Launching Athena Afloat!

By ENS Daniel Stefanus


USS ANCHORAGE (LPD 23) is proud to announce that on July 25th it will be holding the first-ever Athena event while on deployment!

We hope that this will lead to both more Athena events on ANCHORAGE and on other deployed ships. All of these will fall under the umbrella of “AthenaAfloat,” a slight change in the typical Athena script given the rather dramatic difference between a haze gray warship and a brewery.

While we know it will be more difficult at sea, we think that now is the perfect time for the crew to participate in Athena. On deployment the ship goes through the ringer, and the crew has to adapt and improve our systems to keep us mission-capable and battle-ready. It is this innovative and utilitarian spirit that we want to harness. Rather than let all of our sailors’ incredible ideas and solutions go to waste, we’re going to get them written down, disseminated, and implemented for the betterment of the entire fleet! This will not only pay dividends for other operational units, but also empower our sailors and show them that they do matter in the eyes of the Navy, that they can make a difference.

DCC Jake Wright and I are spearheading Athena on ANCHORAGE. Jake served on BENFOLD and saw Athena firsthand as it developed and evolved into the incredible forum it is today. He won Waterfront Athena 6 in San Diego with his ingenious adaptation to existing desmoking methods on US Navy warships (by creating an adapter to use box fans instead of RAM fans to desmoke a space in half the time!). His experience and perspective have been invaluable in currying support with the Chief’s Mess and by giving our CO, XO, and CMC a tangible connection to Athena to better explain how it works and why it matters.

DCC Wright and LTJG Jason Benning pitching the "Effing Awesome 7000" during Athena Six at San Diego's Coronado Brewing Company Tasting Room.

DCC Wright and LTJG Jason Benning pitching the “Effing Awesome 7000” during Athena Six at San Diego’s Coronado Brewing Company Tasting Room.

I’ve been on ANCHORAGE for a little over a year as the Fire Control Officer. A few months after I reported to San Diego, a Duke classmate recommended I check out the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum in San Diego (DEFxSD). There I met Dave Nobles and the Athena team. As they explained Athena I sat back and thought, “Wow, this is huge, our Sailors would love something like this.” In the presentation at DEFxSD I saw a picture of DCC Wright, who had recently arrived on ANCHORAGE, and knew it was a sign. Monday morning I sought out DCC Wright and talked to him about his experience with Athena. We agreed that Athena should be brought to ANCHORAGE.

However, DCC Wright and I knew we’d have to make some significant adjustments for the model to fit our crew and our situation on deployment. The primary challenges we saw with the Waterfront Athena model on a deployed ship were:

-Incentivizing the event properly to get a wide-range of Sailors interested and involved

-Finding a relaxed and open venue for the flow of ideas

-Getting sailors enough time and free space to think and develop their ideas

-Overcoming the lack of knowledge about Athena onboard

-Making the event fun but polished, so that the audience can understand the ideas and enjoy the presentations

-Connecting Sailors with off-ship developers and enablers

A ship's deployment is a great time to capture Sailors' great ideas for making the Navy better!

A ship’s deployment is a great time to capture Sailors’ great ideas for making the Navy better!

DCC and I met with our triad, who have been incredibly supportive, and worked out solutions that we believe will maximize Athena’s impact on ANCHORAGE:

-The winning Sailor(s) will get a reward package filled with free, but enticing prizes, especially for a deployed Sailor: a duty-free liberty port during deployment and 96- and 48-hour liberty chits for back in San Diego. We hope these will help pique the ship’s interest and overcome the initial skepticism that accompanies any product launch. The fully-loaded prize pack shows them how committed the CO, ANCHORAGE, and the Navy are to Athena’s success. I cannot stress enough how we would be nowhere without our command’s support. It is the most important key to success here, the foundation upon which all else rests.

-For a venue and idea space we’re going to try our ship’s chapel as it is the largest and most open space for people to congregate. We will also hold idea sessions in our electronic classroom, so Sailors can come up during the workday to use the internet and free time to enhance their pitch.

-DCC and I will personally go to all 20 divisions on the ship to explain Athena and show DCC’s winning idea from Athena 6. This will dramatically increase understanding of the event and get Sailors’ questions answered immediately from the source.

-DCC, “Idea Mentors” (volunteers), and I will then meet a couple times with each Sailor interested in pitching an idea. The first session will be a brainstorming/troubleshooting session in which we help the Sailor analyze and his/her idea so that he or she is able to present a more polished and well-thought out idea at the actual event. The second session will focus on presentation skills and how best to convey his/her idea. These will give the Sailor more confidence and make the pitches more enjoyable and understandable for the audience.

-Finally, to connect Sailors with off-ship developers, inventors, and enablers, we have this blog and the invaluable help of the Athena team. This post is meant to raise awareness of the event as it builds, so that as soon as we finish on July 25th we can get the word out and get our Sailors plugged into the incredible Athena network!

Of course, since this is the first time anyone has ever tried to do an Athena underway, we certainly won’t pretend to have all the answers… If you guys out there in the blogosphere have any ideas that you’d like to see us try, or want to kick start a similar event at your command, please connect with us!


ENS Stefanus is the Fire Control Officer onboard USS ANCHORAGE. To connect with him or DCC Wright, e-mail or

Connect with The Athena Project on Facebook: or follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy. Interested in starting a movement of your own? Message us, or e-mail!


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