By DoD News
By Lt. Laura K. Stegherr
Three Navy members took top honors at the 25th annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Global Competitiveness Conference Awards Gala in Washington, D.C., Feb. 19.
Rear Adm. Bruce Grooms, assistant deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy (OPNAV N3/N5B ); Victor Gavin, SES, Naval Sea Systems Command executive director for the program executive officer for littoral and mine warfare; and Kerry Nichols, Naval Air Systems Command; received awards at the gala, which recognized the significant accomplishments of African-Americans in government and industry, who have achieved exceptional career gains in the fields of STEM.
Grooms, winner of BEYA’s Professional Achievement in Government Award, was recognized both for his significant accomplishments in STEM and his service as a role model and leader for other minorities. Grooms, who was one of only seven African-Americans to command a submarine in the twentieth century and the first African-American commandant of midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, was also recognized as a key mentor in the submarine community who takes time to meet with educators to build on partnerships to train future officers as nuclear engineers.
Gavin, a recipient of BEYA’s Career Achievement in Government Award, was lauded for his leadership of eight program management offices and more than 179 employees, both military and civilian, who oversee the design, development, procurement, fielding and sustainment of 220 registered programs for the Department of the Navy. He was also recognized for his efforts in promoting small business innovation research integration and mentoring young engineers.
Nichols, a computer engineer and Wind Systems Software Lead with Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), was awarded with BEYA’s Outstanding Technical Contribution Award for his work as a leader in NAVAIR’s Moriah Wind System program, a software-intensive wind and navigation system integrated on approximately thirty-five Navy vessels.
Additionally, twenty-three Sailors and Navy civilians were honored with Modern Day Technology Leadership awards at a luncheon Feb. 18, which recognized their efforts as technologists and engineers at the top of their respective fields.
The three-day BEYA conference, sponsored by Career Communications Group (CCG), attracts thousands of STEM professionals and also serves as a learning tool for students interested in pursuing professional interests in engineering.
According to Tyrone D. Taborn, CCG chairman and CEO, this year’s winners represent some of the brightest minds in STEM today.
“In the past 25 years, we have seen a stunning shift in almost every aspect of our everyday lives,” said Taborn. “These technologies would not exist without the intrepid individuals who have devoted themselves to getting us a bit closer to tomorrow, today. Their work is what we will remember 10, 15, 25 years from now, when we reflect upon the advancements that changed our individual lives and charted a bold new course for us as a planet.”
The Navy was also a sponsor of the Feb. 18 Stars and Stripes Dinner, which honored the leadership of African-American flag and general officers, as well as several African-American pioneers of naval aviation and current and former African-American naval aviation commanding officers.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, keynote speaker at the dinner, expressed the importance of STEM in the Navy and how organizations like BEYA contribute to the success of the Navy.
“Navy participates with BEYA and other activities that stress STEM and diversity because we really believe that as a Navy, we will be a better Navy if we represent all of America,” he said.
The Navy has participated in BEYA for the last 20 years. Additionally, in 2008, the Navy signed an agreement with CCG to promote further Navy participation in CCG events in an effort to reach a diverse workforce.
Commitment to BEYA represents the Navy’s campaign to develop future engineers and scientists, and retain top-performing Sailors and civilians whose diverse backgrounds, experiences and skills are necessary to meet today’s challenges.
Today, there are nearly 89,000 African-Americans serving in the Navy, including 19 active and reserve flag officers, 105 command master chiefs, and 16 members of the senior executive service.