From Naval Facilities Engineering Command Headquarters Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) headquarters celebrated National Engineers Week, Feb. 17, with an award presentation ceremony for the command's 2017 Engineers of the Year, held at NAVFAC Headquarters on the Washington Navy Yard.
NAVFAC Commander Rear Adm. Bret Muilenburg presented award plaques to Lt. Cmdr. Robert L. Olson, from NAVFAC Pacific, and John E. Baxter, from NAVFAC Southeast, as the Military and Civilian Engineers of the Year, respectively, for 2017. Olson and Baxter then represented NAVFAC at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) announced the 2017 Federal Engineer of the Year.
"Today is a special occasion in which we honor our NAVFAC Civilian and Military Engineers of the Year and their families," said Rear Adm. Bret Muilenburg, NAVFAC commander and chief of civil engineers. "This is a tremendous achievement for Mr. Baxter and Lt. Cmdr. Olson, and is a reflection of their many accomplishments and outstanding leadership over the previous year."
As NAVFAC Southeast's environmental business line program manager, Baxter led administrative and technical staff across NAVFAC commands and business lines, as well as the Navy at large. His willingness to partner with internal and external peers and subordinates, and to train and share knowledge, resulted in numerous successful team efforts, including a multi-agency oil spill response exercise that required nine months of advance planning and involved more 200 participants from 25 organizations.
Baxter also led the activation of a regional response team as the federal on-scene coordinator during a national level Nuclear Weapon Accident/Incident Exercise (NUWAIX), which greatly fostered relationships and trust with the regulatory agencies involved. Higher NAVFAC echelons, headquarters and other Navy regions frequently reached out to him for advice and guidance about emergency response issues and to solicit input on policy, standardization and regulatory changes. He was also a guest speaker at various national and international conferences concerning operational response planning techniques and innovative methods for communicating during crises.
During a 28-month span at NAVFAC Pacific, Olson oversaw the completion or award of 113 projects with a combined value of $65 million that spanned 13 nations in Southeast Asia.
One of these projects, a seven-story peacekeeping operations training center in Vietnam, required technical partnerships with Vietnamese engineers and officials, and included mutually-beneficial agreements about differing construction standards, methodology and codes. Other projects included several in support of law enforcement efforts such as a police training range in Bangladesh and a service-life extension of the Cambodian Coast Guard's only working pier.
Olson also demonstrated how engineering can improve lives in some of the world's most vulnerable regions, overseeing nine school renovations and the construction of three disaster coordination centers in the Philippines following Typhoon Pablo. He worked with government specialists in Cambodia to identify rural areas with inadequate post-partum care facilities and helped build seven clinics, which have seen decreased mortality rates for their patients since the facilities were turned over to local authorities.