Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Jiang

BREMERTON, Wash. – Two Stennis Sailors were among ten presenters who shared their ideas on improving the Navy with other military and civilian personnel during Athena Northwest 3.0 on Naval Base Kitsap May 15.

Athena Project Northwest provides a forum for Sailors and Department of Defense personnel in the Pacific Northwest to share innovative ideas for improving the Navy.

“The Athena Project demonstrates what’s possible when someone believes that they can make a change, that they can make a difference,” said Lt. Cmdr. Drew Barker. “What we want is to build that next tier of idea champions, people who believe in their ideas and then take them forward to make a positive difference.”

Presenters set up display tables around the room and gave their pitches in a job-fair format. The audience split up into smaller groups and visited each presenter for five-minute explanations followed by two-minute question and answer sessions. Afterward they voted for the pitch they liked best.

Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Bree Frenette, from Flagstaff, Ariz., pitched a Navy e-learning mobile application, and Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class Jonte Johnson, presented an idea for networking and distinguished visitors.

“Even if my idea doesn’t get developed, it felt good to be heard,” said Frenette. “It felt good that you could have something happen.”

The finalists addressed the audience one last time before they made their final decision on the recipient of the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage and the support of a small functional team to help develop the winner’s idea further.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class John Broussard, from USS Nimitz (CVN 68), took home the Admiral Sims Award with his idea for ships to recycle trash while in port.

While there can be only one award recipient, the event is a good opportunity for Navy personnel to network with civilian professionals.

“All the ideas have promise.” said Alan Leong, a lecturer at the University of Washington and senior research analyst at BioWatch News, who attended the event. “The important thing is that they get traction, movement and feedback so that [the presenters] get more ideas for how to improve them and how to articulate them better.”
Barker and Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class Benjamin Brehm heard about the USS Benfold (DDG 65) organizing the first Athena Project event in San Diego and thought it could benefit their local commands. They organized the first Athena Project event in the Northwest region, Athena Northwest 1.0, in November 2014.

“I saw a lot of people in the Navy that needed to know that if they have an issue with their job, if they have something that can be improved in the way they do things, their voices are hugely advantageous,” said Brehm. “It’s the guy with the wrench in his hand that’s going to be able to tell you what’s wrong about the wrench.”

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