ATHENA Northwest 3.0 Roundup

By: The ATHENA Northwest Team

Earlier this summer we had the strongest showing and most excitement at an ATHENA Northwest event thus far.  With a larger and more diverse audience, more presenters, and a new format for presentations, the latest Northwest Innovation competition set the bar high.  Kicking off the event as a keynote speaker was Keith Archbold, the Chief Technology Officer for Naval Undersea Warfare Command, Keyport.  Pulling from his experience with presidential cabinet level work in technology exploration and time as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, Keith captured the audience as he coined the innovation quotient.  Describing how innovation is a result of demand (or capital to invest) over structural drag (those things that stifle entrepreneurialism), he promoted ATHENA as a key element in reducing the Military’s structural drag.  Following Keith’s key note, the audience was divided up into groups, one for each presenter.  Each presenter had the opportunity to pitch their idea several times as the groups rotated to hear each presenter.  After several rounds, an initial vote was cast and the top three ideas advanced to a lightning round in front of the entire audience.  A final round of voting produced the new Admiral Sim’s Winner for Intellectual Courage, ABF3 John Broussard.  Here is a complete breakdown on the ideas presented.

ABF3 John Broussard offers a compelling argument to institute pier-side recycling.

ABF3 John Broussard offers a compelling argument to institute pier-side recycling.

*** The ATHENA Northwest 3.0 Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage***

In-Port Recycling Program – ABF3 John Broussard, USS NIMITZ

John did his homework and it showed through his presentation.  He won the audience over as he cited some staggering numbers showing the impact of ship generated trash to the size of landfills and how recycling is profitable.  He unearthed several Navy instructions on shipboard recycling that lay out the duties and responsibilities of commands that host Navy ships pier side.  Directly in alignment with the SECNAV’s and CNO’s push for greater sustainability, energy footprint reduction, and environmentally conscious decisions, this idea is a no brainer.  Ships are even set-up for trash separation at sea, making it an easy idea to transition for the crew. Perhaps the most intriguing element of his pitch was what he intended to do with the profits from the recycling program.  He would use the funds to purchase text-books for the common college classes taken onboard and establish a text-book loan program through the Ship’s library.  We’ve connected John to the regional trash and recycling program manager as well as decision makers at NAS Kitsap to assist with implementing the in-port recycling program.  Everyone involved is excited to see this happen!

AZAN Scott Bonk highlights nearly zero cost way to save millions Navy wide.

AZAN Scott Bonk highlights a nearly zero cost idea to save the Navy a few million dollars.

Printer Ink and Toner Default Setting Change – AZAN Scott Bonk, NAS Whidbey Island

AZAN Bonk has a one-step solution to save the Navy millions of dollars.  Every year the Navy uses hundreds of thousands of dollars in printer toner.  What if there was a simple way to reduce this usage, without buying more equipment?  Simply by reducing toner density and enabling economy mode on all commercial black and white printers and copiers, the Navy could save almost $1,000 a year per printer.  Over time, and if implemented fleet wide, this initiative could save millions of dollars in operational costs.

AZAN Bonk conducted an experiment with two like HP Printer Models using the same ink cartridges to prove his case.  He reduced the ink setting of one printer from the maximum of five down to three while leaving the other at the default setting of five.  The results where astounding.  The users of the reduced printer had no issues with their working documents while nearly doubling the page count for the ink cartridge as compared to the factory setting printer.  The data AZAN Bonk extrapolated from this experiment shows that the Navy can indeed save and in a big way.

His idea is simple to enforce and costs to reset printer defaults is already embedded in the sunk costs of the Navy’s Information Technology manning and budget.  This is a change that can be implemented fleet wide and the savings can have an immediate impact.


AO3 Brianna Frenette pitches her concept for an educational app based on friendly competition.

Smart Device Trivia Based App for Professional Knowledge Development – AO3 Brianna Frenette, USS JOHN C. STENNIS

These days there is a phone application for everything, but why is there no App for Navy education?

What if there was an application that would not only encourage Sailors to study but make it a fun friendly competition?  AO3 Brianna Frenette wants to create a jeopardy game that asks different questions based on the category.  For example, a sailor learning material for their Air Warfare would have categories to choose from relating to the different departments onboard the aircraft carrier.

Starting from a baseline of basic questions, the question data base will grow and evolve over time from user supplied questions.  The answers will come from the subject matter experts in a virtual board who find and corroborate questions and answers.  The answers will be derived from instructions, guides, procedures, books, bibliographies, and syllabi.  If an incorrect question slips through the cracks they can easily be reported and reviewed.

Making it fun, Sailors can compete one-on-one or with other Sailors throughout the fleet.  Making learning fun and challenging will better prepare Sailors for their jobs and qualifications.  Brianna’s goal is to launch her Pro-Trivia App by establishing a company herself or joining with an app developer.  Her long term goals are to expand knowledge apps across a full spectrum of educational disciplines and fields including military, commercial, private, grade school, and college level.

Hull climbing surveyor robot- Chris Stone, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility

Engineer Chris Stone thinks he has found the right “person” to do required survey work on ships that come into PSNS & IMF … a robot. Surveys are routinely performed when a vessel first enters dry dock at a shipyard and typically can put other work on hold until complete.  At PSNS & IMF, these surveys are usually performed by two workers in a lift which necessitates the use of fall protection gear and requires additional hazard pay. The use of a remotely-controlled hull climbing robot, which already exists for other applications, to perform hull surveys would increase the speed and safety of the evolution.  It would also increase consistency and reduce the chance of repetitive stress injuries.  Only one worker would be required and by using multiple detectors, a larger swath could be covered faster than the current method, multiplying the time and cost savings.  Since the tool/technology already exists for other applications, Chris and other engineers are in the process of testing it for this use.

Inspection Camera … on a Stick! – John Albrecht, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility

Mr. John Albrecht, PSNS & IMF civilian industrial engineer, presented an idea that uses a tool already available outside of the Navy: a portable, handheld, video endoscope for inspecting hard-to-reach spaces. The tool is one you might find car mechanics using to see inside engines without tearing anything apart, thanks to the flexibility of having a lighted probe on the end of a long cable. The benefit for Navy ship maintenance work is exponentially more, since it would allow for safer inspection of countless areas on both surface ships and submarines.   It’s safer and faster because the inspector doesn’t need to move and climb ladders, or wear fall protection gear, or move specialized equipment.  They just put their “camera on a stick” where they need to see, and use that system to identify which specific items need a more detailed, “up close and personal” inspection.  Besides the safety factor, the tool would potentially save time and money in labor thanks to the advanced visual inspection capability.

Mandi McCrae and Allison Westergard provide practical ideas for incorporating healthier food options in the shipyard.

Mandi McCrae and Allison Westergard provide practical ideas for incorporating healthier food options in the shipyard.

Healthy input/Healthy output – Mandi McCrae and Allison Westergard, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility

We know that what we fuel our bodies with is a direct correlation of how our body will perform. The tag team of Ms. Mandi McCrae and Allison Westergard decided that concept should be used to improve work performance too. As they said “we thought, what better way to increase our output than by influencing the input … to our bodies, that is.” Their idea to push for cleaner, healthier, and more wholesome food offered at the Shipyard was not to replace what is offered now, but to expand the options to include whole fruits, vegetables, and hearty grains. Instead of the sometimes chemically-laden, processed nutrition-LESS empty “foods”, the team proposed solutions that included allowing local companies to be allowed to provide more in the way of “delivering” to the shipyard and searching for additional food truck options that had healthier food. Here’s to truly increasing productivity!

Custom safety gear for teammate with underdeveloped hand – Ben Paddock, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility

One size does not always fit all, and when it comes to safety, a good fit is paramount. Ben Paddock, with PSNS & IMF’s Moonshine Lab, an innovation-fueled entity within the command, wants to make sure one of his teammates does get the right fit. A fellow PSNS & IMF worker has an underdeveloped hand, which makes some aspects of his job more difficult. While that teammate had been successful doing his job, donning required safety gear didn’t always offer him as much protection because of the poor fit on his hand. Gloves, in particular, were putting this worker in a situation to easily get his loose glove fingers stuck under heavy materials. At the time of Athena 3.0, Ben was still working on prototypes for a solution that would enable his teammate him to keep doing a great job, while keeping his hand protected.

ABF3 Jonte Johnson shows proposes a program to increase diversity of thought and build the professional networks of Sailors.

ABF3 Jonte Johnson shows proposes a program to increase diversity of thought and build the professional networks of Sailors.

Distinguished Sailor Exploration Program – ABF3 Jonte Johnson, USS JOHN C. STENNIS

Jonte is a repeat offender when it comes to delivering powerful ideas to spur collaboration.  While building on the concept he pitched at ATHENA Northwest 1.0 to improve collaboration between the ship, shipyard, and base for local improvements, he developed a second concept that looks a little like the traditional Distinguished Visitors Program turned inside out.  He proposed a program to send several high performing Sailors to visit area industry, education, and government leaders once a quarter to learn their leadership, process development, management, and improvement strategies.  The program intentionally focuses on building the personal network for these Sailors in order to empower them to make greater improvements and impacts both in the Navy and in the community.  Jonte urged us all to never underestimate the power of networking and building people up through the positive relationships.  Even if this idea finds no other home, we are considering how to apply this concept to the benefit of future ATHENA winners.

Torque Enabling Device for Wire Rope Connections – William Mooney, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility

Mr. William Mooney told the story of how the Shipyard has transitioned from wire cable to synthetic ropes when it comes to rigging and moving heavy objects.  While the connection of synthetic rope was much simpler than the cumbersome joining of two wire cables, the results could be horrific in the event of a fire.  Imagine the firefighters running in to put out the fire and the synthetic ropes melting, causing heavy loads to drop on those putting out the fire.  Steel cable will never have that issue and Mr. Mooney designed a torque enabling device to simplify connecting wire rope and ensure a strong connection.  He hopes to pursue a Navy patent on the tool and see a return to a safer material for shipyard rigging.


EM2 Deborah “Saga” Sagapolutele leaves no room for doubt concerning the shortfalls of the Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) program and outlines some sensible alternatives. Little did she know, they were already in the works as revealed by the recent Naval Message outlining new PFA changes.

Passionate about how the current physical fitness regulations fail to set an equal playing field or promote strength, Saga led the audience through a couple of real life stories (her own being one of them) where someone failed the body composition assessment (BCA) but could measurably demonstrate superior fitness and strength. Coming from a Samoan heritage, she educated the audience on how the current BCA put certain body types at a disadvantage.  Her goal is to adjust the PRT policy so that people who don’t make the Navy’s BCA standard could still take the PRT.  She highlighted the fact that the Navy’s BCA standards were stricter than the DOD standard and that the DOD standard may be more reasonable for certain body types.  If Sailors are under the DOD BCA and can pass the PRT with a “Good” or better, they should get a partial pass.  The good news about this idea is that it is becoming a reality.  Too good of an idea to ignore, it has surfaced in many places and from multiple sources, spurring a change to the policy.  The next two PRT cycles will incorporate rules that make EM2 Saga’s idea a reality.

All in all, a fantastic event with another set of incredible ideas to better serve the mission of the Navy and Department of Defense.  Looking forward to where these ideas will go!

Don’t forget!!  ATHENA East 2.0 is happening in Norfolk on Friday, October 2nd at Work|Release at 1600.  Register to be a voting member of the audience here:

The ATHENA Northwest team is gearing up for their fourth installment, stay tuned for the announcement of ATHENA Northwest 4.0!  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!

Resurrection: A Story About Not Giving Up

By: LTJG Rob McClenning


When I won the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage at Athena 2 with the idea of developing Environmental Acoustic Recognition System (EARS), I can confidently say I was the most surprised person there.

In my mind, EARS was at best a mediocre idea, at worst it was blatant stealing from the Army. While history is full great innovators with “Eureka!” moments, EARS was born out of frustration and fear. Being on the bridge of a billion dollar warship with fog so thick you cannot see the bow, and your best bet to avoid collision is a Deck Seaman who is vaguely familiar with sound signals.

It’s enough to make even the youngest Ensign start sprouting gray hairs.

The basic concept of EARS is to take Army counter sniper technology and place it on warships to detect sound signals in low visibility environments as well as detect engines of small craft that are too small to be picked up on radar and that may not be visible to the bridge watchstanders. The Navy’s current remedy to low visibility is to open the bridge wing doors and place Deck Seamen and Supply Department Sailors topside to relay the sounds they hear to the bridge. Basically it’s like driving blind down a highway, while your friend sticks their head out the window to listen for the cars.

Most of the research for my initial EARS pitch was based off of the Army’s Boomerang project. Boomerang is an array of 8 microphones placed on the back of a humvee. When the humvee takes incoming fire, the Boomerang system uses the differentiating pressure waves on each microphone and projects the direction and estimated range of the shooter. This is information is then displayed inside to the driver.

The Army's Boomerang system.

The Army’s Boomerang system.

With some simple reprogramming of the sounds being detected, I believe Boomerang could easily be installed on ships as a boon to the bridge watchstanders. After my less than spectacular victory speech I was approached by several engineers from the University of Southern California Institute of Creative Technologies to discuss various ways to do a proof of concept and possible prototype. We were all very excited to get to work right away and really make a difference.

After two months of emailing back and forth, Dave Nobles and myself received the beginnings of EARS. USC had successfully completed proof of concept with two Xbox Kinects and a cell phone. The bad news was they did not have the funding to continue any further development. Undaunted with the set back I pressed on, surely there was someone willing to back an Athena winner?

I decided to email the makers of the Boomerang system directly. There was no better choice than the people who actually made the equipment that EARS was based on, plus if it worked, they could make a profit by selling it to the Navy. However, Raytheon did not respond to my first email, or my second, or even my third. At this point, a year had passed since EARS had won Athena 2. Despite my best efforts and some mild interest, it seemed as if EARS was dead.

EARS was running out of options and it looked like it was going to die on the vine.

EARS was running out of options and it looked like it was going to die on the vine.

Another year passed with no hope of EARS being developed. I had transferred from BENFOLD and was working at COMNAVSURFPAC as the NFAAS coordinator. One day out of the blue I received an email from Bill Hughes, who served as the Navigator on BENFOLD. Now working at the Pentagon, Bill said he saw a presentation that I might be interested in.

Opening the attachment, I read through brief from the Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), on a system called FireFly. FireFly is essentially the Army’s own version of Boomerang, but better. ARMDEC added a camera as well as made the whole platform much more mobile. I decided to reach out to the Army PAO listed and see if AMRDEC had any interest in converting their equipment to maritime use.

After a few weeks of no response, I finally received an email from Dr. Tim Edwards, who works as the Chief Scientist for the FireFly project. Not only were they interested, but they had been actively seeking ways to break into the maritime community. We quickly setup a phone conference to get a feel what were working with. I was stunned by the amount of enthusiasm that Dr. Edwards and his team brought to the table. Dr. Edwards was able to allocate additional funding towards developing FireFly specifically for shipboard use, and he even offered to send a FireFly to me. Being a LTJG with no ship I had to unfortunately decline.

We continued to bounce ideas back and forth and since then we have reached out to several scientists at SPAWAR. Now we are attempting to coordinate with the Chief Science Advisor at COMNAVSURFPAC to find a test platform for FireFly. Meanwhile Dr. Edwards and his team are continuing to test FireFly with various small boat engines, and so far the results are promising.

While some ideas will naturally gain greater interest, it’s important as an innovator to keep pressing forward. Even if you win, the hard work is just starting. As painful a lesson as it is, in the Navy we know getting a new piece of equipment takes time. Even though Athena is taking great strides to speed up the process, it still takes time, sometimes months, and sometimes years. But any change that is truly worth while is worth the effort.

So EARS isn’t dead, not by a long shot, it just changed its name.

LTJG Rob McClenning is the Prospective Training Officer onboard the guided missile destroyer USS GRIDLEY, homeported out of San Diego, California. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri.

Athena East 2.0 is right around the corner, October 2nd in Norfolk! 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!

Waterfront Athena 8 Roundup

By LCDR Mark Blaszczyk and LTJG Tom Baker


Last week, we hosted our eighth Waterfront Athena Event at Societe Brewing Company Tasting Room in San Diego’s Mira Mesa. We had our best turnout yet for another incredible presentation of talent from ten of our fleet Sailors and military civilians. Nearly 100 innovators from Southern California and beyond packed the small brewery on Friday, August 28th, ready to hear some powerful ideas, directly from the deckplates.

It was great to see a diverse community of thinkers from the fleet, with four separate communities within the Navy represented, not to mention our friends from the Marine Corps that drove in from Miramar. We were thrilled to see not only our old friends, including the team from SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific, but to have new Athenians join our growing network. Representatives from Naval Sea Systems Command’s NSWC Corona division, Naval Air Systems Command and the City of San Diego Mayor’s Office were in attendance, along with many entrepreneurs, designers and technical experts from the San Diego region. It’s always incredibly humbling to stand shoulder to shoulder with so many enthusiastic Athenians and this event was no exception.

To start things off we had a previous presenter, STG1 Butcher, talk about the development of his “Air Squeegee” idea that he presented at Waterfront Athena Seven. His concept, as well as fellow Athena Seven presenter BMSR Dorsey’s Rustbuster, were showcased by a team of SPAWAR engineers showing the 3D rendering of the ideas. It was powerful to see the progress these Sailors have been able to achieve in such a short period of time.

STG1 Butcher kicks off our event by showcasing the development with his Air Squeegee concept

STG1 Butcher kicks off our event by showcasing the development with his Air Squeegee concept

This wasn’t the first time we’ve seen previous presenters giving updates at the onset of our event, but it was the first time we’ve had a prize for our Admiral Sims Award Winner! Our friends at San Diego’s MakerPlace were generous to donate a month-long membership and a free instructional class at their facility to the winner. At The Athena Project, we firmly believe that personal development education is a powerful prize to offer at these events and we’re looking forward to partnering up with more organizations in our various regions in the future to deliver excellent experiential prizes to our presenters!

LTJG Tom Baker presents the future for BMSR Dorsey's Rustbuster.

LTJG Tom Baker presents the future for BMSR Dorsey’s Rustbuster.

And, without further delay, let’s hear about those presenters from Athena Eight:

*** The Waterfront Athena Eight Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage***

 “FUSED and OTTER” – LCDR Korban Blackburn & Brandon Naylor, Naval Postgraduate School 

Coming down from Monterey, CA to present their idea, this team presented a concept  to not just save the fleet fuel but to help the Navy better understand its fuel consumption. The Fuel Usage Study Extended Demonstration (FUSED) is an Excel/VBA program to model the fuel consumption of the surface fleet and analyze the effects of different policy changes such as single generator operations on CGs and DDGs or allowing different amounts of time to complete transits. It is currently being used in two NPS research projects relating to transit speed recommendations to carrier strike groups and removing the four hour PIM window constraint, but is capable of much more and needs a way to gain traction among key decision makers. One of the best parts of his idea is it is ready for fleet use, so look for it at command near you in the near future.

The second concept by the NPS team was OTTER (Optimized Transit Tool Easy Reference) – the transit planning tool designed to help ships use their fuel more efficiently in order to allow more time on station. OTTER has two distinct tools for planning transits: The first provides a simple overview of how long to spend at what speeds for a given transit, while the second is a short-term planning tool that accounts for different starting positions of ships in the group and scheduled drills and produces a schedule of when each ship should travel at the suggested speeds in order to keep the group (more or less) together and within the PIM window. Both tools show approximately how much fuel is saved by following the suggested schedule

For the first time, we had our winners come from further than San Diego, which made their ability to exercise the donation from MakerPlace difficult. Graciously, the pair transferred their prize to the second place finisher, IT1 Anthony Freshour from USS MAKIN ISLAND. A class act by the team from Monterey!

“MWR Network At Sea” – IT1 Anthony Freshour, USS MAKIN ISLAND

IT1 Freshour, frustrated by slowed bandwidth and “internet hours” onboard ships at sea, proposed a fresh way to circumvent the current systems to provide Sailors with a better service. His idea is an MWR network for Sailors separate from the ship’s network to alleviate normal work traffic and allow Sailors better quality of life. This network be installed ahead of shipboard networks onboard a ship, and would allow Sailors to access social media websites and other public websites. In addition, Sailors could use this to pursue advanced educational opportunities via online courses. By segregating this traffic, the normal NIPRnet traffic could be used for official business and/or dedicate more bandwidth towards other networks.

IT1 had some command support backing up his idea, with USS MAKIN ISLAND’s Commanding Officer, CAPT Jon Rodgers, and CSIO, LCDR Bobby Griffith, helping out during the Question and Answer session. With such a supportive command, we look forward to seeing a lot of movement from IT1 as he works toward his idea!

“RHIB Welldeck on LCS 1 variants” – ET1 Jason Luke, LCS Crew 101

Watching RHIBs being loaded on LCS 1 variants and thinking about a better way, ET1 Luke thought maybe there could be a solution resting dormant in some of the Navy’s current operations.

ET1 Luke proposed that instead of a ramp area at the stern of the Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ships, a well deck would relieve some of the flooding concerns. In addition, this redesign would expedite onloads and offloads of critical components and provide relief for all LCS variants’ manning concerns. Man hours would be reduced and safety increased, which would lighten the load for such a small crew. There would be some challenge in the implementation of this idea as it would require significant modifications to the current hulls and redesign of future hulls. Despite the challenge, ET1 Luke is optimistic that this is a viable option for LCS platforms.

“Voice Translator” – DC2 Horace Campbell, USS BENFOLD

Have you ever been in a foreign country and wished that the vendor you were speaking to had subtitles that you could read, to communicate more easily? When this idea struck DC2 Campbell, he was compelled to provide a military application. His immediate concept customers were our Special Forces and VBSS teams. This technology could help them to instantly translate foreign language conversations, delivering precious moments of advanced warning.

Imagine a hearing device in your ear that has a microchip built within. This connects wirelessly to a transceiver box the size of a canteen pouch carried on the user which transmits language data to the hearing device. This box is what receives spoken language from an outside entity, translates into the desired language, and transmits the translation to the user’s earpiece.

DC2 Campbell described how implementation of this device would not only reduce safety risks, but act as a stepping stone for building foreign relations. He even delivered the audience a imagine of the near future within the reach of national consumers where we can incorporate this technology with mobile phones!

“Military Ride” – MN1 Antawan Hinton, COMLCSRON ONE

Thinking of his junior sailors, MN1 Hinton presented an idea reminiscent of other ride sharing such as Uber and Lyft. Looking at all the travel he does between bases in the completion of his duties, MN1 Hinton envisioned a ride sharing service similar to Uber in which service members or their family can share rides between facilities like Naval Medical Center San Diego at Balboa and 32nd Street Naval Base. This would help to alleviate parking issues at many of these facilities and reduce fuel consumption while at the same time helpful to those sailors and families without vehicles. Making this as a phone application would also help sailors after a night out on the town find a ride back to base, helping to reduce DUI violations among service members.

“Efficiency of use of Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center” – EODC Dave Bernhardt, EOD Training & Evaluation Unit ONE

In a thought provoking presentation, EODC Bernhardt proposed an idea to close/lease Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center similar to Liberty Station in San Diego. With a specific focus on his unit, he discussed the lack of a single tenant command on base and how the units assigned can complete their missions more effectively (and at lower cost) elsewhere. Using charts and stickies, EODC talked through the time and cost inefficiencies imposed on his unit to complete his mission. For nearly all of his training they require travel from 1-2 hours to as long as 20+ hours north to complete training. Numerous contractors are required in excess of millions of dollars for training that can be completed at other locals using military assets. His proposal also discussed the money the Navy could potential gain by leasing the land to the city of San Diego, as it is prime downtown waterfront real estate and would surely be attractive to a number of developers.

EODC Bernhardt uses some old school maps to describe his new school concept.

EODC Bernhardt uses some old school maps to describe his new school concept.

For the burdensome logistical issues involved with many of his unit’s training missions, EODC Bernhardt proposed that his command be relocated to the nearby Marine Corps base in Camp Pendleton, California. He asserted that all of the challenges associated with travel time and logistical constraints could be solved because the facilities required for his unit’s training are all located on the installation. We’ll file this idea in the “This Makes Too Much Sense” department.

“Maps” – Tracy Oldnettle, COMLSCRON ONE

Frustrated with the current manning systems used by his department within LCSRON ONE, Tracy looking at how Google Maps maps a route made him realized it really is no different than what he does now. Using a sailor’s qualifications, schedules, certifications, NEC, schools, etc. he develops a “map” to get the sailor to his billet at a specified time but it is a struggle. Currently we use several different systems, multiple excel spreadsheets, ASM, FLTMPS, share point, detailers, etc., that rely on numerous manual inputs from numerous human interfaces to find sailors then get them into a training program then hopefully get them to their crew at the right time. These numerous systems and personnel operate independently and have numerous sources of inputs leaving lots of room for error. In the LCS world, one NEC, class, or PQS could cause a ship to fail a certification.

In his vision of this system, it would use data already accessible via ASM, FLTMPS, eNTRS, and others to identify sailors that would be a good fit for LCS and develop a training “map” to get the right sailor to right crew at the right time. He believes an algorithm with a better interface would save time, training, and reduce cost giving senior commanders and crews a clearer picture of manning.

Oldnettle said that since LCS is already a large command and is only going to get bigger.   LCSRON 2 is standing up and soon we will be adding the LCS Frigate. We will be all over the globe (San Diego, Mayport, Wisconsin, Alabama, Singapore, Bahrain)  which would make creating a system now that is specific to the billet, crew, and ship an amazing time saver.

“Active Sonic Camouflage” – LTJG Chuck Fischer, Destroyer Squadron Two Three

LTJG Fischer’s concept to protect ships from being detected by submarines is an adaptation of technology you’re more likely to find in a Best Buy than a Naval Base.  His basic premise it is to surround the hull of a ship or submarine with noise-cancelling tiles to protect against passive sonar.

He proposed that the tiles could function similarly to noise canceling headphones and have an inner layer of microphones to listen for the internal sounds produced by the ship and have an outer layer of speakers to generate an inverse sound wave to cancel those sounds out. Performance could be improved by having multiple layers of tiles.

Fischer said that a system to try to counter active sonar could be attempted by incorporating a series of whiskers with microphones embedded in them around the hull to hear an active sonar sound wave before it makes contact with the rest of the hull in time for hull mounted speakers to emit an inverse wave to cancel out the active sonar ping before it hits the ship, though there are significant challenges to implementation of this concept, he admitted.

This concept is similar to an idea from Waterfront Athena Three but was described to counter active sonar only. While the road ahead for implementation of such an ambitious idea is long, Fischer seemed up to the challenge.

A fantastic turnout for our Eighth Waterfront Athena in San Diego.

A fantastic turnout for our Eighth Waterfront Athena in San Diego.

“Reforming DRRS-N” – LT Lloyd Patterson, VFA-94, Training

In the first pitch from the Aviation community at our San Diego events, LT Lloyd Patterson came from Lemoore to pitch an idea to reform the Navy’s accountability systems.

LT Patterson said that The Defense Readiness Reporting System does not accurately reflect Naval Aviation readiness because the binary nature of CBR “tasks” gives squadrons the same credit for attempting a particular task, and failing, as it does not attempting a task altogether. As a result, many squadrons and individuals disregard DRRS-N prerequisites or performance thresholds, and log the task as complete anyways.  This filters up as an inflated sense of readiness, when only nominal training exists.

His proposal is to overhaul how the Navy reports readiness.  Periodicity, tasks, experience– they’re all signals for what we’re really trying to measure: performance.  If a unit is ready for a  particular mission, then the expectation is that a certain performance threshold should follow.

“Instead of tracking tasks, let’s directly measure performance,” Patterson said. “Fortunately, TOPGUN and our debriefing process makes capturing those metrics simple. And our culture is designed to default to reporting failure, unless convinced of success.”

He proposed that capturing raw performance would have powerful implications on the Navy, potentially providing significant savings. Conducting events with little to no real performance increase are less valuable than those events with tangible increases.  Some tasks and missions may complement one another, and therefore do not require explicit training.  A performance-based system could identify the most efficient pathway between a dollar spent (flight hour) and performance increases. It could also measure the consequences of not flying, or reduced funding, for significant periods of times.  It could make predictions on how a particular air wing can expect to perform given a specific O-Plan.

LT Patterson said that he would need to overhaul DRRS-N and SHARP and collect vast amounts of performance data, employing statisticians, programmers and aviators to find correlations. Though his idea will cost money in the short term, he proposed that money could be saved by more efficient training and could be offset by knowing the truth: how is Naval Aviation actually performing?

“Anti-slack device” – LT Edward Boyston, LCS Crew 206

Reminiscent of an idea presented by STG2 Coronado during Waterfront Athena 7, LT Boyston presented an idea to address the issues of manning a phone and distance line for a Littoral Combat Ship. Underway replenishments (UNREP) for any ship is challenging event requiring all hands and this is only amplified by a crew with less than 60 personnel. The receiving ship would receive the P&D line and attach it to their ship. Using systems that already exist; a tensioned reel system would keep tension on the line while allowing it to pay in and out as necessary maintaining the tension. This would relieve the requirement of manning the line through an UNREP. This reduces stress on the crew decreasing the chance of a mistake in what is currently a rather dangerous evolution.

With so many great concepts, surely the coming months will see multiple ideas, not just the event winners’, explored and implemented to make the Navy better.

As the torch passes in San Diego, with USS BENFOLD homeport shifting to Japan, the future is as bright as the sun in Southern California for this regional chapter of The Athena Project to continue it’s tremendous growth. We received many late submissions of ideas that will make for great pitches at Waterfront Athena Nine this Fall.

And, if you’re in Norfolk, Japan or Mayport stay tuned: We’ll have some excellent innovation events coming your way soon! If you want to get involved, as always, message us!

LCDR Mark Blaszczyk is the Combat Systems Training Lead in Commander Littoral Combats Ship Squadron One and the co-lead for The Athena Project’s San Diego chapter.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a BS in Civil Engineering and Duke University with a Masters in Business Administration.

LTJG Tom Baker is the First Lieutenant onboard the Ballistic Missile Defense Guided Missile Destroyer, USS BENFOLD (DDG 65). He is a graduate of Oregon State University in Entrepreneurship.

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!