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NAVFAC Southeast Announces 2021 Engineers of the Year

05 November 2020
Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Southeast Commanding Officer Capt. Jorge Cuadros announced his selections for the 2021 NAVFAC Southeast Military and Civilian Engineer of the Year awards, Oct. 28.

Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Southeast Commanding Officer Capt. Jorge Cuadros announced his selections for the 2021 NAVFAC Southeast Military and Civilian Engineer of the Year awards, Oct. 28.

NAVFAC Southeast’s Military Engineer of the Year was awarded to Construction Manager Ensign Laura Burnett and Omar Hernandez, facilities sustainment branch supervisor, was selected as the Civilian Engineer of the Year.

“I congratulate both of these individuals for their hard work in earning this most prestigious achievement,” said Cuadros. “Their accomplishments continue to show the dedication to service and great work our command does day in and day out to support the nation’s warfighter.”

Burnett is a military construction manager stationed at Public Works Department (PWD) Corpus Christi, Texas.

“Being recognized as NAVFAC Southeast’s Military Engineer of the Year was, first and foremost, a validation of my efforts and that is priceless,” said Burnett. “Most of all, this award is a down payment on my future efforts as a Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) officer, and I cannot think of any better encouragement and inspiration to continue forward with the opportunities that will become available.”

Upon reporting to the PWD, she took control of the $19.8 million Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) Headquarters renovation project. She negotiated $450,000 of outstanding contract modifications, and drove the project to substantial completion by managing commissioning of critical building systems. Accomplishing it all virtually to prevent potential COVID-19 delays.

Burnett led the challenging $44.2 million design-build contract of a three story, 117,000 square foot, state-of-the art facility for Training Wing Four (TRAWING 4), which directly supports the increased readiness of the naval aviation community. Coordinating with several key stakeholders, she identified missing information in a site survey that led to the discovery of additional communications infrastructure that was required to complete the project.

Burnett is a member of American Society of Civil Engineering, Society of American Military Engineers (SAME), and the Envision Sustainability Professional – Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. She also volunteers for a non-profit, all volunteer organization dedicated to improving the lives of Siberian Huskies and owners through advocacy, education and support.

When asked to provide advice to fellow shipmates, Burnett stated everyone has unique strengths and the key is to keep your professional and personal self-esteem intact.

“At the end of the day, being outstanding is a reflection of simply doing your job. Every single day presents opportunities for learning and you must use them to continue enthusiastically striving and moving forward.”

Hernandez is the facility sustainment branch head within the NAVFAC Southeast Core Public Works Business Line (PWBL). He manages the inspections and certifications of over 2,800 elevators, escalators, auto lifts, boilers and Unfired Pressure Vessels (UPVs).

“It is a great honor to be selected as NAVFAC Southeast’s Civilian Engineer of the Year since there are so many talented professionals in our command,” said Hernandez. “I would like to thank all of the public works supervisors, my team, my wife and daughter, and also my parents who encouraged me to become an engineer.”

Over the past three years, he has designed or managed over 250 facility projects worth over $40 million including roofing and Heating, Ventilation and Air-conditioning (HVAC) projects. He specializes in retro-commissioning, a process of improving efficiency in existing mechanical systems.

Most recently, Hernandez and his team completed a phased Guantanamo Bay housing improvement project that determined the root cause of high humidity problems and then developed a schedule to repair over 420 military family housing units with over one million dollars in design cost avoidance. His actions directly contributed to improving the quality of life for hundreds of Navy families.

Additionally, he has supported hurricane recovery efforts at Key West, in Texas, and Panama City, providing damage assessments for over 400 facilities and executing joint scoping of projects with the contractor valued at over $150 million.

Hernandez is a member of the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors.

“Be passionate on what you do, always give your best and be customer oriented,” said Hernandez. “Never say you can’t achieve something. Be proactive and leverage from those that can mentor you.”

Hernandez encourages other engineers to evaluate where they best fit in the organization, which will ultimately lead to a successful and rewarding career.

NAVFAC Headquarters selects a civilian and military engineer of the year from the award winners of each regional NAVFAC command. These two individuals are then nominated as the NAVFAC candidates for the prestigious National Society of Professional Engineers Federal Engineer of the Year award.

Both engineers have proven to be truly among the elite in the Navy and the federal government and will now compete for the NAVFAC Headquarters Engineer of the Year award.

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