DVIDS – News – Naval Sub School instructor and Niantic native recognized for innovation during COVID-19

Lt. Benjamin D. Smith received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal of Honor as an end-of-tour award by Captain Steven W. Antcliff, Commanding Officer of the Naval Submarine School, at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, CT on May 19, 2021.

A native of Niantic, Connecticut, Smith ends his time in uniform after seven years of service in the Navy. Smith’s most recent assignment was the Prospective Nuclear Engineering Officer (PNEO) for the Naval Submarine School. In this role, Smith was responsible for ensuring that cadets received a quality education in their preparation for the selection of heads of departments. Smith was given the vital task of training submarine officers to become engineers on board a nuclear powered submarine.

Through his hard work and dedication, Smith has ensured that more than 150 office students pass the engineering exam, providing a new generation of highly skilled department heads to the submarine force. Thirteen of Smith’s students were recognized directly by the Naval Nuclear Propulsion (Naval Reactors) program for their academic excellence.

Antcliff specifically highlighted Smith’s innovation that enabled continuous education without disrupting the training pipeline during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interviews for selection as engineers for the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program have always been conducted in person with the Naval Reactors in Washington, DC, a tradition dating back to 1949 when the first Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, promised Congress that he would personally guarantee the qualifications of every naval officer with responsibilities on a nuclear vessel.

However, due to the impact of COVID-19 on the ability of sailors to travel, Smith led the charge to develop an alternative method of interviewing potential engineers via secure video teleconferencing. “This is the first time in history that these interviews have been conducted virtually, and Lieutenant Smith’s work to accomplish this feat is revolutionary,” said Antcliff.

Smith was also directly recognized by Naval Reactors for his adaptive thinking. Due to Smith’s innovation and intuition, the Navy was still able to deliver on Rickover’s promise decades later despite unprecedented times.

Reflecting on his naval career, Smith said his time in the Navy and the Submarine Force taught him the value of being part of a team.

“Being part of a team means taking responsibility for your success as a group, but also taking responsibility for your failures as a group. We are all responsible for creating a culture of success as a leader, ”said Smith. “My time in submarine service has shown me the power of a team and has shown me the quality of leadership that the submarine force provides to the Navy.”

The Naval Submarine School establishes a foundation on which officers and enlisted personnel are prepared to develop the skills and mastery of skills necessary to operate and maintain their submarines. The Naval Submarine School is part of the Navy’s Submarine Learning Center and is located aboard Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut.

Date taken: 06.02.2021
Date posted: 06.02.2021 08:54
Story ID: 397926
Hometown: NIANTIC, Connecticut, United States

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Perry Perrie

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