When Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday released an updated Navigation Plan in July 2022, he tasked the Navy’s Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Development (OPNAV N7) with “aligning talent management, professional military education, and Navy research to advance warfighting competencies.”
For many civilian faculty and staff at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), getting them out to sea for the first time is an eye-opening experience, important to their professional development and understanding of real operational environments and naval-unique needs. NPS’ Fleet Engagement Program, managed by the Naval Warfare Studies Institute (NWSI), helps NPS faculty stay current on fleet and force needs through direct observation of the DON in action at sea, ensuring the school’s research and education programs remains on the leading edge of relevance.
On Sept. 27-28, the latest iteration of the Fleet Engagement Program delivered eight members of the NPS faculty underway with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in order to immerse themselves in the day-to-day operations of one of the largest warfighting platforms in the world.
“This was an incredible opportunity for faculty members, especially those with no prior military experience, to see operations firsthand,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Randy Pugh, NWSI director. “Connecting the education and innovative research done here at NPS to the operational capabilities in the fleet is excellent. We have been looking for opportunities for people to do just that.”
Not only was this a once in a lifetime opportunity for the faculty, it also gave them greater insight on the needs of the fleet and how they can better prepare NPS graduates to return to the battle space as more effective warfighters.
“The experience was very valuable on both the teaching and research front,” noted Dr. Britta Hale, an assistant professor in NPS’ Department of Computer Science. “It provided numerous sources of examples to tie course content to the types of experiences our students will have.”
During their visit, the faculty were able to observe flight deck operations, tour the Lincoln’s machinery spaces, and speak with several crew members from different departments, all of whom play a crucial role in the floating fortress’ operational readiness.
“The incredibly complex orchestration of highly diverse and advanced technologies and such a large crew was amazing to behold,” said Bonnie Johnson, a senior lecturer in the Systems Engineering department at NPS. “I enjoyed interacting with the many officers and Sailors who gave us tours of their stations and explained their jobs.”
Dr. Sean Kragelund, a Research Assistant Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department, shared that sentiment.
“I learned a lot about the tremendous effort involved in conducting flight ops from a moving ship at sea,” Kragelund said. “It was inspiring to witness the incredible choreography between people and machinery – both low- and high-tech – to pull this off.”
While aboard the Lincoln, faculty were able to interact with several NPS alumni, including the current executive officer, U.S. Navy Capt. Patrick Baker, who graduated from NPS through the National Security Affairs program.
Kristen Yamamoto, a program analyst in Institutional Research, Reporting and Analysis with NPS Academic Affairs, helped support the faculty team.
“The experience was very positive and rewarding for all,” Yamamoto said. “Excellent connections were made with NPS alumni. Faculty identified potential research areas as well as ideas for improving courses. The overwhelming consensus from faculty is that visits such as this are extremely beneficial and should continue.”
NPS uniquely serves as the fusion of defense-focused graduate education, research and innovation for the Navy and Marine Corps, and the ship embark program helps faculty and staff be more responsive to fleet needs while enhancing the relevancy of their research and instruction.