Navy that provide this interdisciplinary approach to combat systems. As a result of years of study in the Meyer Scholar program, they have a tremendous advantage” Hammerer said.

After graduating from the NPS with a master’s degree in applied physics in 2021, Barnett came to NSWCDD – a place she was drawn to during a NPS Experience Week visit.

“I came to NSWCDD and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be at the forefront of the research, development, and integration of warfare systems and you just don’t get that kind of experience anywhere else,” Barnett said.

Today, she supports HELIOS as the console integrator coordinating efforts between Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems (IWS 2.0) and the NSWCDD Strategic and Computing Systems Department console subject matter experts to bring the technology aboard a ship.

With her bright career path, Barnett may not be too different from Meyer, according to Hammerer.

“Just as Admiral Meyer was pioneering guided missiles, Sasha Barnett is pioneering directed energy weapons,” Hammerer said. “She might be the most, or one of the most, qualified officers in the United States Navy when it comes to laser system engineering…She’s right up there with the best when it comes to what she’s done for NPS and what she’s doing right now.”

Barnett has high aspirations.

“The goal for me is to get to the program office and be either a major program manager or perhaps even come back to the warfare center as a commanding officer, but to do either I need to have that program management experience,” Barnett said.

As Barnett looks toward the future, she shared some advice for Sailors who may wish to follow a similar career path.

“Never stop asking questions. I do not consider myself an expert in any subject. I still find that I’m learning something new every single day which is very humbling,” Barnett said.