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U.S. Navy Celebrates Fifty Years of Engineering Duty Officer Education, Mission Excellence at Port Hueneme Schoolhouse

07 June 2024

From Lt. Jennifer Bowman

PORT HUENEME, Calif. – The U.S. Navy Engineering Duty Officer (EDO) School celebrated 50 years of educating and training the Navy’s best and brightest acquisitions and engineering minds during a luncheon Thursday.

“This celebration provides a great opportunity to look back at great figures in our community and recognize their efforts in shaping our community in both the leadership and technical levels,” said Capt. Neil Sexton, the EDO Schoolhouse commanding officer.

The schoolhouse—established in 1974 and originally located at Mare Island, California—was founded by Vice Adm. Robert C. Gooding, the commander of Naval Sea Systems Command. In 1994, the school relocated to Port Hueneme as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process. 

A subordinate command under the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC), the EDO school serves a vital mission: to improve the professional proficiency of Engineering Duty Officers (EDs) through training in plans, programs, policies, and procedures that drive the life-cycle engineering of naval ships and systems. 

EDs have been an integral part of acquiring and maintaining fleets since 1794, when the United States realized it needed a naval force to fend off pirates around its coastal waters. These inaugural ED jobs would support the six construction sites that produced frigates like the USS Constitution, et. al. in 1797-1799—the first ships that would form the United States Navy.  

Today, EDs serve the same vital mission in an even more complex global environment. Their efforts are key to ensuring the Navy moves rapidly to stay ahead of our competitors and generates warfighting advantages greater than our adversaries.
“A good portion of the EDO Community is involved in designing and fielding future ships and systems for the Fleet,” Sexton said. 

“This is a complex effort that involves coordination with the operational forces with our best estimate of future capability needs, coordination with Congress for funding and supporting our country's industrial base.” 

EDs serve in a number of communities across the Navy’s surface and sub-surface fleets and apply their technical expertise and business acumen to oversee the technical and acquisitions sides of the fleet.  Numbered at roughly 800 officers, this small but elite community executes an enormous charge to design and develop the world’s largest naval fleet. 

“EDOs have always been warfighters first and are the frontline force providing tools to our shipmates at sea—when needed—to deter our adversaries,” said keynote speaker Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe Jr., director of Strategic Systems Programs (SSP)—the Navy command that provides cradle-to-grave lifecycle support for the sea-based leg of the nation’s nuclear triad. Wolfe, himself, is a tenured ED with 30 years of experience in the field—the most senior ED in the community. 

Active and Reserve EDs are represented by ten communities spanning multiple subspecialtiesthat support diving and salvage operations; undersea/submarine support; carrier lifecycle support; combat systems; strategic deterrence; surface fleet modernization, readiness, and acquisition; information warfare; and nuclear ship maintenance across four public shipyards. 

“EDOs play a critical role generating readiness for the Navy,” said Vice Adm. Jim Downey, Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command. 

“The EDO Schoolhouse is at the forefront and provides a rigorous training environment that is critical to keep our fleet ready to fight. The success of the EDO community is essential for the Navy to be successful.” 

The schoolhouse has a critical responsibility to shape and develop EDs beginning with a basic training course that ensures the vital foundation of the ED career. Students then return for a second time for senior leader course, which hones senior leader skills and informs on technical and acquisitions challenges that face the Navy. EDs take this leader course upon being selected to the rank of Commander. Since its inception, the EDO School has graduated 6,735 active and reserve officers from its courses.  

The rigorous training pipeline for EDs also encompasses technical education at the Naval Postgraduate School; training and certification opportunities in LEAN/Six Sigma Green Belt; membership to the Defense Acquisition Corps Professional Community; and Advanced Management Program (AMP) Course. These continuing education requirements ensure EDs are at the forefront of delivering America’s Warfighting Navy the very best capabilities to preserve the peace, respond in crisis, and win decisively in war—now and in the future. 

“We [EDOs] are continually seeking ways to improve the maintenance and modernization of our ships and weapons systems to keep up with current threat, increase efficiency, and safety—and most importantly, deliver our war fighting platforms on time back to the operational force commanders,” Sexton said. 

The rich history of the EDO community began in 1794 with Joshua Humphreys overseeing the construction of the Navy . Adm. Samuel Murray Robinson—known as the Father of the Engineering Duty Community—played a pivotal role to ensure the expansion of the naval fleet by 70 percent as part of a ramp up to World War II.
During World War II, Vice Adm. Edward Cochrane created the greatest armada in U.S. history that enabled the nation’s Navy to fight the two-front war in which it was embroiled. Adm. Hyman Rickover—one of the longest-serving admirals in the Navy—left a significant technical legacy for the U.S. Navy as the developer of the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine which went to sea in 1955.
In more recent history, then-Rear Adm. Levering Smith, was a key player and technical lead under Adm. William “Red” Raborn for the development of the Polaris strategic weapon system (SWS); transition to Poseidon; and conceptual exploration of today’s Trident SWS. These EDOs laid the foundational groundwork for the critical strategic deterrence mission that endures today, projecting power and protecting the nation.
The event celebrated the various contributions by each of the EDO subspecialties that support real-world fleet requirements every day. From designing the surface fleets of the future to leading the charge for undersea dominance, the ED community holds ownership of every part of the ship and system acquisition—from design to disposal.
“Engineering Duty Officers keep the fleet moving forward, and their job is more vital today than ever before,” said Wolfe.
“You are our critical link between the Fleet and the shore infrastructure through acquisition, life-cycle engineering, and industrial operations,” he said, speaking directly to the EDOs at the event.
Also honored at the luncheon were three instructors who have each supported the schoolhouse for multiple decades. Ed Vicuna educates students in basic courses on Civilian Workforce Shaping and Labor Relations—and has taught almost every EDO represented in the current force; Julissa Simental instructs on Civilian Employee Relations; and Suzanne Nicolas teaches Civilian Equal Employment Opportunity. Vicuna, Simental, and Nicolas each received a Navy Civilian Service Commendation for their contributions to the student community and the schoolhouse. 
The event concluded with a time-honored EDO tradition: the presentation of the “Old Ironsides” plaque to Vice Adm. Wolfe. The presentation stands as an ode to the resilience of the USS Constitution as its hull resisted the barrage of 18-pound cannonballs in the August 1812 battle with the British ship Guerriere. A British sailor who witnessed the rebuffed attack exclaimed, “Huzza, her sides are made of iron” and, thus, Constitution’s nickname ‘Old Ironsides’ was born.
Nearly 230 years later, USS Constitution remains in the water—the only ship at that age still afloat. This tribute to the American ingenuity employed in the ship’s design by naval construction engineers is a reminder that the people who build the platforms—like the EDO community—have risen above challenges throughout history to create the greatest navy in the world.
NETC is the U.S. Navy’s Force Development pillar and the service’s largest shore command with a mission to recruit, train, and deliver those who serve our Nation, taking them from street-to-fleet by transforming civilians into highly skilled, operational, and combat ready warfighters.

Interested in becoming a Navy EDO?  Find out more on MyNavyHR – How to Become an Engineering Duty Officer.


1The ED mentor communities are EDO Divers and Salvagers; Undersea Submarine EDO; Carrier Life Cycle Management Group; Combat Systems Mentor Group; Strategic Systems Programs Mentor Group; The Surface Ship Maintenance, Modernization, and Readiness (SMMR) Group; Information Warfare Enterprise Group; Surface Ship Acquisitions Group; Industrial Mentor Group; and the EDO Reservist Group.  


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