Future Vision / Action Call

By: LT Dave Nobles


This is a call to action for anyone who’s ever wanted to make some positive change in the Navy.

If that sounds like you, we want you to join us.

The Athena Project plays an important role in shaping the future of our fleet.  And, after last month’s successful Waterfront Athena Five, and the awesome support that we’ve gotten from our innovative friends in both the Navy and the private sector, the time has come to expand The Athena Project beyond just a quarterly pitch event.

But we need your help: If you have a passion for creativity and innovation, we’re looking to add to our planning body, The Athenian Council, here in San Diego.

The Athena Project is growing by way of geography, with Athena East coming to the Hampton Roads area in September and Athena PacNW coming soon as well. It’s incredibly inspiring to see the passion for creativity across the fleet, and that’s why we want to build the scope of the Project out here in San Diego, where it all began.

Do you want to join the Athenian Council? Message us on Facebook or e-mail us at athenanavy@gmail.com!

Do you want to join the Athenian Council? Message us on Facebook or e-mail us at athenanavy@gmail.com!

The vision for The Athena Project has always been to unlock the creativity within us all. To prove that innovation is not a time sump. To create a new wave of Sailors who think different, have confidence in their own creative abilities, and to give them a loud megaphone to voice their ideas, and to remove the fear of using it.

We believe that The Athena Project is incredibly important to build the Navy of tomorrow by inspiring its most important resource to be better. To not settle for “that’s the way it’s always been” or “because I said so.” To always be thinking and to always be improving.

Aligned with that vision, here are some of the things that we’re planning for the future. And we want you to be a part of it:


1)  athenaTHINK:  We often talk about great ideas, but rarely do we take the time to teach tools that Sailors could use to attack a problem with structured brainstorming techniques. With professional resources, we aim to host free design thinking workshops to teach these tools in a fun and open environment, open to everyone.


2)   athenaSPEARS:  Using the science of structured brainstorming and design thinking techniques, we aim to host targeted solving events that attack a specific problem, providing a bevy of powerful solutions straight from the deckplates.


3)   athenaFORUMS:  To spread the culture of creativity and continue to build bridges from the civilian sector into the fleet, we plan on hosting a series of Guest Speaker events for free. Whether you’re hearing stories from a football player or a poet, we want to blast apart the aperture by which we view problem solving in the Navy.

If these events or our quarterly Waterfront Athena events sound like something that you want to be a part of, join us. If you want to have a stake in innovating the future of the fleet, join us. You can message us on Facebook, message us on Twitter @AthenaNavy or send an e-mail to athenanavy@gmail.com to get involved!

Dave Nobles is the Combat Systems Officer onboard the Ballistic Missile Defense Guided Missile Destroyer, USS BENFOLD (DDG 65). He is also a member of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell.

Waterfront Athena Six is right around the corner! What’s your big idea?

The Supply Corps: Cracking The Code on Military Internships


Editor’s Note: For quite some time, many have called for improved internship opportunities for unrestricted line officers. From Esteban Castellanos’ DEF 2013 externships idea to CDR Michele Day’s pitch for Sailor internships at last week’s Waterfront Athena Five, folks within various communities in the Navy have been beating the drum for internship opportunities to strengthen their contributions to the service. As it stands now, the opportunities are rare and at senior levels, like the SECDEF Corporate Fellows Program – which is only open to Commanders and Captains and is usually post-command. The Navy Supply Corps, on the other hand, offers “Training With Industry” opportunities at more junior levels, and this post is the story of one experience with that program. It would appear that the other communities have a lot to learn!

By LCDR Shannon Walker, SC, USN

Would you like to enhance your supply chain skills and learn from an industry leader?   If so, your next set of orders could take you to Atlanta, GA, as a Training With Industry (TWI) Supply Chain Executive fellow.  My introduction to The Home Depot (THD) and the home improvement industry has been nothing short of great.  My selection for this wonderful opportunity was a direct result of following the career guidance Supply Corps Officers receive from the Office of Personnel via the road shows and advice from countless mentors.  Sustained superior performance is required to get you on the short list of eligibles for a TWI tour, and is mandatory to get the most from a year working as a member of THD’s supply chain; this ensures a valuable relationship between the Supply Corps and The Home Depot, a win-win situation for both organizations.

My career followed the typical path of a mid-grade Supply Corps officer and prepared me for success at THD.  Tours at the U.S. Fleet Logistics Center, Yokosuka, Japan and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in Fort Belvoir, VA gave me the supply chain background necessary to be a valuable contributor and member of The Home Depot supply chain team.  As a member of Commander Pacific Fleet (N4) and a prior Flag Aide, I was groomed to understand the strategic picture.  Earning my master’s degree in business administration at the College of William & Mary ensured I had the formal tools necessary to contribute immediately.  In terms of education, experience, and skill set, Supply Corps officers stand toe-to-toe with our counterparts at THD, and in many cases, our career track is more diverse thanks to our experiences and broader perspectives.

Corporate Challenges & Key Take-Aways:

My duties as the Deputy National Account Manager and working with the comparative supply chain operations at DLA enabled a seamless transition to the THD Store Support Center.   The Supply Corps and THD have many of the same challenges including increasing stock turns, budgeting, and personnel management, although, I would submit THD has the benefit of autonomy in selecting their team.  A couple of big distinctions include the daily management of profit/loss statements and the drive to keep a step ahead of competitors.  Shareholder accountability and fiscal viability are top priorities.  They have to continually improve and innovate to maintain and grow their market share in their industry.  For example, their transition into the e-commerce sector with the opening of a new direct fulfillment center in Locust Grove, GA with two more on the way supports their interconnected retail strategy and adds versatility to their supply chain strategy.

Companies like The Home Depot have Core Values too --- and a lot more to offer!

Companies like The Home Depot have Core Values too — and a lot more to offer!

Culture Analysis:

Similar to the Navy, THD’s core values are the fabric of the company’s culture and are central to their success. THD has developed its culture based on 8 values:

  • Taking care of our people
  • Giving Back
  • Doing the right thing
  • Excellent customer service
  • Creating shareholder value
  • Building strong relationships
  • Entrepreneurial spirit
  • Respect for all

In fact, THD’s values are a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  Associate pride and its “orange-blooded” entrepreneurial spirit are distinctive hallmarks of the culture proudly symbolized by the  orange apron.  The THD value wheel is prominently displayed on every apron.  There are significant parallels in both THD culture and the culture being embedded by RADM Yuen including a “work environment characterized by communication, command climate, and collaboration”.

Business Operations: 

Operationally, THD is divided into the 3 divisions: West, North, and South.  They also have operations in Mexico, Canada, and China.  The supply chain supports each with divisional teams including: inventory planning and replenishment; transportation; distribution; direct fulfillment; finance; and supply chain development.  With the exception of direct fulfillment (eCommerce), the Supply Corps performs each of these various functions globally.  The Home Depot operations are further broken down into store operations and support – very similar to the Navy’s concept of line/unrestricted line and staff corps.

The battle rhythm is fierce and the pace is built around key events like the spring season and “Black Friday”.  The housing market and its recovery is a key driver and leading indicator of the home improvement industry and thus, THD’s success.

In support of my executive fellowship, The Home Depot provided me with access to meetings and reports, allowed me to travel to various locations in order to learn operations, and had me work with matrix teams in support of numerous projects.  A refreshing aspect of being assigned to THD is that they expect you to bring your experience and expertise to the table and contribute.  This tour will allow you to go as far as you want in terms of participation and involvement, providing left and right limits, and allowing you to problem solve.

I spent my first six months in transportation working on various projects including alignment of regional fleets and as the transportation lead for the realignment of distribution centers.  The regional fleet initiative was designed to reduce transportation costs by taking advantage of backhaul opportunities and improving equipment utilization by implementing continuous loops. I represented the transportation division as the point person for store moves in the North and South Divisions.  This included being the focal point of coordination for the transportation work plan ensuring we remained on task and schedule.  The work plan contained in excess of 200 tasks.

The last six months were spent in distribution assigned to the Southern Distribution Team.  My individual focus was on process improvements within the distribution centers (DCs) that helped drive increased operational efficiencies and productivity.  I participated as a member of a matrix team chartered to lean out processes and promulgate changes to other DCs in the network.  This was a great utilization of my lean six sigma green belt skills.

Unique Opportunities: 

My tour at THD provided several unique opportunities including weekly face-to-face executive level meetings, quarterly office calls with several senior executives, travel opportunities with senior executives including corporate travel via THDs private fleet, earning reports announcements, and Spring in the Store and Fall in the Field (unique programs that allow corporate associates the opportunity to work in a store 1 day a week during Spring and or Fall). I also attended two major supply chain conferences including Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.  Senior Supply Corps leadership attended both conferences including RADM (Ret) Bianchi as the guest speaker for RILA in San Diego, CA.  Involvement with THD foundation was another benefit of my TWI Tour.

The Home Depot Foundation is the philanthropic arm of The Home Depot.  The Home Depot Foundation makes an impact in thousands of communities nationwide through cash grants, product donations and thousands of hours of volunteerism by Home Depot associates.  For every dollar or product donated and every hour volunteered, the goal is to support nonprofits that focus on repairing, remodeling and maintaining affordable housing for deserving families and individuals.  The Home Depot Foundation is dedicated to ensuring every veteran has a safe place to call home.  To achieve our mission, the Foundation has committed to investing $80 million over five years to nonprofits who specifically address veterans’ housing needs.  In addition, through Team Depot, our associate-led volunteer force, our associates will be volunteering their time and expert skills to repair and remodel veterans’ homes and facilities.

Imagine what the Navy could learn through symbiotic partnerships with any number of organizations!

Imagine what the Navy could learn through symbiotic partnerships with any number of organizations!

Personal Perspective:  What truly made this tour great is the unfettered access to the executive level leaders in the supply chain and throughout the entire organization including finance, merchandising, store operations, field level executives, the planning process, reports, etc.  The exposure to senior executives is unmatched unless you have had the opportunity to have been an admiral’s aide or worked on a Flag level staff.  I participated in daily and weekly meetings at the executive vice president, vice president, and senior director level to include business reviews, steering committee, and productivity reviews.  I was also privileged to be a part of executive outings including supply chain reviews and other educational opportunities.  To be in the conference room, car, or plane and participate in discussions and witness the thought process that goes into the decisions making process made my tour at THD invaluable.

During my year on board The Home Depot I came to realize there is a lot more to The Home Depot than the brick and mortar stores and the 10% discount.  Just as Supply Corps officers are in the background supporting the warfighter, behind all the commercials and advertisements there are lots of supply chain professionals.  They support much more, including, merchants, compliance, Home Depot University, The Home Depot Foundation, the many associate resource groups including the Military Appreciation Group, and many others.

I left The Home Depot a better, more well rounded officer and logistician who positively contributed to improvements in transportation and distribution operations during my time on board.  Naval Supply Systems Command Weapons Systems Support Philadelphia gained an officer with a less myopic approach to problem solving and more open to the change as the operating environment changes.  I attribute much of this success to the training and experience gained in my previous tours and the willingness of The Home Depot team to allow me use my skills as a member of the supply chain executive team.  I “earned my apron” and you can also.

Waterfront Athena Five Roundup



On Friday, the fifth installment of the Waterfront Athena Project stormed Societe Brewing Company in San Diego with a flurry of ideas born on the deckplates.

Eleven presenters from four different organizations in the San Diego area pitched their innovative concepts to an eager crowd of creative thinkers in an ongoing effort to make the Navy better. For more about how The Athena Project works, check this out.

As we’ve grown, so has the support and encouragement from commands across the San Diego waterfront, as well as from industry and academia. This time, we had more than a dozen diverse commands represented and several leaders in various fields swung by to showcase their newest technologies including holographic images, augmented reality and the en vogue Oculus Rift. It’s always inspiring to see the bridges that continue to strengthen across the fleet and beyond, and it made for an amazing event.

CTT2 Anna Nothnagel and Lockheed Martin's Joe Mirizio showcase a maintenance tablet, brought to you by Waterfront Athena Four!

CTT2 Anna Nothnagel and Lockheed Martin’s Joe Mirizio showcase a maintenance tablet, brought to you by Waterfront Athena Four!

We kicked off with some of our new friends from Zebra Imaging and long-time Athenians from the USC Institute of Creative Technologies showing off their latest designs. Beyond that, the crowd got to see a prototype of CTT2(SW) Anna Nothnagel’s maintenance tablet idea from Waterfront Athena Four showcased by Lockheed Martin, demonstrating in spades that the ideas that come out of The Athena Project just don’t stop moving.

After that, it was time to get down to the ideas. Here’s how it all went down:

Waterfront Athena Five’s Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage:  EM2(SW) Susan Pavao, USS BENFOLD 

EM2 Pavao laughing her way right to the Admiral Sims Award!

EM2 Pavao laughing her way right to the Admiral Sims Award!

Proving that the best innovations are sometimes the simplest solutions, EM2 Pavao pitched an idea that begged the question: Why hasn’t this been around for 20 years? As a shipboard electrician, she found herself frustrated by a process that should be very simple: Changing small light bulbs. With the many layers of electrical safety onboard, this process is incredibly complicated, requiring either tagging out equipment, or working on energized equipment and donning protective gear that limits the electrician’s ability to complete this simple task. Well, it turns out that a government-issue pen hold the key. The shape and design of the pen, when disassembled fits perfectly around the bulb and allows an electrician to change out the bulb, albeit wearing oversized gloves, quite easily.

Petty Officer Pavao’s innovation is a tool, with the dimensions of the disassembled pen, made of insulated material that would allow electricians to simply and effectively change out bulbs. She even suggested that such a tool could be easily 3-D printed onboard ships, enabling Sailors to do their work more efficiently and effectively.

From This...

  From This…

...To This

…To This

As USC’s Todd Richmond pointed out: “Who knew a government pen could be used for something other than paperwork.”

Runner Up: Shipboard Energy Competitions – FCC(SW) Christopher Roberts, USS BENFOLD

A steadfast disciple of energy conservation, Chief Roberts pitched a concept that would measure the electrical usage of every ship on the waterfront and display the results not only on the quarterdecks of each ship, but also to the entire base. His concept is a simple solution that would gameify energy usage, and drive units to limit energy consumption to the essentials while inport, saving the Navy thousands of dollars a day.

Third Place: Real-Time Maintenance – LTJG Isaac Wang, USS BENFOLD

A frequent flier at Athena events, and pitching in the often-unfortunate final spot, LTJG Wang proposed QR-coding the equipment onboard ships and utilizing image recognition to ensure that the maintenance requirements card for the equipment was always the right one. His proposal would eliminate out-of-date maintenance cards and ensure that Sailors always had the right procedures for their gear. All data files would be stored on a server and sent out as regular software updates, similar to the way cell phone apps get updated, and provide a constant validation of shipboard equipment.

Solar Roadways – SN John Fellows, ACU-1

A concept that stretches beyond just making the Navy better, SN Fellows proposed that on naval installations and beyond, the use of roads made of solar panels would provide an electricity source, prevent snow and ice buildup through heating elements, and alert drivers to obstructions in the road through LED lighting. Solar Roadways have already passed DOT load, traction and impact tests and are made of recycled materials. By his calculations, with the millions of square feet of roads on the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, the base could produce millions of kilowatt hours of electricity every year.

Integrated Accountability System – STGC(SW/IUSS) Scott Christ & CTT2(SW) Anna Nothnagel, USS BENFOLD

Imagine a system where all the meetings requiring attendance and all transactions to check out safety equipment, tools and hazardous materials required to conduct maintenance could all be tracked using scanners and ID cards to increase accountability. Well, that’s what Chief Christ and CTT2 Nothnagel pitched as a means to keep track of the myriad requirements for every Sailor in an organization. A scanner and computer would be placed in key locations to allow Sailors to scan their IDs and check their customized schedules for commitments. A scanner could also be placed on entry points to the ship, scanning Sailors on the way out to ensure that all rented gear had been turned in prior to departure.

Internships for Sailors – CDR Michele Day, USS BENFOLD

BENFOLD’s Captain became the highest-ranking Athena presenter ever with her idea for internships to provide opportunities for mastery within the Navy’s officer and enlisted ranks. Her premise would create experience-based learning reinforced by informal training and real-world experience. With shipboard on-the-job training providing mastery limited to the corporate knowledge onboard and many “C” and “A” schools transitioning to computer-based training, Sailors could gain invaluable knowledge and experience by interning with a corporation or organization related to their specialty to enhance their specific skill set. To apply for the program, Sailors would need to have earned their warfare qualification pin and spent at least one year onboard, and agree to a nominal commitment of service to pay back the Navy for the time spent away from the fleet. Opportunities could range from plumbing internships with local companies to management internships with industry leaders, and if the Sailor chose to leave service after completion of the payback tour, the first “right of hiring” would go to the company they interned with.

Anti-Torpedo Countermeasure – STG3 Michael Zujkowski, USS BENFOLD

STG3 Zujkowski says "Damn The Torpedoes!"

STG3 Zujkowski says “Damn The Torpedoes!”

For surface sailors, there are few scenarios more terrifying than a torpedo attack, and surface ship defenses against this type of attack are limited. With this problem statement, STG3 Zujkowski proposed a torpedo-tube-launched countermeasure that would be propelled to a pre-set depth and deploy an underwater net with propulsion at the corners to “catch” an incoming threat torpedo. His pitch suggested the net could be made of materials that would effectively stop a variety of different homing devices on threat torpedoes.

Fleet Tactical Talk to Text – LTJG Rob McClenning, USS BENFOLD

One of the circuits that surface ships use to communicate tactical maneuvers is an unencrypted net called Fleet Tactical wherein commands are passed between units as coded messages, leaving shipboard watchstanders to decode the message and execute the signal. Many allied countries use these code books, which have been in use for many years. LTJG McClenning proposed a computerized system with direct audio input from the circuit that would use voice recognition to automatically decode the message and also serve as a log of the messages received. Further, watchstanders could type proposed messages in plain text and have the computer code the message automatically for transmittal.

Motorcycle Buyback Program – FC2(SW) Zachary Quirk & FC3(SW) Adam Roter, USS RUSSELL

Motorcycle safety has been a concern in the military for a long time, and with rising fatality rates from motorcycle collisions, FC2 Quirk and FC3 Roter’s proposed program is more relevant than ever. The two RUSSELL Sailors pitched a concept wherein the Navy would buy back used motorcycles from servicemembers to encourage alternate modes of transportation. In their view, the Navy spending $5-8K to purchase a Sailor’s motorcycle would be far less than spending $400K on a life insurance policy and even worse, having another Sailor senselessly die from a serious collision. In the question and answer session, the two Sailors acknowledge that there would have to be controls on the program that would prevent Sailors from purchasing motorcycles for low cost just to sell back to the government, but said that they felt it was important to start the conversation to improve the well being of the Navy’s most important resource: Its people.

USS RUSSELL's FC2 Quirk and FC3 Roter on a mission to save lives.

USS RUSSELL’s FC2 Quirk and FC3 Roter on a mission to save lives.

No More Waiting – ENS Claire Calkins & ENS Nick Mann, USS BENFOLD

Have you ever wasted time waiting around to collect required approval from someone above you in the Chain of Command? With ENS Calkins and ENS Mann’s idea to adapt technology more likely to be found in Outback Steakhouse or Great Clips, that would be a thing of the past. The pair proposed a system consisting of a check-in local intranet site and an armada of buzzing devices that would enable Sailors to put their names in a queue to see “the boss” and be buzzed when it was their turn. Instead of waiting outside of an office, the Sailor could then turn to whatever task needed to be completed in the interim and improve their productivity. Their idea could run off existing networks within ships that enable the use of handheld radios.

UAV Integration – ENS Paul Paquariello, USS SAN DIEGO

Representing the USS SAN DIEGO and the Basic Division Officer Course, ENS Paquariello presented an idea that would use hardened, ship-launched unmanned aerial vehicles to extend the range of a ship’s surface search radars to more accurately and effectively build a recognized maritime picture. In his proposal, the UAVs would have radar repeaters onboard which would extend the range of a surface search radar over the horizon.

With all the great ideas that came from this event, many of which have already found connections amongst the Sailors and engineers in attendance, it’s encouraging to think that this is merely the tip of the iceberg for the creativity resident in the Fleet.

While the West Coast iteration of The Athena Project continues to march along, the East Coast is getting involved in the action! The first-ever Athena Project East will be coming to Old Dominion University in the Hampton Roads area in September, aiming to unlock even more of that latent creativity from around the Navy. More to follow on how you can be a part of that!

At The Athena Project we’re truly humbled by the support that this initiative has received both from the fleet and from industry. It’s amazing to think that what started as an unfortunately-named experiment called WikiWardroom has blossomed into a stage for Sailors to have their voices heard by tremendous companies and makers from across the private sector and academia.

Societe Brewing Company: Great craft beers and innovation launchpad! Very Many Thanks!

Societe Brewing Company: Great craft beers and innovation launchpad! Very Many Thanks!


Thank you to everyone who participated in this event and we can’t wait to see you guys at our next one! And of course, a very special thank you goes out to our friends at Societe Brewing Company for hosting this awesome event. You guys are are all awesome and drive us to do the things we do!


Connect with The Athena Project on Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenanavy or follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy. Interested in starting a movement of your own? Message us, or e-mail ATHENA@ddg65.navy.mil!