NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – Dozens of children and family members got a glimpse of naval technology and innovation at the inaugural JAM Fest at Naval Air Station Patuxent River on Aug. 16. The event, organized by the U.S. Navy’s Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Systems Program Office (PMA-234), brought more than 75 family members and guests together to explore the Navy’s contributions to radar jamming and defense.
JAM Fest was designed to provide insight into how program office personnel support the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The day’s activities were also geared toward inspiring the next generation to learn how they might support the nation’s defense in the future.
“We had a unique opportunity to share with future generations how important and cool our jobs are and how every member of this program office supports our warfighters,” said PMA-234 Principal Deputy Program Manager Laurie Wassink.
Starting with a visit to the program office, attendees were given personalized JAM Fest identification badges and met with PMA-234 Program Manager Capt David Rueter, deputy program managers, and Royal Australian Air Force members. Participants were given pictures, videos, and stories highlighting the U.S. Navy’s AEA equipment and missions.
“It was great to see so many young ones eager to learn about what we do,” Rueter explained. “To see the excitement on their faces, I hope this leaves a lasting impression on them.”
The event also featured a close-up look at an EA-18G Growler, an aircraft that carries the AEA pods supported by PMA-234. Military members from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 educated families about the Growler’s role in supporting ground forces.
“My favorite part of the day was talking to the pilot while looking in the Growler cockpit,” sixth grader Mitchell Agamaite shared. “I learned so much about what it takes to fly the aircraft.”
Further demonstrations included tours of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s (NAWCAD) Mobile Digital Fabrication Laboratory (FABLAB), where attendees observed 3D printing technologies. Families were also treated to a landing of a UH-1Y Venom helicopter, supported by PMA-234.
“It was so cool, and I couldn’t believe it landed right before us!” exclaimed fourth grader Jeremiah Shrum. “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.”
The JAM Fest concluded with a picnic and reflections on an unforgettable experience.
“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 pride, especially the children. They should be very proud of the work their parents do every day.”
The event, providing both an educational experience and a community-building platform, symbolizes the U.S. Navy’s commitment to engaging with family members and inspiring the next generation to explore career paths in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).