PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) held its 23rd annual Commander’s Awards ceremony on May 31, both virtually and in-person, to honor outstanding individuals and teams for their contributions in delivering warfighting capability to the fleet. The awards, divided into ten categories aligned with NAVAIR’s focus areas, recognized excellence in speed, capability, affordability, and availability.

Vice Adm. Carl Chebi, the commander of NAVAIR, commenced the event by acknowledging the pivotal role of the awardees, stating, “NAVAIR’s success is only possible because of you – our people.” The categories were restructured this year to emphasize outcomes that matter to warfighters and behaviors that enable those results. Teams that demonstrated innovative thinking, collaborative problem-solving, and a commitment to affordability were rewarded for their exceptional contributions.

Vice Adm. Carl Chebi, commander, NAVAIR, addresses the crowd during the 23rd Annual Commander’s Awards Credit: Naval Air Station Patuxent River Public Affairs Office

Among the accolades presented were the Small Business Advocacy Award and the Association of Naval Aviation Edward H. Heinemann Award. These additional categories recognized individuals and teams that have significantly contributed to small business advocacy and the expansion of fleet capabilities, respectively.

The Commander’s Awards winners for 2023 were announced in various categories:

  1. Affordability (Cost Savings):
    • The Aerial Targets program office (PMA-208) Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target Team achieved a 20% reduction in the unit price of the GQM-163A Supersonic Sea-skimming Target, resulting in a cost saving of $20 million.
  2. Availability:
    • The Cartridge Actuated Devices/Propellant Actuated Devices (CAD/PAD) Joint Program Office successfully managed over 20,000 suspect devices and restored confidence in the energetics of the Navy’s egress systems, enabling rapid return to an acceptable readiness posture for over 500 grounded aircraft.
  3. Business Innovation:
    • The Procurement Analysis Team Price Lightning Development Team created the Price Lightning software application, which automates the analysis of vast amounts of contractor proposal data and facilitates accelerated contract negotiation efforts, resulting in workforce cost reduction and efficient statistical analysis.
    • The H-60 Multi-Mission Helicopter Program (PMA-299) Special Project Team developed an innovative acquisition strategy to conduct planned maintenance inspections in the Commonwealth of Australia, ensuring critical capabilities and strategic readiness.
  4. Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion (Leading Culture Change) Individual:
    • As NAVAIR’s African American Pipelines Action Team (APAT) national administrator, Veronica Wesson promoted diversity and inclusion, eliminated barriers, and fostered an inclusive work environment, positively impacting numerous NAVAIR employees.
  5. Get Real, Get Better:
    • The Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) Southwest E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Product Line Team reduced the planned maintenance interval turnaround time of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye to 220 days, demonstrating a real-time data-driven approach and sharing their success with other teams.
  6. Most Collaborative IPT Lead:
    • Walter Olt, the Marine deputy program manager for Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE), spearheaded an innovative acquisition strategy that reduced costs, accelerated delivery timelines, and enhanced warfighting capabilities on amphibious assault ships.
  7. Most Impactful Supervisor:
    • Donald P. Blottenberger, the program manager of the Aerial Targets Program Office (PMA-208), empowered his team, initiated cost-saving measures, and fostered a positive and supportive work culture, resulting in renewed commitment and success.
  8. Speed of Capability Delivery:
    • The U.S. Marine Corps Light Attack Helicopter Program Office (PMA-276) Communications and Navigation Team expedited the delivery of beyond the line-of-sight communication capabilities, demonstrating their commitment to speed and affordability.
  9. Technical Innovation:
    • The Link 16 Inject to Live (LITL) Team advanced the development of the LITL software, enabling high-fidelity radar and communication track injections into aircraft systems, enhancing training capabilities and readiness.
  10. Workforce Development:
    • The H-1 Light Attack Helicopter Program Office (PMA-276) Light Attack Academy provided comprehensive training to new team leads, equipping them with the necessary skills to manage people and projects effectively.

In addition to these categories, individual and team awards were given for Small Business Advocacy and the Edward H. Heinemann Award. Eric Pfefferkorn was recognized for his consistent support of small businesses, while the Common Aviation Support Equipment Program Office (PMA-260) Team showcased their commitment to utilizing small businesses to meet aviation support equipment requirements.

The Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) Team received the Edward H. Heinemann Award for expanding the AGM-158C product line, providing enhanced anti-surface warfare capabilities to the fleet.

Vice Adm. Carl Chebi expressed his gratitude to all the finalists and winners, stating, “NAVAIR is in the business of naval aviation…Our business is to deliver the warfighting capability the fleet needs to win at a cost we can afford. This is our promise to the fleet warfighter, our sons and daughters.”

He concluded the ceremony by urging the winners to share their knowledge and success with others, emphasizing the importance of continuous learning and improvement.

The NAVAIR Commander’s Awards highlighted the exceptional achievements and contributions of individuals and teams within NAVAIR. Through their dedication to affordability, availability, innovation, diversity and inclusion, and other key areas, these awardees have played a vital role in delivering the warfighting capability needed by the fleet. Their accomplishments serve as an inspiration for continued excellence in naval aviation.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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