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.
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!
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.
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.
“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: www.facebook.com/athenanavy or follow us on Twitter: @AthenaNavy. Interested in starting a movement of your own? Message us, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org!