Friday, September 30, 2016

New Brigade Commander Vows to "Never Settle"

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Caswell

Dozens of onlookers gather out front of the United States Naval Academy’s (USNA) Bancroft Hall. The entire Brigade of Midshipmen is gathered, all present or accounted for. A silence washes over the crowd as companies of midshipmen end their facing movements.

Overseeing noon meal formation is the fall semester Brigade Commander Midshipman 1st Class Stephen Phillips. Holding the highest position in the midshipman command structure, he is responsible for much of the brigade's daily activities and training.

“I’m honored to be able to represent the Brigade of Midshipman as brigade commander,” said Phillips. “I’m excited about what the brigade staff is doing and what the squad leaders - our brigade’s back bone - are accomplishing.”

Commanding more than 4,400 midshipmen, the brigade commander position demands a midshipman who will best represent the brigade as a whole. While holding this rank, the brigade commander is expected to execute policies, ensure mutual respect for all midshipmen, maintain brigade efficiency, be sensitive towards general morale, and is accountable for brigade conduct, reporting deficiencies to the Commandant of Midshipmen, and recommending corrective action.

In other words, it's a lot for your average college student. But then, the students who apply to the Naval Academy tend to be more than average. Phillips recalls the moments in his life that ultimately led to his decision to apply to the Naval Academy:

“After Summer Seminar, I told my father that this is what I wanted,” said Phillips. “Before that point, I think he shied away to not have his career and choice influence my own."

Phillips' father graduated from the academy in 1992, and his grandfather was a 1967 grad. Both served as surface warfare officers. Growing up in a military family, Phillips wanted to serve to give back.

“Our dinner table was always full of sea stories,” he said. “But serving was ultimately my decision. It was around 9/11 when my father was recalled to serve and that was about the time I first considered going to USNA. I value my friends and family most, and the ability to serve and make that sacrifice for them, I feel, is the greatest kind of gift I can give them.”

Born in Virginia Beach, Va. Phillips has called Annapolis home since moving here in 2001. He attended the University of the Maryland as an electrical engineering major after not being selected on his first application for USNA. After a semester he knew his heart was still set on Annapolis, so he reapplied - and got his wish. After a brief exposure to civilian college life, he was on his way to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

Phillips sought leadership responsibilities early - as training corporal and brigade training sergeant during his third class year and a 7th Company squad leader during his second class year. These opportunities helped prepare him for the Brigade Commander Selection Board which measures a nominee's aptitude to set an example, operate efficiently within the chain of command, delegate and supervise, and maintain the standards of the Brigade of Midshipmen.

“There is a transition from when you are worried about yourself, about making sure you are at the top of your game, to considering how you take what you know about being a good midshipman and pass that on to others to help them,” said Phillips. “Whether you’re a youngster or squad leader, you can have an impact, but you have to make an effort as an individual.”

As a second class midshipman, he was leading his peers as a squad leader. He emphasized his appreciation for the squad leaders within the brigade, knowing the influence of the day-to-day, one-on-one influence that position holds.

“It’s a tough position, and I struggled sometimes. I had first class midshipmen in the squad I was leading, and had to learn how that relationship should work,” said Phillips. “I had a daily impact on the lives of plebes and youngsters. Reflecting on the small unit level gives me the opportunity to assist and weigh in on the squad leaders holding those positions now. I’m happy to try to help anyway possible because the squad leaders carry the brigade - they implement changes and have impact.”

Phillips does his best to hold the brigade to a motto of “Never Settle." He challenges the brigade to demand the best from themselves, inspiring the best in their leaders and followers, and expecting the best from their peers.

“We didn't come here for it to be easy, but when we are bogged down in academics, athletics, and military obligations, we are more likely to settle for the easy road than to stick it out on the hard one,” said Phillips. “Whether it's stopping a little early on a run, quitting on a homework assignment, or letting the dust bunnies build up to epic status, we all have moments where we know we should do something, but we settle for something easier.

"My goal is to identify those moments in our day and force ourselves to take the hard road, to never settle," he said.

Together with the brigade staff, Phillips is confident the Brigade of Midshipmen will rise to the challenge and strive to take the road less traveled. In the end, he knows they will look back and have greater appreciation for overcoming their challenges.

“I cannot emphasize how much the brigade staff does, how much work they do,” said Phillips. “It’s been an enormous amount of effort since before Plebe Summer. They are very dedicated. They make the policies and implement the changes that run the brigade, not me. I'm not trying to be noble or humble, it's just the honest truth. It’s hard work, and I’m proud of everyone for what they are accomplishing."

Phillips believes that whatever his future holds, USNA has given him the tools to succeed no matter the job or location.

“I’m not worried about where I go after USNA,” said Phillips. “No matter where I’m at or what I’m doing, I’m going to serve at my full capacity. Where I’m at is not the important thing for me. Serving is.”

Thursday, September 29, 2016

U.S. Naval Academy Offers High Performance Computing Capability

The U.S. Naval Academy recently received a high-performance computer acquired through grants provided by the Office of Naval Research and Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program.

USNA is the nation’s first educational institution to provide HPC instruction and research capabilities in an undergraduate-only environment.

The Cray XC-30 computer, named “Grace” after computer science pioneer Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, will be used by multiple departments to support midshipmen and staff research as part of USNA’s Center for High Performance Computing. The HPC allows access for massive computations for simulations and research.

“I think one of the big things midshipmen take away from using the HPC is the size and scale of what’s possible when really using the machine for high-end computations," said Distinguished Visiting Professor Carl Albing, co-director of the Center for High Performance Computing. "There are problems that you want to simulate because you can’t have or don’t want real-life instances. Whether performing a simulation of orbiting planets in a galaxy or the effects of detonating a warhead without actually blowing one up, this computer is capable.”

The Center for High Performance Computing enables a variety of educational opportunities through its faculty members, including research projects, internship experiences, and initiatives that enhance the academy's education program in a variety of disciplines beyond computer science.

“HPC greatly expands on complication resources beyond what you can achieve on a reasonable desktop computing platform,” said Cmdr. Stuart Blair, associate chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department. “My most current project simulates air flow through a cascade of turbine blades, measuring the full pressure and velocity field. The on-going research aims to improve the efficiency of turbine engines.

"By using an HPC to simulate this, we can take measurements on thousands of points, adjust the geometry of turbine blades and run the simulation again," said Blair. "We achieve this without costly production.”

"Grace" is currently housed at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. The Center for High Performance Computing hopes that understanding the HPC’s architecture, performance and capabilities will help encourage faculty, staff and midshipmen to use the systems.

“We are trying to reach out to as many departments here at USNA as possible,” said computer science Assistant Professor Gavin Taylor, Center for High Performance Computing co-director. “We are educating professors and midshipmen on its capabilities and hardware and how to use this computer.”

For more information about "Grace" or USNA’s Center for High Performance Computing, visit:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

International Programs Photo of the Week: Chile

From Midshipmen 2nd Class Miller Bethea, Tomas Aguilar and Rachel Labuda on a recent trip they took in Chile:

"The majority of the week was spent in San Pedro de Atacama, in the north of Chile. San Pedro is a small town located in one of the oases found in the Atacama region of Chile, famous for the Atacama Desert.

It is one of the driest places on Earth, and quite honestly one of the most impressive places we have ever traveled to. We had the opportunity to travel to geysers, to Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), across salt ranges, to other small pueblos in the region, to hidden lakes, and to see flamingoes in their natural habitat.

It was not only an overall cheaper trip than our trip to Easter Island, but we also found it to be more fun and informational. It gave us the opportunity to meet people from all over the world: France, Brazil, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany, and Argentina. We heard more different languages being spoken in San Pedro at one time than we ever had heard before. And we had the opportunity to see one of Chile’s most famous regions, feel like we were walking on Mars, and learn about geology and history."

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Naval Academy To Name Cyber Building After Computing Pioneer Rear Adm. Grace Hopper

U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter announced during his opening remarks at the Naval Academy History Conference Sep. 8 that the academy's future Cyber Building will be named after Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.

The annual conference this year appropriately honors the 40th anniversary of women attending the Naval Academy with the title "Athena Conference: Heroines of the Past, Present and Future."

"I can think of no better way to honor Rear Admiral Hopper's achievements specific to our cyber program and new cyber building's function than to name the new building in her honor," said Carter. "Admiral Hopper's foresight in computing and pioneering contributions to cyber security, memorialized in Hopper Hall, will inspire midshipmen, support their technical and professional development, and serve as a role model to encourage midshipmen ingenuity and determination for many years to come."

Hopper Hall will be the first building at the Naval Academy named after a woman.

Hopper was an accomplished mathematician and a pioneer in developing computer technology. She worked on a team to develop the UNIVAC computer and convert mathematic code into language, developing the first compiler in 1952 which led to the creation of COBOL. Hopper served as the director of the Navy Programming Languages Group in the Navy's Office of Information Systems Planning and developed validation software for COBOL and its compiler as part of a COBOL standardization program for the Navy.

Construction of Hopper Hall at the site between Nimitz Library and Rickover Hall will begin shortly after completion of the parking garage on Decatur Road. The facility will include classrooms, teaching and research laboratories, lecture halls, office, an observatory and research and testing tank in support of the engineering and weapons labs. Completion of the project is planned for September 2019.

“This will be a state-of-the-art facility where our very best and brightest will get cutting edge training and education in the cyber field," said Carter.

The Naval Academy was the first institution of higher learning in the U.S. to create mandatory cyber security classes. The academy began offering a cyber operations major in 2013. Additionally, various cyber security topics have been added to the leadership and professional curriculum, and the USNA Center for Cyber Security Studies is formally designated as an NSA/Department of Homeland Security National Center of Excellence in Information Assurance Education.

“While this is the first academic building constructed on the Yard since Rickover Hall nearly 40 years ago, more importantly it represents the Naval Academy’s ability to stay at the forefront of academic excellence and relevance as we develop midshipmen for their future careers in a world where cyber warfare is certain to be a factor,” said Naval Academy Academic Dean Andrew Phillips.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Broadening Horizons: Five Midshipmen Study Abroad in Singapore

From the USNA International Programs Office

Through the Naval Academy’s International Programs Office and STEM Study Abroad program, five midshipmen traveled to Singapore to spend the spring semester studying at Nanyang Technological University. The purpose of sending midshipmen abroad is to enhance the global knowledge of our country’s future leaders.

Midshipmen 1st Class Alexander Couch, Chris Evans, Lucy Ford, Miki Szabo, and Billy Walker spent four months immersing themselves in the Singaporean culture. While studying in STEM fields, they also worked on language studies. Though there are four official languages in Singapore, each midshipman took the opportunity to study Mandarin Chinese.

 Each midshipmen also produced a portfolio focusing on a unique topic within the culture, such as food or environmental awareness.

“The opportunity to go abroad has expanded my worldview and has created a desire to continue traveling,” said Couch.

Additionally, three of the midshipmen participated in a military exchange with Singapore for the first time in Naval Academy history. Couch, Evans, and Szabo were part of a military exchange with the Singapore Armed Forces, during which they visited the Changi Naval Base and worked with Singaporean midshipmen.

As part of this exchange, three Singaporean midshipmen are attending the U.S. Naval Academy for the fall 2016 semester.

On an educational level, these exchange agreements are vital to the development of young naval officers. The exchanges provide interaction and insight into another culture and its military. Professional relationships are started that benefit these young officers throughout their entire careers. For example, Teo Yu Run, a Singaporean midshipman, will be rooming with Szabo during the fall semester at the academy. The two midshipmen met while Szabo was on his exchange in Singapore the previous semester.

On a more strategic level, the exchange agreements are important because they help to further our naval force’s working relationship with one of its allies.

The three midshipmen on military exchange were fortunate enough to spend a day engaging with Singapore’s Navy at their east coast port, Changi Naval Base. They met the U.S. naval attaché to Singapore and received a personal tour of the base’s naval museum and port.

According to the midshipmen, the highlight of their tour was meeting the cadets at Singapore’s Officer Candidate School. There was a question and answer session where the midshipmen learned about the cadets’ training and Singapore’s military conscription. The cadets also asked about the Naval Academy, at which point the midshipmen had to debunk all the myths from the movie Annapolis. The mids ended the day by joining the cadets’ physical training session, which after two sets of exercises, quickly devolved into a game of basketball. It was apparent that even a world apart, the midshipmen and cadets were more similar than different.

“The semester definitely improved my independence and comfort with new people and situations,” said Evans.

Nanyang Technological University was able to offer a variety of athletics.  From casual pick-up games with locals to intense intramural rivalries, the university was a hotbed for sports. Evans and Walker were active participants on the school’s track and field team. The two Navy runners could be found working out with the team on the track every Wednesday.

Ford spent most of her time with the university running club, pursuing her goals in the various road races Singapore had to offer, while Couch frequented the soccer field where he would join intense pick-up soccer games.

In addition to the weekly workouts, several of the midshipman had the opportunity to show off their skills in an intramural road race relay. Walker, Evans, and Ford all ran for their respective halls in the relay race.

With help from the university staff and the amazing exchange student body, the midshipmen experienced all areas of Singaporean culture. They immersed themselves in everything from exotic cuisines to the local nightlife.

“Living in Singapore exposed me to so many different cultures and ways of life that were all beneficial to my leadership development,” said Ford.

In Singapore, the mids had the opportunity to visit neighboring island Palau Ubin and interact with its native monkeys, wild boars, and water monitors. They celebrated the year of the monkey at the annual Chinese New Year festival. The midshipmen explored Singapore’s rich history with Malaysia by eating at a Hawker Stand in the Little Malay neighborhood. And they were even fortunate to spend a night at Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel and rooftop infinity pool.

For their Spring Break trip, the midshipmen chose to travel through Vietnam. Starting in Ho Chi Minh City, they began a two week adventure north through Hoi An and Hanoi. While in Ho Chi Minh, they took a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels where they learned about the Viet Cong and were even allowed to crawl through a segment of the tunnels. In Hoi An, they experienced what the city has been made famous for when they shopped for hand-made clothing like suits and dresses.

In the final city they visited, Hanoi, the midshipmen were most interested by their visit to the notorious Hanoi Hilton. For what was the most exotic meal of their semester, they killed and ate a mountain cobra. The snake’s blood was served as a beverage while the body was prepared in array of colorful dishes. The trip was an incredible learning experience, especially because of the insight it offered into Vietnam War.

“My experience in Singapore has given me such an incredible foundation for growth both in my professional career and in my personal pursuit of knowledge and adventure,” said Szabo.

“At the end of the trip, I almost didn’t have time to pack because I wanted to squeeze in a few more cultural activities,” said Walker.

Studying in Singapore provided these midshipmen with skills that will assist them throughout the rest of their lives.