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CHIPS Articles: Navy Win-Win: Energy Research Expands, Student Veterans Advance

Navy Win-Win: Energy Research Expands, Student Veterans Advance
By David Smalley, Office of Naval Research - February 23, 2017
ARLINGTON, Va. — From cyber security to reducing energy costs for the military, a program sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is offering a double-win for the nation: Navy and Marine Corps veterans are being connected to advanced internships in energy fields, with the ultimate goal of long-term energy sustainability for the future fleet and force.

The Energy System Technology Evaluation Program, or ESTEP, began four years ago as a way to train veteran Sailors and Marines in energy careers while helping meet warfighter energy demands. Sponsored by ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department, the unique program merges academia and naval commands in an effort to advance energy technologies to meet critical naval needs and reduce one of the biggest costs for the services — as well as some of the biggest dangers, including resupply runs in combat zones.

“There’s a vital need for an educated and trained naval energy workforce,” said Dr. Richard Carlin, department head at ONR. “We have seen the dangers faced by our Marines when it came to resupplying forward operating bases. We see the dramatic costs involved in providing the fleet and force with enough fuel and energy to run their bases at home and accomplish their missions around the world.

“And today, we see increased the rise in cyber attacks on energy facilities. All of these are clear signs of the need for a well-trained, energy-savvy naval workforce.”

The ESTEP program is using top personnel as mentors from academia (including the Naval Postgraduate School) and naval commands like the Naval Facilities Engineering Command and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) Pacific to help ensure the Navy and Marine Corps have the best energy capabilities while training veterans across a host of issues, including cyber resilience in critical infrastructure components.

A new video from ONR illustrates the program and features project highlights, as well as personal perspectives from some of the veteran students.

ESTEP has grown since its inception, with California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), in 2015, becoming the hub for coordinating student veteran internships with the naval commands and at Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps facility on the west coast. Veterans from CSUSM, San Diego State University and other local schools now participate in the program.

“We have a goal of not only preparing students academically but assuring that they are career ready,” said Dr. Karen Haynes, president of California State University, San Marcos. She added that the real-world internships and opportunities in ESTEP were essential to those goals — and noted the mutual benefits received by the university.

“They bring to us skill sets,” she added. “They bring to us discipline; they bring to us a sense of team and understanding of teambuilding.”

While student veterans work to advance the nation’s energy future, they are grateful for the opportunity to work in meaningful, paid internships while developing career skills.

John San Miguel, a Marine Corps veteran and ESTEP participant, says the program has been life-changing. He is proud of the contributions he’s making to the nation’s energy future.

“This program not only gave me a job upon graduation but it gave me a profession,” he said.

ESTEP’s goals align with the Naval S&T Strategy across several fronts, including the call for cyber network defense; increased efficiency and power density on platforms and reduced weight for personal power; efficient power conversion; energy storage; and resilient power networks and systems for platforms and shore-based infrastructure.

David Smalley is a contractor for ONR Corporate Strategic Communications.

Photo courtesy of ONR.
Photo courtesy of ONR.
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