The Bridge: The Role of NRL's Military Deputies

One of the U. S. Naval Research Laboratory's primary missions is to discover the needs of the Fleet and what technologies can be created to meet them. To obtain this goal, the laboratory bridges the gap between the researchers on shore and our Sailors and Marines in the field through our military deputies.

Lt. Peter Kowalcyk

Lt. Peter Kowalcyk

The role of the military deputy is to facilitate communication and information from the laboratory to our Fleet and vice versa, ensuring that the Fleet’s needs are met and informing the Fleet of NRL’s capabilities.

NRL prides itself on our knowledgeable military deputies like Lt. Peter Kowalcyk, a Naval Flight Officer that has recently been assigned to NRL’s Radar Division in Washington, D. C., and Lt. Cmdr. David Watson, a Meteorology and Oceanography (METOC) Officer assigned to NRL’s Monterey campus.

Kowalcyk and Watson are two of the numerous military links that the laboratory has to provide NRL’s scientists and researchers a direct line of contact to the Fleet.

“Recently arriving from Naval Flight Officer Instructor duty in Norfolk, I have great relationships with not only the aviation community, but the surface, subsurface, and joint services as well,” says Kowalcyk. “I know where to find assets that may be interested in a particular technology or research area. This helps my team find potential transitioning partners and stakeholders.”

Lt. Cmdr. David Watson

Lt. Cmdr. David Watson

Lt. Peter Kowalcyk’s military experience, particularly as an E-2 Hawkeye NFO, has made him an excellent fit to help NRL’s Radar Division improve and upgrade their military radar technologies.

“As an E-2 Hawkeye NFO, we are the airborne early warning, command, and control asset for the fleet,” says Kowalcyk, “I have 1400 flight hours and over 500 simulator hours operating the E-2 radar system, operational experience that I have brought to the engineers and scientists here at NRL.”

Since arriving to the lab in July, Kowalcyk has accumulated duties including researching and assessing airfields and test ranges to conduct experiments on millimeter-wave radars attached to small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS). Kowalcyk also conducts “fleet update briefs,” keeping the scientists and engineers in the Radar Division appraised of current fleet operation of radar and sensors.

“Lt. Kowalcyk has been invaluable in connecting our researchers to Navy needs,” said Radar Division Associate Superintendent Michael Walder, “a true testament to the duties of a military deputy.”

Lt. Cmdr. David Watson has also been essential in keeping NRL running at our Monterey campus, solving security issues with Monterey’s Security Manager, working as the NRL Monterey CFC Coordinator and liaison between NRL and the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), and working on the Labs Port Studies program.

Watson has experience with marine meteorology, working as a Naval METOC Officer since 2008 and receiving a dual master’s degree in Meteorology and Oceanography from the Naval Post Graduate School. This background aligns with NRL Monterey’s focus on Marine Meteorology, providing a military representative to the scientists in the laboratories.

“Since I am the only military member of the lab here in Monterey, I keep the scientists in touch with who they are here to support,” says Watson. “Each week I try to add some Navy training to remind them what the ‘N’ in ‘NRL’ stands for.”

While NRL benefits greatly from the connections our military deputies provide, the military deputies also benefit from their time here at NRL.

“I really enjoy working with world class scientist on projects that can have real world impact on naval operations,” says Watson. “With almost three decades as a user of NRL's products it is exciting to be on the other end and see how they create the products we use in the fleet.”

“As a Fleet Aviator, I think I had previously taken for granted the great technology that was out there,” adds Kowalcyk. “As a Military Deputy, I have a true appreciation for where the technology comes from and how it gets to the Fleet.”

That being said, both Kowalcyk and Watson see the roles of the military deputies on the laboratory growing as the time passes.

“Before taking orders to NRL, I was told that this job is what you make of it,” says Watson. “So, if you are the type of person who enjoys being involved in the products and support that is provided by the lab you have an opportunity here.”

Kowalcyk stresses the success that this opportunity could result in. “As the modern war requires technology to arrive to the warfighter faster, the need for fleet integration will become more apparent,” says Kowalcyk. “The best way to find out what the warfighter needs and reach back the Fleet is with a Military Deputy.”