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Stressing the importance of diversity in the workplace, Pete Kolakowski, Operations Department (CX) head for Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), kicked off Diversity Day 2012 at the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren parade field on Oct. 11 following welcoming remarks by Cmdr. Elvis Mikel, executive officer for Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP).

"Today's activities provide an opportunity for us to learn and better appreciate our diverse backgrounds and have fun doing it," said Kolakowski. "One of the Navy's top goals is to create a workplace where it is evident we value and respect all our people and provide opportunities for all to reach their full personal and professional potential."

Kolakowski went on to say: "This is a great country, forged from the blend of many races, cultures, traditions, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. We recognize that our work environment is increasingly more global and diverse. We create, test, and implement systems that will be used worldwide. Our ability to bring together the best and brightest minds from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and cultures is therefore critical to address today's challenges and ensure our readiness for the Navy's future mission needs around the globe."

The opening ceremony also featured the Aegis Training and Readiness Center (ATRC) color guard and the King George High School band.

Reflecting the "Embrace Diversity...Embrace our World" theme, Jim Wolfe, head of the Strategic and Weapon Control Systems Department (K); Mike Till, Engagement Systems Department (G) deputy; Jeff Dodd, Asymmetric Systems Department (Z) deputy; and Kolakowski gave their department program overviews.

NSWCDD employees "tailgated" and "showcased" their professional projects and personal talents, answering questions about what they do.

Sean Locker, one of about 18 wounded warriors working in Z Department, was onboard at the Diversity Day events to showcase the ME-L [Marine Air Ground Task Force Enabler-Light] project that he and other personnel in Z designed to help his fellow warfighters. ME-L is a suite of advanced communications equipment integrated on a lightweight Jeep-sized vehicle that can be transported on a MV-22 Osprey and provide over-the-horizon, on-the-move communications for a Marine Air Ground Task Force.

Keeping the fun going, Stephanie Hornbaker, Warfare Systems Department (W) deputy, challenged the other departments to a line dance competition, with the loudest applause revealing the winners. Operations Department dancers won the competition.

Marcella Bushrod, NSWCDD EEO Coordinator, announced other winners of the day. In the Diversity Creative Media/Art contest, Darren Barnes of the Electromagnetic and Sensor Systems Department (Q) took first place for the photo category, Rob Harris of G Department for the woodworking category, and Melanie Lunney of Z Department for the art contest.

A wide variety of information stations filled the parade field, including the Hispanic Association exhibit manned by Bowhead employee Gabriela Kunz and W Department employee Jennilee Padilla who served sweet, fried plantains, or plátanos maduros, and demonstrated how to prepare them by slicing them in rounds and cooking them in oil. They then drained, flattened, and refried the plantains. Q Department deputy, Shelly Clift, was among the many observers who enjoyed sampling the Spanish treat.

The Society of Women Engineers information booth contained literature promoting programs and partnerships to support the retention and advancement of women in engineering. "Our focus," said Brandy Jackson of G Department "is to inspire young women to find and follow their dreams as future engineers, starting with K-12 students, encouraging them to believe in their math and science skills and exposing them to engineering as a meaningful and rewarding career choice."

Representing the local NSWCDD chapter of Blacks in Government (BIG), Elma Williams-Coleman, chapter president, says: "BIG is committed to professional growth and excellence. I encourage your commitment to BIG and your support to our local and national office."

Other exhibits represented included Security Awareness Day, Bolga baskets, Vintage Textbooks, Work Life 4 You, Paint and Sip, Cuatro guitars, Toastmasters, National Society of Black Engineers, and ATRC. Besides Zumba sessions and Salsa lessons, NSASP soloist Michael Kelly and Jericho's Band entertained the crowd of over 200.

The event is sponsored each year under the administration of the EEO office: Tara Roane, NSWCDD's Deputy EEO Officer and Diversity Manager; and Marcella Bushrod, Disability Program Manager and Special Emphasis Programs Coordinator. The event is in its third year.

Co-chairs for this year were Jessica Delgado, Hispanic Employment Program Manager; and LaChanda Anaganwoke, Black Employment Program Manager. Both program managers work in G Department.

"We could not have pulled this off without the support of so many people throughout the base and members of our EEO staff," Bushrod said. "Best of all, we had total department participation. NSWCDD is a model employer. The only way to be a model employer is through a diverse workforce."