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My Coast Guard
Commentary | March 25, 2021

Women in RDT&E and Innovation help drive Coast Guard mission success

By From Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate

Women’s History Month serves as a reminder of the many contributions and strengths women bring to the Coast Guard. Women in the Coast Guard Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (RDT&E) and Innovation Program, which includes the Research and Development Center (RDC), Blue Technology Center of Expertise (BTCOE), and Defense Innovation Unit detachment, are making history every day as they investigate new technologies, solve critical gaps and challenge old processes – all efforts focused on helping the service’s operational forces execute their many missions more efficiently and effectively. These dedicated women are able to translate their interest in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – into projects that save lives, protect the environment and critical resources, and keep the homeland secure.

In addition to their diversity of ideas and backgrounds, these women bring a wealth of talent and experience to the Coast Guard. Their combined credentials, predominantly in STEM and information technology fields, include around 30 bachelor’s degrees, more than 20 master’s degrees, two doctoral degrees and over 500 years of experience. Among their ranks are engineers and scientists – even a space science physicist who specializes in near-earth magnetosphere, solar dynamics and intergalactic cosmic ray propagation. No matter their role or level of education, each woman is instrumental to the core mission of helping transition new technologies into the service’s operational forces. Each plays a vital role, whether it is testing in the field, gathering data, developing new solutions, expanding resources through partnerships, or educating the workforce and the public.

Here are just a few highlights about the remarkable women performing these vital behind-the-scenes RDT&E and Innovation efforts for the Coast Guard.

Wendy Chaves – As chief of the RDT&E and Innovation Program, Chaves is responsible for all science, technology, innovation and acquisition test and evaluation efforts in the Coast Guard, to include oversight of the RDC, the Innovation Program, the BTCOE, the Coast Guard Defense Innovation Unit detachment and multiple partnerships with Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, Department of Defense labs, and other government agencies and academia. An academically trained engineer, Chaves ensures strategic alignment to Coast Guard and DHS priorities and has fostered increased enterprise executive level engagement to Coast Guard Innovation through a newly chartered Executive Steering Group and Innovation Council. A strong, results driven leader who has overseen the growth of the program’s portfolio and responsibilities, Chaves regularly engages with senior leaders throughout government and industry, advancing RDT&E and Innovation interests to protect the homeland and maximize service readiness to the nation.

Dr. Benedette Adewale – Adewale is a project manager/research physical scientist in the Environment and Waterways Branch at the RDC. She uses her doctorate in chemistry daily in her work protecting the environment, including mitigating oil spills. Adewale’s present effort is to determine the fate and transport of diluted bitumen if spilled in a freshwater environment. Adewale is inspired by David M. Burns who said: “Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism.”

Amy L. Cutting – Cutting took over as the chief of the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber and Intelligence (C5I) Branch at the RDC two months ago; she is the first female civilian to serve as a branch chief at the RDC. While her current focus is C5I, she feels her biggest impact on the service so far was her work in her prior role as the maritime counter-unmanned aircraft system (CUAS) project manager and operations research analyst because the CUAS project directly benefits the operational Coast Guard through deployment of multiple prototype systems. She was recognized with a Department of Homeland Security Secretary’s Award for Excellence for her work on that project. “In my time working at the RDC, I’ve experienced the satisfaction of creating a vision for an R&D effort, persevering through the challenges to bring that vision to reality, and then working to transition that success to the operational Coast Guard. It has been rewarding beyond anything I imagined when I started here. Working with a small but incredibly skilled, diverse, driven and gritty project team taught me so much, and some amazing leaders I’ve encountered inspired me to reach higher. Now as the C5I branch chief, I aim to be that leader who encourages others to grow and creates opportunities for members to succeed beyond their own expectations.”

Julie Dozier – Dozier works in Technical Support Services at the RDC, specializing in the development and implementation of technical processes and document management. Known for her outstanding work ethic, Dozier is the RDC process expert ensuring all project management processes, from project initiation to project closeout, are accurate and up-to-date. Dozier’s role is critical in managing all project documents at RDC, and she also maintains all historical RDC project documents dating back nearly 50 years.  Dozier states, “It’s rewarding to be part of such a great team of colleagues and friends working together to improve the Coast Guard.”  

Jennifer Ibaven – Having previously worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ibaven was key in the stand-up of the Blue Technology Center of Expertise (BTCOE), which explores technology solutions for the Coast Guard and supports knowledge exchange with a variety of entities from industry, academia, nonprofits and other federal agencies. As a program manager, she has met with over 220 entities from the blue economy (defined by World Bank as sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem), hosted or presented 15 seminars with academic and industry partners, and reported on over 160 maritime technologies to the Coast Guard within the first year of the BTCOE’s establishment.

Taylor Kall – Kall is a research physical scientist working with aviation at the RDC. Many of her latest projects have focused on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Kall recently assisted with installation and testing of a counter-UAS system on a cutter. She also worked on Detect and Avoid technologies to enable UAS to operate Beyond Visual Line of Sight. She was part of the team that prepared an AeroVironment Puma UAS equipped with the Passive Acoustic Non Cooperative Aircraft Collision Avoidance System for launch at Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Her goal is to use her knowledge to help support Coast Guard missions.

Christine Mahoney – Mahoney serves as an operations research analyst and project manager in the RDC’s Modeling, Simulation and Analysis Branch with a focus on R&D, operations research, mathematical modeling and machine learning. Known for her expertise, Mahoney has earned high praise directly from project sponsors. Among her accomplishments: development of a targeted barge inspection program. Using a neural network-based approach, it identifies barges with a high likelihood of deficiencies, thus improving the impact of the Coast Guard’s limited number of marine inspectors. She also assists the International Ice Patrol with collection and artificial intelligence-based processing of commercial satellite data to improve automated iceberg detection and tracking. “I enjoy using mathematical methods to address the emerging challenges facing the Coast Guard and improving our mission effectiveness,” Mahoney says.

Karin Messenger – Messenger is the RDT&E domain lead for Environment and Waterways/Arctic. Strategically driven, she has been instrumental in advancing partnerships for the program, including with the DHS Science and Technology, Office of University Program’s Centers of Excellence. A retired commander and graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Messenger has a Master of Public Policy degree and brings her strong background in emergency response and the Arctic region.

Lt. Anne Newton – Newton is a project manager in the C5I Branch with a focus on Intelligence and Operations ashore and afloat. She was instrumental in bringing cell phone location technology called i911 to Coast Guard Command Centers. It was fully transitioned within a year and authorized for use in spring 2020. From July through September 2020, i911 was used an average of 20 times a day to help with search and rescue cases across the Coast Guard. “It is incredible learning about all the emerging technologies, but the true satisfaction comes when we can find something to help those folks in the field do their job more efficiently and maybe even help them save lives or with any of our other mission areas.”

Minh-Thu Phan – Phan is the program manager and domain lead for the DHS-Coast Guard Science and Technology Innovation Center and partnership projects with the DHS Silicon Valley Innovation Program and DHS Small Business Innovation Research program. In her multiple roles, Phan is the liaison between the technology ecosystem, Coast Guard stakeholders and DHS S&T. Her meticulous management of project plans allows her to juggle multiple research and development projects which includes gathering requirements, defining scope, creating project plans, monitoring financial spending, documenting progress, verifying contract deliverables, generating reports and briefing senior leadership.  From a competitive group of applicants, Phan was one of four Coast Guard representatives selected to the Master of Business Administration Security Technology Transition Program through the partnership with the DHS S&T Office of University Programs and George Washington University.

Grace Python – Python is an operations research analyst with the RDC who provides analytic capabilities for a wide variety of RDC efforts. Python has worked on many impactful projects; currently she’s focused on one for the Aviation Branch focused on incorporating sensor performance into the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System (SAROPS) used by the Coast Guard for maritime search planning. She has become an expert on the inner workings of SAROPS and is in the midst of a sensitivity analysis. The next phase of the project will be identifying and evaluating models/tools for each sensor type utilized by SAROPS. “Over the past two years my focus has been search and rescue-related research, and I’ve been involved in research and development for the DHS enterprise since I started graduate school,” she says. Other projects she’s supported include “Machine Learning to Improve Coast Guard Tools” and a study on the covert capabilities of Coast Guard rotary wing aircraft.

Shalane Regan – Regan is a research engineer in the RDC Surface Branch with a focus on additive manufacturing. Having just returned from two months in the Arctic conducting research on Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, Regan has four provisional patents going through review (all USCG designs). An example of how she supports mission success: she and Petty Officer First Class James Sullivan, an aviation maintenance technician, designed a tool for the HC-130 paratroop door negator spring. The tool makes operations safer and more efficient, cutting the need for two people to operate it down to one. The tool is manufactured at the Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, using 3D printing and has been issued to all HC-130 units. Reagan, who previously held a full-time teaching position  at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, shares, “the Coast Guard's missions are not only critical for our country's maritime safety and security, as a Coast Guard researcher and engineer, I find it personally meaningful to help the fleet be best prepared to carry out their missions.”

Fideline Rosius – Rosius is responsible for managing the Coast Guard’s web-based ideation and crowd-sourcing platform, CG_Ideas@Work, which allows innovation to filter through all levels of the Coast Guard. Rosius ensures functionality of the CG_Ideas@Work platform through active monitoring of the platform and maintains oversight of past, current and future Coast Guard workforce challenges hosted on CG_Ideas@Work. Among other duties, Rosius also manages the newly established District Innovation Action Officers program, an initiative to increase outreach to the workforce.

Holly Wendelin – Wendelin is the RDT&E domain lead for C5ISR and IT and Networks and is the communications expert within the program. Wendelin was instrumental in the DHS S&T/Coast Guard Polar Scout project, which evaluated the effectiveness of space-based sensors in support of Arctic search and rescue missions and informed satellite technology recommendations for potential application in the Coast Guard and DHS. A dynamic and gifted orator, Wendelin is currently pursuing her second master's degree from Johns Hopkins University in Environmental Science and Policy.