Scientist to Sea participants share their experience

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Scientist to Sea participants share their  experienceBy STACIE LAWRENCE, NAWCWD Public Affairs

Earlier this year 13 employees from Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division spent a day aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) participating in the Scientist to Sea program.

The program gives civilians an opportunity to learn about naval operations aboard a carrier and see firsthand how the systems they develop are used by the fleet.

“When I initially joined NAVAIR, my group of friends discussed Scientist to Sea and were emphatic that opportunities like this were rare and extraordinarily important,” said Megan Richter, a mechanical engineer and touring member of the Engineer and Scientist Development Program.

“I am a strong believer that until we are talking and communicating with active-duty servicemen and women about the problems they face with their gear, we will not understand the certain impending problems that are facing us on a technological level against adversarial nations.”

The participants boarded a C-2 greyhound aircraft on North Island and arrived on the flight deck of the Roosevelt at sea. While on board, the group toured various areas of the carrier such as the kitchen, hangar and maintenance depot, the library and chapel. Talking to sailors was encouraged during meals and the group met the carrier’s captain, executive officer, air boss and command master chief among others.

“We got to ask the sailors a lot of questions,” said Jazmine Travis, a systems engineer for the F/A-18, E-18G, Sidewinder AIM-9X and Joint Helmet. “It was encouraged to ask them questions, know their interests and if they had issues for us to think about while we’re designing anything. That was pretty cool.”

For many of the participants like William Jinkins, talking with the sailors was an eye-opening look into the long hours and manual work that goes into working on a carrier. The group met with and learned the duties of several sailors including the chow boss and the ordnance and nuclear technicians.

“Learning about what it takes to be a sailor was really enlightening,” said Jinkins, an aerospace engineer and member of the Digital Innovation Acceleration Team. “What I took away from one of my first interactions was that we can sometimes make our systems too complicated. We have to maintain that user or end-customer focus and figure out how can we make things easy for our sailors.”

During their trip, group members witnessed pilots performing trap landings, launches and “touch and go” maneuvers, where the pilots take off from the flight line shortly after landing. The Distinguished Visitor Program aboard the carrier was tailored to NAVAIR employees.

“They brought out some of the weapons that we test at China Lake,” Travis said, “and we got to meet the aviation ordnanceman in charge of putting weapons on the aircraft and taking them off. Since I do weapons integration, it was very helpful to see that and ask if there’s any issues they have with the loading or unloading.”

When it was time to return to North Island, the group boarded a C-2 aircraft again and catapult launched off the flight deck. The seats in the COD aircraft are rear-facing, which created an experience in itself. “That was pretty awesome,” Jinkins said. “We decelerated from about 140 knots to zero in the span of like 400 feet. The trip, overall, was an awesome experience and I learned a ton about the trying conditions our sailors have to undergo.”

“Going on a carrier drives home the reality of how dangerous working on a carrier can be,” Richter added. “While a carrier is an incredible symbol of the United States, it is also a very vulnerable piece of working equipment manned largely by young adults who are working in conditions a majority of us wouldn’t even dream of and they’re doing it day in and day out for months on end. That is a very humbling realization to come face to face with, and for that I am nothing but appreciative.”

Jinkins encourages those who will participate in future Scientist to Sea Programs to remain respectful as they learn the ins and outs of such a large vessel.

“Learn as much as you can about the operations and what the sailors’ responsibilities are,” he said. “Do ask questions, but also be respectful. Since you’re not in uniform, it’s easy to stick out or unintentionally be in someone’s way, but just keep in mind that you’re visiting someone’s home away from home.”

Pictured: NAWCWD scientists and engineers aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) witnessed practice take-offs and landings during a Scientist to Sea trip in March — Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2019-06-21