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Feb 1, 2024

White earns NAVAIR Mentor of the Year honors for China Lake

Jeffery White is this year’s NAVAIR Mentor of the Year for China Lake.

White’s Navy career – and his mentoring journey – all started on his first shift as a Sailor in 1982 on the U.S.S. Copeland (FFG 25) in Long Beach, California. White served in the Navy for 22 years and joined Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in 2005. Since his first day at work, White has had dozens of mentors who have been, in his words, “Spectacular.”

It was the leadership of those Sailors that set the stage for White and forged his mentorship style.

“I don’t see myself as a mentor, but more as a leader. You could even say I am more of a cheerleader than a mentor,” said White.

You can see how much of a cheerleader White is when looking through his nomination package. Every paragraph you can see how he has encouraged and supported those around him to not only better themselves in the work place but as a human being.

In nominating White, Thea Snelgrove explained just what kind of a cheerleader White really is.

“He has helped guide and support me through some of the toughest challenges, encouraged me throughout my successes, and has helped shape the person that I am today,” she wrote.

Franchesca Craft was also directly impacted by the mentorship and leadership of White as she has climbed from a DS-04 to a DS-06 in her career.

“My mentor's guidance directly influenced my promotional path within the organization, steering me through promotional ranks and entrusting me with the opportunity to lead his cyber team for nearly 8 years. He also encouraged assistance with other groups to expand our knowledge to ensure success across our community,” said Craft.

One reason White thinks he is successful at being a mentor is that he looks at everyone’s path individually and not as a collective.

“Everyone has a path and it might not be the same as yours. Providing advice or leadership that directly relates to you is not always best for them,” said White.

To be able to help with those unique journeys, White has to have a good understanding of what each individual is doing and what they want to accomplish. His genuine concern is obvious to those he mentors.

“He genuinely cares for his mentees,” said Snelgrove. “When I encountered challenges, he would always find time to lend a listening ear, provide insights, perspectives and advice, while helping me learn how to navigate the challenges in my own way.”

During his 42-year career, White has spent countless hours leading and encouraging others to get where they want to be in life and their career. He hopes he has made an impact on each person’s life that he has touched.

“It is a worthwhile investment. It is worth the time and effort,” said White. “It not only helps shape NAWCWD; it also helps shape people.”

Craft and Snelgrove each wanted to thank White for what he has done for their career and personal lives.

“Thank you, Jeffery, for your instrumental role in my professional growth. Your guidance, support, and transformative mentorship have not only shaped my career but have profoundly impacted my life,” Craft said.

“He has continued to be one of my most valuable supporters throughout my career and my life, and I would not be anywhere close to where I am today without his guidance, mentorship, and encouragement,” said Snelgrove. “Jeff has had a tremendous and lasting impact on my professional career and in my life that I will be forever grateful for.”

 

 

Feb 1, 2024

Speirs Takes Mentor of the Year at Point Mugu

Pursuing knowledge and growth has been a journey as ancient as humanity. This quest traces its roots back to ancient Greece, where the concept of 'mentor' originated in Homer's epic tales. Mentor, the wise guide for Odysseus' son, stands as a symbol of enduring mentorship that has echoed through the ages.

Edward Speirs, lead test engineer in the Range Support Aircraft Department at VX-30, continues this timeless tradition of nurturing potential and guiding the next generation.

Naval Air Systems Command recognized his outstanding achievements during the annual Mentor of the Year Award ceremony on Jan. 30. This year's ceremony was a unique hybrid event, incorporating both virtual and in-person elements. Point Mugu honored Speirs as their nominee, acknowledging his valuable mentorship to Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division.

Strong guidance to progress professionals is especially integral for the test and evaluation community, which has an imperative mission reliant on complex engineering capabilities, so they can deliver decisive combat power to the warfighter.

'As a recent Test Pilot School graduate at the time, test and evaluation was a new world for me,' Lt. Christopher Padgett, the RSA project officer who nominated Speirs, explained. 'Mr. Speirs was instrumental in my development as a project officer from the beginning.'

Yet, the foundation for their mentoring relationship began in an unusual setting: a production of 'Newsies' at the High Street Arts Center in Ventura County. There, Speirs took on the role of Wiesel, the character portrayed as a mean and grumpy Scotsman who works as a newspaper distributor, often in conflict with the newsboys.'

Despite having met Padgett briefly only three weeks before, Speirs remembered his name after the show.

'I was impressed by how such minimal previous introduction resonated with him,' Padgett said. 'That personal touch left an impression on me.'

This simple yet profound encounter laid the groundwork for a mentoring relationship. Seventeen months later, Speirs' outstanding mentorship within the RSA department inspired Padgett to nominate him for Mentor of the Year.

'I felt surprised. I didn't realize Lt. Padgett thought of me that way,' Speirs admitted. 'It's the highest form of respect when somebody nominates you for an award.'

As a military lead, Padgett must coordinate closely with civilian project engineers like Speirs, who handles technical analytics. Together, they spearhead planning for major test operations.

'Great testing comes from great teamwork. It takes great people, and Mr. Speirs is one of them,' Padgett said. 'To see Mr. Speirs recognized with this award is extremely gratifying. It's well-deserved.”

Speirs, whose father was a horse jockey and trainer, spent his early years in Denver, Colorado, before relocating to Scotland in 1985 when he was six years old. After graduating from the University of Glasgow, he returned to the United States in 2000, motivated by a deep-rooted interest in fighter jets and military aircraft.

Since 2004, Speirs has entrenched himself in test and evaluation, with 14 years at Edwards Air Force Base and eight years at Point Mugu. From 2016 to 2020, while at the Joint Electronic Attack Compatibility Office, he contributed to Intrepid Tiger, a program developing electronic warfare technology for the U.S. Marine Corps.

In 2020, Speirs joined the RSA Department at VX-30. RSA is responsible for providing testing and test support for all major test activities on the Point Mugu Sea Range. RSA also leads the charge in NP-3C, P-3C, KC-130T, and NC-20G aircraft modifications.

Speirs has mentored five project officers and four flight test engineers.

Part of the mentorship process takes place in one big room known as the Wolves' Den, where the team's close-knit, family-like approach fuels a collaborative environment for tackling challenges and allows Speirs to devote time to listening, energy to guiding, and effort to inspiring.

Yet, for Speirs, effective mentorship relies less on formal titles like 'mentee' and assigned roles and more on daily interactions and support.

'I don't think of mentoring that way. I never thought those methods worked,' Speirs said. 'It's about caring for people, helping them, and building connections.'

Speirs' mentorship approach mirrors his leadership philosophy: leading by example, fostering growth, and empowering others.

Off the flight test school runway, Padgett found in Speirs a co-pilot guiding his early test and evaluation journey.

Just 30 days into his VX-30 tenure, Padgett received a boost from Speirs, who encouraged him to take on a project officer role. This plunged Padgett into the support planning process for a high-profile Missile Defense Agency program.

'Speirs is a powerhouse at writing test plans and analyzing data,' Padgett said. 'He's great at breaking down seemingly daunting projects into manageable tasks for new test and evaluation personnel to comprehend and understand.'

Collaborating in tandem, civilian lead Speirs and military lead Padgett wrote plans and supported range missions. Speirs guided Padgett, empowering him to gain the expertise to take charge.

Speirs also played a vital role in fast-tracking Padgett's introductions to key stakeholders among program partners. Transforming names on paper into face-to-face relationships, Speirs did more than share technical know-how — he played a pivotal role in steering Padgett's growth, equipping him to navigate and lead confidently in a high-stakes, multi-dimensional environment, raising his organizational awareness.

'His efforts in teaching me the process and making those connections were invaluable to how I led projects from then on,' Padgett noted. 'His mentorship is always welcome and appreciated.'

Currently, Padgett is the project officer leading the critical NP-3C Cast Glance and P-3C telemetry sensor integration for the NC-20G Gulfstream test support missions. As the P-3C Orion aircraft retires, the 20G will replace its infrared and electro-optical imaging capabilities, ensuring continuous flight test support. As a project engineer, Speirs collaborates closely, focusing on system integration, event coordination, and addressing challenges. Their professional partnership and technical prowess ensure seamless support for naval forces dependent on this advanced airborne imagery intelligence and test item sensor data.

So, what makes Speirs such a great mentor?

'The biggest thing for me is his personality,' Padgett pointed out. 'He's transparent but also light-hearted about everything, which makes others receptive to learning from him.'

So, what advice would Speirs give to up-and-coming engineers aspiring to soar in the Test and Evaluation community?

Speirs emphasized, 'Treat this like your own business. Put in the same effort you would if it were your own business.'

It's the same advice he gave years ago at Edwards Air Force Base. Three of the engineers he mentored early on are now chief engineers, and one is a director at Los Angeles Air Force Base.

'They're in higher positions than me now,' Speirs laughed. 'It gives me satisfaction that I planted those seeds early in their careers, they ran with it, and now they're achieving their success and goals.'

Speirs' journey is not confined to the technical realms of flight test engineering. His recent venture into stand-up comedy and musical theater, influenced by his daughter, adds an intriguing dimension to his professional persona.

'Doing stand-up comedy and theater has helped with confidence in performing in front of crowds and having the nerve to go out there,' Speirs shared. 'It also helps with my job. Being able to brief high-ranking officers comfortably is nothing compared to doing stand-up.'

Speirs brings a unique energy and commitment wherever he goes, whether planning a test mission or captivating an audience on stage.

This blend exemplifies Speirs' ability to connect with and inspire those he works with. For the last two decades, it has set him apart as a respected test and evaluation leader and now a Mentor of the Year Award winner at NAWCWD Point Mugu.

 

 

Jan 11, 2024

Ribbon cutting opens new chapter at Michelson Lab

Nearly 76 years ago, the brand-new Michelson Laboratory at Naval Ordnance Test Station China Lake opened its doors, ushering in a legacy of naval innovation and capability advancement in the high desert. That legacy continued through wartime and peace, carried forward by the men and women of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division.

The lab’s story hit a difficult chapter in July 2019, when two major earthquakes caused extensive damage to parts of the sprawling structure, with some sections rendered inoperable. That could have been the end of the story. What would come next for Michelson Lab?

Rebirth.

On Jan. 9, Wings 2-5 of Michelson Lab reopened after a refurbishment and modernization project that took more than 200 work-years to realize. Luckily, that only took two and a half years on the calendar.

“On April 1, 2021, we broke ground to restore and modernize Michelson Lab,” said Capt. Ben Wainwright, commanding officer of Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Officer in Charge of Construction China Lake. “We took 75 years of old infrastructure and constructed a modern, efficient, functional and adaptive work space.”

OICC provides engineering, acquisition, and execution oversight for the military construction and repair projects related to China Lake’s earthquake recovery efforts.

Refurbishment is difficult, Wainwright noted, more difficult than just starting fresh. Rear Adm. Keith Hash, NAWCWD commander, noted that although it made the task more challenging, it was the right solution to preserve the lab’s legacy.

“For most of the construction, we tore down what was here before and built something new. Michelson Lab is different. We decided to maintain the history of Michelson Lab and what it meant to us as a community, and the inspiration it brought and refurbish it.”

Cutting the ribbon on the reborn facility marked a milestone in the road to recovery, Wainwright said. “We’re one step closer to finishing the work of this monumental” earthquake recovery program.

Measuring that journey from dedication to damage, renewal to reinvigoration, is important, Hash said. Ribbon cuttings, birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones are how we measure our lives, our success, and ourselves. He went on to note that it is particularly fitting to discuss measuring progress in the context of Michelson Lab.

“Dr. Albert Abraham Michelson, after whom this laboratory is named, was obsessed with measurement. Specifically, measuring the speed of light,” Hash explained.

The Naval Academy graduate had a long history of scientific excellence, but his passionate pursuit of accurately measuring the speed of light led to a number of advances in optics. Those efforts would eventually lead Michelson to a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1907. He was the first American to receive the honor.

Michelson never stopped improving his craft, designing and re-designing and refining his instruments, developing more and more accurate tools for measuring not only the speed of light, but distances. Right up until his death in 1931, Michelson continued his experiments, always reaching for that slightly more accurate answer.

This passion to continue to improve, to never stop questioning, makes Michelson the perfect namesake for the lab and the work still being done there decades later, Hash said.

“Like Michelson, we’re never quite satisfied with the as-is. We’re striving for the could-be. And we measure that success, like Michelson, over and over again, defining, refining, and improving every day.”

 

 

Dec 11, 2023

NAWCWD Graduates 49 Leaders in Final PaaL Step 1 Class

Forty-nine Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division employees graduated from the final offering of the Professional at all Levels: Step 1 (Leading Self and Others) program at both Point Mugu and China Lake on Dec. 6 and 7.

The milestone caps over a decade of sharpening over 1,000 leaders across the command through a strategic talent development investment initiated in 2012.

'We need leaders like yourself who can develop talent, bring teams together, and cultivate people to their full potential,' said Pat Schuett, NAWCWD's Air Wing Integration & Interoperability and Electronic Warfare Effects product director, in his keynote address. 'This is how we will deliver the capabilities our warfighters need.'

The three-tiered PaaL curriculum focused on strengthening skills like communication, collaboration, resourcefulness, and strategic thinking. Through personalized coaching, assessments, workshops, and leadership projects, the program molded promising personnel into well-rounded leaders.

Schuett emphasized to the recent PaaL graduates that leadership development is an ongoing journey, not a one-time event.

'If there's one thing you take from this, it's that it doesn't stop at graduation,' he noted. 'You're on a path of continually developing as leaders.'

With this final graduation, the PaaL program is closing in on the end of an era. However, leadership development remains ongoing and critical.

Leadership Engagement, Direction, Growth & Empowerment (Leadership E.D.G.E), an intensive 18-month program targeted at accelerating the growth of NAWCWD's frontline team leaders, is stepping in to carry the torch. Participants will enhance interpersonal skills, decision-making, change management capabilities, negotiation techniques, and mindfulness through workshops, small-group coaching, and collaborative projects.

Structured as the successor to PaaL, Leadership E.D.G.E. represents the evolution of the command's commitment to nurturing talent and maintaining its edge. With the goal of sharpening NAWCWD's competitive advantage, the program joins a suite of other emerging leader initiatives, all charging ahead to cultivate excellence across the command.

Schuett left the graduates with three final assignments:

'Apply what you learn. Find your next development opportunity. Take time to connect.'

Graduates are:

Jaymee Anthony

Corinne Ballard

Kristin Bobadilla

Michael Bowlin

Sean Buckley

Phillip Charles

Kristi Cole-Smith

Frank Datello

Andrew Demko

Jennifer Diaz

Amanda Ehler

James Fitzpatrick

Tyler Galyon

Gerardo Gamboa

Ginger Gill

Cole Guerrero

Tina Haddad

Nichole Hennebury

Brandi Herrera

Raymond Hocker

Aleta Johnson

Dave Kenny

Andrew Kirk

Amy Knestaut

Lauren Laracuente

Autumn Leake

Kara Lormand

Isaac Lopez

Jose Madrigal

Daryl Magdangal

Justin Matwiczak

Lenny Mendoza

David Moelter

Christian Nollinger

Jason Osborne

Amanda Pate

Caitlin Paterson

Jonathan Phillips

Jon Risden

Cory Scott

Melvin Sorem

James Tuey

Alejandro Vasquez

Jennifer Waltz

Caroline Weinstein

Misty West-Bruna

Bernard White

Ryan Wojtyla

Brian Wulfekotte