Children of PMA-234 employees gather outside of the NAWCAD FABLAB during the inaugural JAM Fest at NAS Patuxent River. (U.S. Navy photo)

PMA-234 gives inside look into electronic attack with inaugural JAM Fest

Before returning to school, dozens of children received a lesson they would not learn in a classroom. On Aug. 16, the U.S. Navy’s Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Systems Program Office (PMA-234) welcomed more than 75 family members and guests to the inaugural JAM Fest at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

The event, dubbed JAM Fest in a nod to radar jammers, was designed to provide family members an inside look at how program office personnel support the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. It was also an opportunity for the next generation to learn how they could support the warfighter in the future.

“We had a unique opportunity to share with future generations how important and cool our jobs are and how each and every member of this program office supports our warfighters,” said PMA-234 Principal Deputy Program Manager Laurie Wassink. 

The day started with a visit to the program office, where kids received their own personalized JAM Fest identification badge. Families then met with PMA-234 Program Manager Capt. David Rueter, a couple of deputy program managers, and Royal Australian Air Force members who are a part of the program office. Family members enjoyed seeing pictures of various U.S. Navy missions, videos of the AEA equipment in action, and hearing tales from military personnel.

“It was great to see so many young ones eager to learn about what we do,” explained Rueter. “To see the excitement on their faces, I hope this leaves a lasting impression on them.”

After departing the program office, families were invited to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 to see an EA-18G Growler up close. The Growler carries the AEA pods that PMA-234 supports. Military members from VX-23 walked families around the aircraft and explained how the Growler supports the warfighters on the ground and why their mission is vital to the U.S. Navy.

“My favorite part of the day was talking to the pilot while looking in the Growler cockpit,” said sixth grader Mitchell Agamaite. “I learned so much about what it takes to fly the aircraft.”

Following the Growler tour, the learning opportunities continued with the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s (NAWCAD) Mobile Digital Fabrication Laboratory (FABLAB). The NAWCAD innovation team showed visitors how the FABLAB can turn concepts into prototypes with a CO2 laser, microcontrollers, and 3D printers. Visitors watched the 3D printer in action and took home 3D printed jets.  

Families were treated to a fly-by and landing of a UH-1Y Venom, which carries the Intrepid Tiger II pod, also supported by PMA-234. Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 welcomed the opportunity for families to tour the aircraft and build a stronger relationship between HX-21 and PMA-234.

“It was so cool, and I couldn’t believe it landed right in front of us!” Fourth grader Jeremiah Shrum exclaimed. “I loved climbing in the back of the helicopter and trying on the flight gear. I think I want to be a pilot when I grow up.”

JAM Fest wrapped up the day with a picnic and camaraderie, and a lesson that is sure to be etched into young minds for years to come.

“If just one child walks away today with the plan to pursue a STEM or military career, then I call it a success,” Rueter said. “I also hope today’s JAM Fest leaves families with a sense of pride, especially the children. They should be very proud of the work their parents do every day.”

From PMA-234 Communications


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