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CHIPS Articles: Athena Northwest Meets for Change

Athena Northwest Meets for Change
It takes a lot of courage to question the status quo
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Seth Coulter, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Det. Northwest - March 6, 2015
BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- Sailors from multiple commands met for the Athena Project 2.0 hosted by Athena Northwest in Bremerton, Feb 27.

The Athena Project creates a platform for Sailors to pitch innovative ideas to improve their command or the Navy in an open forum to fellow Sailors, as well as leaders of industry, academia and government.

"Our goal is to make thinkers and doers," said Chelsea Grace, production controller at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, from Watertown, Minnesota. "A lot of Sailors have great ideas on how to improve things throughout the Navy but have no idea where to go or even where to start."

Ideas that are proposed are not always dramatic changes to the fleet. Some are minor fixes to things that are used every day.

"I am proposing an idea to put a cleat on the bottom of our quick-acting, water-tight doors aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN 68)," explained Master-at-Arms 1st class Scott Grettum, from Palm Bay, Florida. "The doors are hard to close properly when a Sailor is carrying a load and it can result in injury or not sealing the door correctly. It's something we use every day, and doing a minor tweak, can become a safer thing to use."

Sailors must present their concept, without the use of PowerPoint, in a five-minute pitch followed by a five-minute question-and-answer session from the crowd. Afterward they are judged by idea quality, action-ability and presentation. The winning idea receives the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage and command backing for a small functional team to try to make their idea happen.

"It takes a lot of courage to come up on stage and question the status quo of things we have become accustomed to," said Lt. Cmdr. Drew Barker, from Kennewick, attached to USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). "This is a great place to get traction for your ideas, refine them and gain useful insight on what you can do to make them better."

The Athena Project was founded aboard USS Benfold (DDG 65) in early 2013 and has hosted six events in San Diego. The project subsequently expanded with events in Norfolk, Virginia, in September, and the Pacific Northwest in November.

Connect with The Athena Project on Facebook: or follow the team on Twitter: Interested in starting a movement of your own? Message, or e-mail! or

For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest, visit

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