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Naval history makes Philadelphia ideal location to recognize exemplary STEM personnel

By C. Todd Lopez

PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 12, 2016) -- Because Philadelphia has been such an integral part of Navy history and technological development for some 240 years now, said Vice Admiral Bill Moran, chief of Navy personnel, it was an ideal location for some of the brightest military officers, enlisted personnel and members of the Senior Executive Service to be recognized for their accomplishments by professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Moran served as keynote speaker for the 11th annual "Stars and Stripes" dinner and awards program, Feb. 19, which was held concurrently with the 30th annual Black Engineer of the Year Award STEM conference.

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This year the U.S. Navy hosted the Stars and Stripes dinner, an event that recognizes top-performing African-American military and civilian leaders in the armed forces.

Before an audience of active and retired service members, defense contractors and invited students, Moran highlighted how Philadelphia was at the center of the development of the Navy technology that contributed to the United States gaining independence from the British.

Philadelphia, Moran said, is a city with "extraordinary" naval history. In 1776, he said, the city was "by far the largest seaport in North America ... the home of the country's most talented ship architects, engineers and builders."

Naval engineers gathered in Philadelphia and built just six frigates to defend America against the British. The British at the time had nearly 300 such ships.

But the "unmatched speed, agility and firepower brilliantly designed into those six frigates was revolutionary for the time," Moran said. "Those young American engineers dreamed what they could see, and what they could dream they could make a reality."

At the Stars and Stripes dinner, Moran said, participants would not only celebrate exceptional intelligence and fearless ambition, such as what was displayed in the early years of the United States in Philadelphia, "but something even more important and rare: the moral courage to do what is right and to ultimately prevail, the essential quality for those who would change the world, where change does not come easily."

The Stars and Stripes dinner and awards event was just one part of the larger BEYA conference, which ran Feb. 18-20 in Philadelphia.

Earlier in the day, as part of the Stars and Stripes portion of the BEYA conference, about 140 active and retired general and flag officers, members of the Senior Executive Service, and other senior professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, participated in mentoring more than 300 young American students that had come from Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. About 100 of those students were invited to stay for the Stars and Stripes dinner.

Moran told those students he hoped that if they took home just one thing from the conference, it would be that they could one day "see yourselves in our shoes."

Moran had shown a short video before the start of the dinner, which highlighted Navy service and technology. It featured an array of young Sailors and naval officers who spoke about their service and what it meant to them. Moran told the students that those young people in the video, those Sailors and naval officers, were very similar to them.

"Just a few years ago, the voices you heard in the video were your own ... they had many of the same thoughts, dreams and options," Moran said. "They wanted to share with you their experiences, and send you a message from their hearts. They want you on America's team, their team, to become part of something big and very important. To make a difference, but to also discover the magic of science and promise of engineering ... that is what tonight is all about. And when we're through, ask yourselves if you are ready and willing to start now. And if you are, all of us, the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and Coast Guard -- we all have a spot for you on our team."

During the awards portion of the event, eight individuals were honored for their contribution to the military.

"We are here to lift those individuals up, to make them real to America, and to make them real to the young men and women who we met and mentored this afternoon," Moran said. "We applaud their service, their dedication and their humility. What better way for us to remember the legacy of this great city than to reflect on the American spirit that is still ignited and shining brightly in these individuals tonight."

Those honored as part of the 11th Annual Stars and Stripes recognition program include:

-- Navy Capt. Mark Glover, program manager for Navy Communications and Global Positioning System, Navigation Program Office

-- Navy Fleet Master Chief April Beldo, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations N1, manpower, personnel, education and training

-- Navy SES Jimmy D. Smith, director of integrated nuclear weapons safety and security, Strategic Systems Programs

-- Army Brig. Gen. Carl A. Alex, assistant deputy chief of staff, G-3/5/7, U.S. Army Forces Command

-- Air Force Lt. Col. Keithen A. Washington, assistant director for officer commissioning programs, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness

-- Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Everly, junior military assistant to the secretary of defense

-- U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jason A. Merriweather, chief of the Office of Military Personnel, Coast Guard headquarters

-- National Guard: Air Force Brig. Gen. Leonard Isabelle, chief of staff of Joint Forces Headquarters, Michigan Air National Guard; and commander, Michigan Air National Guard

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