NRL Scientist Receives 2009 SAIGE Meritorious Service Award

9/15/2009 - 70-09r
Contact: Daniel Parry, (202) 767-2541

The Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) recognized Dr. Joan Gardner for key contributions and commitment to our Nation's Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) by providing the means for future development of economic resources needed for a stable and legal economy in Afghanistan and suppression of current Taliban operations.

As a senior scientist deployed to Afghanistan to conduct a one-of-a-kind multi-sensor airborne study, Dr. Gardner, a geologist at NRL's Marine Geosciences Division, played a major role in the planning, preparation and successful execution of Project Rampant Lion II. The program, designed to collect remote sensing data to support economic and civil development, contributes toward enhancing the stability of the nation and a new democratic government in Afghanistan and provides valuable data to support military operations.

"In spite of the difficult, uncomfortable, and often dangerous conditions, Dr. Gardner displayed the greatest possible enthusiasm and dedication to the goals of the project," said Dr. John Brozena, branch head, Marine Physics, NRL Marine Geosciences Division. "As a result, the mission has been successful in revealing major basins of oil and gas, mineral-rich regions, hydrologic resources, and potential seismic and flood hazards vital to the success of civil planning."

Dr. Gardner is a member of the Choctaw Indian Tribe - also known for their World War II contributions as "codetalkers" for the U.S. military - and is one of a handful of Department of Navy (DoN) civilian female scientists actively working in a combat theater. Her work in difficult and dangerous conditions has contributed to GWOT by providing the means for future development of economic resources needed for a stable and legal economy in Afghanistan and suppression of Taliban operations including anti-narcotics efforts.

Stationed at Kandhar Air Force Base, Afghanistan, for several months, she has served as one of three civilian scientists aboard a uniquely configured NP-3D aircraft, operated by NRL's Scientific Development Squadron (VXS-1), operating multiple sensor systems and making key scientific judgments to maximize the value of flight operations and data quality in her position as the only geologist on the aircraft. Her dedication to the success of the project is exemplified by the fact that she has flown 70 mission flights during two deployments to Afghanistan amounting to more than 500 total hours under combat conditions.

In combination to supporting missions in Afghanistan Dr. Gardner, along with colleagues at NRL, flew multi-sensor missions over Colombia to contribute to the ongoing counter-narcotics mission, developed a new multi-sensory package to aid in the search for missing Naval aviator, CAPT Scott Speicher, in Iraq and has tirelessly devoted time toward working with the Pakistan government and military to conduct economic surveys similar to those conducted in Afghanistan.

"Dr. Gardner has made many significant scientific contributions to the Navy and U.S. military efforts," said Dr. Herbert Eppert Jr., superintendent, NRL Marine Geosciences Division. "Her work in a combat theater has been voluntary and the conditions that she lives and works are often quite challenging."

Beginning her career as a geologist at NRL's Marine Physics Branch, Marine Geosciences Division in 1993, Dr. Gardner's research has concentrated on geologic and geoacoustic imaging sensors. More recently, she has worked on the development of a sensor suite to perform high-resolution geologic land surface mapping and subsurface geologic basin structure from aircraft.

Having the distinction as being one of a handful of female DoN research scientists to ever work on U.S. and foreign military vessels and aircraft, Dr. Gardner was the first woman to ever work aboard a South Korean military vessel and among the few women to be a chief scientist aboard the Navy's nuclear-powered ocean engineering and research submarine (NR-1). She is active in the National Science Foundation's Education Outreach program that targets educating middle and high school girls on opportunities for women in science and has been active in the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) group at NRL, educating female scientists of opportunities available to them at the lab.

The 2009 SAIGE Meritorious Service Award honors military members and Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employees, men and women, who supported the DoD mission, the Global War on Terrorism, and demonstrated role model qualities and the core values of their respective Military Service.

Established in 2001 the mission of the Society of American Indian Government Employees is to promote the recruitment, retention, development and advancement of American Indian and Alaska Native government employees and work to ensure their equal treatment under the law; to educate federal agencies in the history and obligations of the Federal Indian Trust Responsibility and to assist them in its implementation; to assist government agencies in the development and delivery of initiatives and programs which honor the unique Federal-Tribal relationship; and to provide a national forum for issues and topics affecting American Indian and Alaska Native government employees.

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