Budding scientists try building stoves

The scientific demonstration came with a warning.

“There’s gonna be fire and sharp things that can make you bleed,” announced Brian Dillon. “Anyone want to back out?”

No one did.

Instead, Hayden Brown, 10, of Culpeper punched his fist in the air and declared, “I’m gonna torch this thing,” as he and teammates set out to build a stove.

Dillon equipped children with alcohol and razor blades, tin cans and wire cutters on Saturday, all in the name of science. It was part of “Science & Engineering LIVE,” an interactive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) demonstration hosted by the Dahlgren Heritage Museum.

The museum is open on the third Saturday of each month, in the former visitors center off U.S. 301 near the Harry Nice Bridge.

Museum officials try to hold special events on those Saturdays, especially STEM activities, which are a logical connection between the museum and the Navy base at Dahlgren, said Susan Prien, museum administrator.

“We want to get kids really excited about engineering, and hopefully they’ll work there [at the base] one day,” she said.

Dillon, a computer scientist from Dahlgren, brought three physicists with him and instructions on how to build two types of stoves.

He told the nine students around him, who ranged in age from 8 to 15, that he was interested in the stoves because he’s planning to do some hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Both the rocket stove and mini alcohol stove are lightweight, easy to assemble and fit perfectly in a backpack, he said.

He showed the students the plans for each and explained how energy, fuel sources and atmospheric pressure would come into play. Then he pointed to the needed tools and encouraged them to get to work.

The two boys and two girls building the rocket stove out of tin cans of various sizes, set about drilling holes and flattening cans. The five girls working on the alcohol stove needed some encouragement, especially after Cierra Banks, 15, of Culpeper cut her finger on the sharp edge of a soda can that she was trimming with a razor blade.

Dillon was glad the fellow Dahlgrenites he invited were schooled in other skills besides physics. Dan Freeman, an emergency medical technician in Colonial Beach, brought his first-aid kit and got out alcoholic wipes and Band–Aids. Patrick Moneyhon, a volunteer firefighter in King George, had a fire extinguisher, but thankfully didn’t need it.

The teams worked for the better part of an hour, trimming, shaping and assembling their stoves. As Lynn Banks of Culpeper watched her children and others work, she said the design was similar to concepts she had used to cook outside while camping with Girl Scouts.

“I’m curious to see how this works,” she said. “This might be a modified version of what we can use at camp.”

Her children’s great-uncle, Clifton Samuels, was one of the first engineers at the Navy base at Dahlgren and worked there for 44 years. Now 93, he and his wife, Margaret, watched the STEM events with interest on Saturday.

The rocket stove, which looked like an old-time cook stove, was fueled with wood kindling. It fired right up, and smoke rolled from the chimney within seconds.

The much smaller alcohol stove was made of pieces from two soda cans that had been wedged together, one on top of the other.

Emma Hickey, 11, of Spotsylvania County used a thumbtack to pierce small holes in the top piece, and after alcohol was poured into the stove, a ring of fire was supposed to form at the top.

But the stove didn’t cooperate. After the kids used a half-dozen matches and still couldn’t light it, Moneyhun hovered over it until he produced flames.

Hayden, perhaps hearkening to his inner caveman, wanted to try the rocket stove at home.

“I’m gonna roast some hot dogs over it,” he said.

More information about the Dahlgren Heritage Museum is available at dahlgrenmuseum.org.

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Dahlgren Heritage Museum opens


The Dahlgren Heritage Museum opened its doors in October, but it is now celebrating regular operating hours.

The museum will be open noon to 4 p.m. every third Saturday in the former Virginia Gateway Visitor Center at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren in Dahlgren, Va.

The museum contains military history, but the nonprofit Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, which operates the museum, hopes to add history of the community around NSF Dahlgren to the exhibits. At the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren campus, an exhibit has been up for two years by the foundation displaying the history of the naval base with an emphasis on women and “what it was like to be a woman” at the base.

Exhibits in the museum contain artifacts on loan from the U.S. Navy, especially Naval Surface Warfare Center, and community members. The museum also hosts special events such as community forums, said Ed Jones, president of the foundation, who grew up and attended school on the base in the 1950s and 1960s.

Jones said a current museum exhibit is a Norden bombsight, a device used in World War II for aircrafts to be more accurate during bombing raids. Bombsights played a critical role in the war and were developed and tested at NSF Dahlgren.

Another exhibit is a “little-known part of Dahlgren history,” Jones said, a propeller from one of the unmanned aircraft, which was developed and tested at NSF Dahlgren in the 1920s.

The museum is not operated or funded by the U.S. Navy or any naval commands at Naval Support Facility Indian Head and NSF Dahlgren. However, commands at NSF Dahlgren are supporting the museum with artifacts donations and collaborating with special events.

“Part of understanding Dahlgren is it came from Indian Head,” said Robert Gates, former technical director of NSF Indian Head and vice president of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation. Gates worked at NSF Dahlgren for 37 years before working at NSF Indian Head for more than three years and retiring in 2011.

Gates said that in 1918, projectiles from the firing range from NSF Indian Head were going too far into the Potomac River and “kept hitting Virginia.” At NSF Dahlgren, a longer range is possible for testing.

“That became very important,” Gates said.

The foundation began plans for a museum in Dahlgren when the U.S. Navy was changing its museum policies and not providing money for museums, Gates said. So in summer 2010, the foundation began raising funds with the goal of opening a museum during the 95th anniversary celebration of NSF Dahlgren, which was in October.

“What we were always trying to do was to get where we could have regular hours,” Gates said. The foundation also hopes for more volunteers so that the museum can be open during the week and have a director. The goal is to have weekday hours before NSF Dahlgren’s 100th anniversary in October 2018.

The foundation also has goals of fundraising to expand the current exhibit, as well as to build a new building in the future because when the new Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge is built, it is planned that the museum’s current building will be destroyed, Gates said.

Many years ago a small museum was on the naval base, Jones said.

“A long dream and goal, I think, of the Dahlgren community was to have a museum that the public could have access to,” Jones said, adding that the museum’s location in the former visitor center is “a perfectly located space.”

Admission to the museum is free, but a bus tour of the naval base costs $10 per person.

Jones said the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C., which oversees naval museums across the country, does not oversee the museum in Dahlgren. The Dahlgren Heritage Museum is not an official naval museum but is working to be a model for museums of the future, which Jones said will be community supported.

Funding for the museum’s first round of exhibits, Jones said, was provided by a $50,000 grant from Dominion Virginia Power’s parent company, Dominion Resources Inc., and a $22,000 grant from local Wal-Mart stores. Private donations also made the museum’s opening possible.

Jones and his family lived on the naval base until he was 18. His father was employed on the base at a time when it was more isolated, and most civilians lived on the base. Jones said he considers Dahlgren to be his hometown.

“It means a lot to me because whatever success I’ve had in my life I attribute to Dahlgren,” Jones said.

Jones said he thinks the history of NSF Dahlgren will be interesting to everyone, even if they have no connection to the naval base.

“It’s really quite a story that most people don’t know much about,” Jones said.


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Op-Ed: Tourism: A Missed Opportunity for King George?

By Dr. Robert V. Gates

Is King George County missing an opportunity?  And if so, is it too late to do something about it? When it comes to tourism, I think the answers to those two questions are “yes” and “no.” We can do something about it. Let me explain.

There’s no question that economic development is critical to the growth and fiscal health of the county.  That’s why those of us who have worked to open the Dahlgren Heritage Museum are so excited about the support our high-profile facility at the foot of the Nice Bridge can give to economic development through tourism. The Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC), recently reported that tourism is playing an increasingly important part in meeting economic-growth objectives statewide.

How? Another report, this one prepared by the Research Department of the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) last August, shows that tourism is one of the top five sources of jobs in the Commonwealth and is continuing to increase.  The report also notes that tourism employment is relatively recession-proof and adds to economic diversity.

Most importantly, the forecast for the national tourism industry is rosy.  The VTC report reminds us that’s also true for Virginia. Indeed, statewide tourism-related expenditures are expected to grow by 5.6 percent per year.  The top spending categories for travelers in Virginia are foodservices, auto transportation, and lodging.  Domestic travelers spent nearly $16 billion in Virginia in these categories in 2012 and more than $21 billion total on tourism.

A benefit of the tourism-related expenditures, beyond employment and the associated payroll, is the tax revenue that is generated.  The USTA report estimates that $2.7 billion was generated by domestic travel in 2012; an increase of 3.3 percent over the previous year.  More than half of this tax revenue went to the state and local governments with nearly 21 percent going to local governments.

This sounds pretty good for the Commonwealth in general and for the primary tourist areas in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.  In fact it is.  Around 40 percent of the tourism-related expenditures, employment, and tax revenues are generated in only five localities in 2012.

What does – or can – it mean for a county like King George?  We have the assets that attract tourism – recreational areas and historic sites and access to an increasing number of travelers.  The state of Maryland, for example, estimates that 7 million cars cross the Harry W. Nice Bridge every year and that number is increasing.

However, the USTA data for 2012 show that King George isn’t taking advantage of its opportunities.  The County ranked 96th of 134 counties and independent cities in Virginia in tourism-related expenditures.  Indeed, our county ranked below its nearest neighbors in the Fredericksburg area and in the Northern Neck in tourism related expenditures, employment, and local tax revenue.

What can be done to improve the situation?  Just as with most things, it takes work and investment.  King George needs to advertise its attractions and fully participate in regional and state tourism groups.  Most importantly, it can begin by investing some of the tax revenue generated by tourism-related activities in the activities and attractions that will bring tourists to the county.

A good first step would be to continue to build a close-knit and collaborative network of county tourism-related businesses and county economic development leaders.  We’re off to a good start, with regular, county-sponsored briefings for that group. But it needs to be more formalized, not just as an education outlet for tourism attractions but also as an advisory council to county leaders, including the Board of Supervisors.

So, is King George missing an opportunity?  Speaking as one who spends a considerable amount of time at the Dahlgren Heritage Museum, with a front-row look at those 7 million cars a year, I think that we probably are.  The good news is that we don’t have to and it’s not too late to do something about it.

Dr. Gates is the Vice President of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, which supports and operates the Dahlgren Heritage Museum, now open every third Saturday afternoon of the month. For updates on the museum, go to dahlgrenmuseum.org.

Originally published in the King George Journal on April 2, 2014. Click to view.

Dahlgren History and Heritage Museum Opens Doors

By Andrew Revelos, Staff Writer, DCMilitary.com

U.S. Navy photo by Andrew Revelos — From left to right, Capt. Pete Nette, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity South Potomac, Ruby Brabo, member of the King George County Board of Supervisors for Dahlgren, Ed Jones, president of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, Robert Gates, vice president of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, John LoBuglio, vice chairman of the King George County Board of Supervisors, and Dale Sisson, chairman-at-large of the King George County Board of Supervisors, cut the ribbon opening the Dahlgren Heritage Museum on Oct. 19.

Community and military leaders joined members of the Dahlgren Heritage Board on Oct. 16 to cut the ribbon and open the long-awaited Dahlgren Heritage Museum. The ribbon-cutting marked the end of a three-year effort organized by the board-supported by King George County and the base-to establish a museum to tell the story of Dahlgren.

The museum is located on the site formerly occupied by the Virginia Welcome Center and features exhibits detailing the accomplishments of Dahlgren’s scientists, engineers and Sailors in the installation’s more than nine decades of service. Banners presented those achievements by decade alongside historic items, such as the shells of naval guns.

Capt. Pete Nette, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity South Potomac, said he enjoyed working with community leaders and was pleased to see the project come to fruition.

Dale Sisson, chairman-at-large of the King George County Board of Supervisors and an employee at Dahlgren, praised the effort. “This is a great day and a great facility,” he said. “It’s come a long way since it was a visitor center.”

Sisson hoped the museum would bring more visibility to Dahlgren’s historic role supporting the national defense. “One of the things I think is so important about this facility, is that it reminds us of the contributions that go on just across [Route] 301,” he said. “Those 95 years of history are just outstanding. In my day job, I get to lead one of our technical departments for the Naval Surface Warfare Center {Dahlgren Division}. I look forward to seeing the great work that our scientists and engineers are doing today giving you the next row of banners, not just for us here locally, but as a reminder nationally of the contributions of Dahlgren.”

Ruby Brabo, member of the King George County Board of Supervisors for Dahlgren, seconded Sisson’s praise. “I’ve been so impressed with all the work everybody has done to put this together, to make this vision a reality,” she said.

An avowed history buff, Brabo hoped the museum would help bring more tourism to the area. “Tourism is a $21 billion industry here in Virginia, so I look forward to King George County finally capitalizing on [this],” she said.

Ed Jones, president of the privately-funded Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, thanked a long list of people for their contributions to the project. Jones called the museum “a dream come true” when the site was unveiled to Dahlgren School alumni before the ribbon-cutting.

Sadly, one person who was part of the effort to establish the museum was not present. Ruth Herrink, publisher of the King George Journal and a supporter of the museum, passed away a week before it opened. “She has been with us since day one,” said Jones. “We’re so sorry she couldn’t be here for this. It was something she worked on for so long.”

Jones offered special recognition for a Dahlgren School alumnus whose family treasures are no on display at the museum. “One of our alums deserves special thanks and that is my friend Carlton Middlebrook, from Dahlgren School, who has loaned us two very important artifacts,” he said.

Those two historic items on display at the museum-a Norden bombsight and N-9 seaplane propeller-were graciously loaned by Middlebrook, son of legendary Dahlgren avionics mechanic Charles Middlebrook.

The elder Middlebrook was trained by Carl Norden and inspected the bombsights bearing his name as they were delivered to the Navy, from the 1930s through World War 2.

The seaplane propeller was part of a lesser known aspect of Dahlgren history. On Sept. 15, 1924, the Naval Research Laboratory conducted the first radio-controlled, pilotless flight from the installation, the first in the United States. The N9 seaplane was fitted with gyro-actuated automatic controls adjusted by Charles Middlebrook.

Though that first pilotless flight lasted less than 15 minutes, the experiment marked the first milestone on a technological path that eventually led to today’s unmanned aerial vehicles.

Jones said the museum has more exhibits in store for the public in the future. “We going to be building this museum in the months and years ahead,” he said. “It’s going to be a great space to have [science and technology] programs. We also want to tell the story of the community at Dahlgren-the school and the residential areas.”

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Dahlgren Day: Celebrating 95 Years of Innovation

by Andrew Revelos Staff Writer

Members of the Dahlgren community gathered Oct. 16 at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren Campus to celebrate the installation’s 95th anniversary. The festive occasion, sponsored by the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, brought together service members, community leaders and employees past and present.

“Thank you so much for being here for this very special occasion, the commemorative celebration of the 95th anniversary of the Navy base now known as Naval Support Facility Dahlgren,” said Ed Jones, president of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, welcoming attendees.

Jones updated the audience about the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation’s progress in establishing a museum, which opened Oct. 19. “It’s an exciting time to talk about the story of Dahlgren,” he said. “I like to tell people that the only thing that’s more exciting than Dahlgren’s history, is Dahlgren’s future, because with the development of multiple commands on the base, it seems that more than ever, this center of research, innovation, testing, training and support for the warfighter, is more and more essential for this nation.”

Dahlgren was a remote piece of marshland in rural King George County before the Navy fired its first test shot at the new base in the fall of 1918. Though the nature of the work at Dahlgren has evolved during its more than nine decades of existence, the base continues to be called “a crown jewel of national defense,” said Jones.

Marines supervised by Navy Lt. Cmdr. H.K. Lewis fired that first shot from a tractor-mounted, 7-inch, 45-caliber naval gun, hurling a 153-pound projectile 24,000 yards down the Potomac. The restored gun was on display this week at Dahlgren’s parade field.

Jones mused about the effect of that thunderous first shot on local wildlife, which has since grown used to the noise. “That must have been pretty jarring. But you know, in the next nine and a half decades, there were a lot of booms. I grew up on base in the 1950s and that was major boom time, let me tell you.”

Before Dahlgren could fall into its rhythm of methodical research, development, training and evaluation, it suffered from a few growing pains, said Jones. One of the early issues faced by the Navy was what to call its new test range. “There were a number of finalists for that. Were it not for that final decision, we may be talking about not Dahlgren, Virginia, but Stockton, Virginia, or Daschle, Virginia, or maybe Alger, Virginia. Boy, Dahlgren sounds better and better, doesn’t it?”

Capt. Pete Nette, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity South Potomac, praised the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation for making the celebration possible and the thanked University of Mary Washington Dahlgren Campus for hosting the event.

“By any measure, 95 years is a long time,” said Nette. “It’s a milestone worthy of celebrating in itself, an exceptional achievement.”

Nette said the work of the Dahlgren History Project, part of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, together with the privately-funded Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, have done a great job telling Dahlgren’s story. “As a result of these efforts, we have a new realm of opportunity to highlight the important legacy represented by Dahlgren,” he said. “It’s remarkable that all these developments have coincided with the base’s 95th anniversary, just shy of its centennial five years from now.”

The success of the base through the decades would not have been possible without the support of the communities that surround it, said Nette. “The deep connections between the Dahlgren base and this community represent an invaluable asset that we in the military should never take for granted.”

The leader of Dahlgren’s largest tenant command shared some behind-the scenes insight about the effort to name the base. “It’s the policy of the Department of Defense to name a proving ground after the geographic location it goes in, not to name it after a person,” said Capt. Michael Smith, commanding officer of NSWCDD.

A post office called “Dido” existed in the area prior to the establishment of the base, said Smith, but the Navy wanted to name the installation in honor of Adm. John Augustus Dahlgren, the father of modern naval ordnance. “So they convinced the state of Virginia to rename the post office Dahlgren, which then allowed the Navy to name the proving grounds after Dahlgren.”

Smith seconded Nette’s praise for the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation. “Through your efforts, you honor then men and women who throughout the years have been pioneers in research and development efforts that have resulted in many and great solutions that have proved so vital to surface and sub-surface Navy,” he said. “Because of Dahlgren’s history museum, we have added assurance that our story will be told as we move forward in developing systems that are increasingly flexible and more effective.”

Smith also thanked the communities surrounding Dahlgren for their continuing support. “Since arriving here three years ago, I have been impressed by local residents and members of the work force that have testified about Dahlgren’s integral role to the history of the surrounding region,” he said. “It is clear that this community has always worked exceptionally well with the Navy.”

Two leaders from that community, Del. Margaret Ransone and state Sen. Richard Stuart, discussed the installation’s history and future.

“Let me tell you, as a little boy growing up in the Northern Neck, listening to those booms, we heard those booms and we didn’t pay a bit of attention,” said Stuart. “But I’ll tell you what we did pay attention to was the fact that we had this base here in the Northern Neck and we appreciated it. We wanted it here and we all worked together to make sure the base felt welcomed and would stay here. I think that’s a critical issue.”

The base also serves as a vital employer in the area. “[Dahlgren] is such a tremendous asset to this region,” said Stuart.

Ransone also grew up along the Potomac River and is well acquainted with the noise. “I’m humbled to stand before so many decorated officers and military personnel and civilians and defense contractors this evening, honoring 95 years of Navy heritage based right here at Dahlgren in King George County,” she said. “Because of your hard work, we’ve been blessed with 95 years of dedicated service to our great nation.”

Ransone read a proclamation from Governor Bob McDonnell declaring Oct. 16, 2013 Dahlgren Day, in recognition of the installation’s contributions to both the national defense and the commonwealth of Virginia. Ransone presented each commanding officer at Dahlgren’s commands with copies of the proclamation.

The guest speaker at the anniversary ceremony is no stranger to Dahlgren. Rear Adm. Brad Hicks (Ret.) commanded Navy Air and Missile Defense Command and was the program director for Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense at Dahlgren prior to his retirement from the Navy in 2009. During his tour, he led the mission that successfully shot down a damaged satellite threatening an uncontrolled reentry into the earth’s atmosphere. Hicks is currently a vice president at Lockheed Martin.

Hicks said it was an “honor” to speak at the ceremony and pondered the challenges of Dahlgren’s past, present and future. The base’s establishment in 1918, he said, also coincided with America’s post-World War 1 disarmament. “The Navy got real small. Only through the perseverance of families [like the] Roosevelts and some others that we maintained a Navy, per our Constitution.”

When Dahlgren increased its output for World War II, anti-aircraft proximity fuses helped win the war. “Those algorithms, those mathematical models were envisioned here at Dahlgren,” said Hicks.

American consumers have also benefit from research and development on the base. “Your car’s navigation system, its GPS system and the science behind it, came from [Dahlgren],” Hicks continued. “So the base has seen good times and innovated and delivered. Questioning people, men and women from engineering backgrounds all over the country came here. In 1973, there was one stoplight, I believe. If you wanted to get a good meal, other than local down home food, you were just kind of out of luck. But people persevered down here.”

Hicks said the colocation of many Navy commands at Dahlgren is a major factor in the installation’s continued success, a situation set in motion by the late Rear Adm. Wayne Meyer, “father” of the Aegis Combat System. Colocation allowed engineers to work closely with the officers and Sailors that would maintain and use Aegis. “We had learned painfully that as weapons systems got more complex, if you didn’t do that, you might not get it right,” said Hicks.

Meyer’s decision to base all things Aegis at Dahlgren has paid dividends to both the Navy and the base, said Hicks, but efforts to improve warfighting capability must be ongoing. “The legacy lives on. As Admiral Meyer said to the workforce down here, when everyone thought we’d reached a milestone, he’d remind them we ain’t done yet, in his Missouri drawl.”

That kind of foresight and perseverance is Dahlgren’s way forward. “When you look at the innovation that’s come out this lab, it has survived good times and bad times,” said Hicks.

Though the nation’s budgetary troubles and their effect on the military remains to be solved, Hicks thinks Dahlgren has a bright future ahead of it. “I will tell you that Dahlgren always stands at the top of the list of things we have to preserve.”

Hicks recounted his conversations with then-Rear Adm. Mike Mullen about the prospects of locating NAMDC in Dahlgren. “Why Dahlgren?” asked Hicks. “Because again, the training, the technical excellence is here.”

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Dahlgren museum will receive $50K donation

By Rusty Dennen, The Free Lance-Star

As the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation prepares to launch a major fundraising campaign next year, it will be receiving its largest contribution to date: a $50,000 grant next week from Dominion Foundation.

The Dahlgren Heritage Foundation for two years has been working with the Navy to launch the Dahlgren Heritage Museum. That is scheduled to open next year in the former Gateway Welcome Center on U.S. 301 near the Nice Bridge in King George County.

“We are honored and grateful that Dominion has selected our project for this generous donation,” Robert Gates, vice president and fundraising chair of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, said in a press release.

Gates is heading up a $2 million capital fundraising campaign that will help the museum open with a series of events and forums focused on initial exhibits. Aviation at the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren is expected to be one of the first exhibits.

With the latest contribution, the museum foundation as collected more than $200,000 in cash and in-kind donations.

This year, the museum opened an exhibit on Dahlgren history, with a focus on women in science and technology, in the University of Mary Washington’s Dahlgren campus off U.S. 301 in King George outside the base.

Rodney Blevins, vice president of Distribution Operations for Dominion Virginia Power, said the company was pleased to “support the beginning stages of a museum that will celebrate the history, culture and community of the Dahlgren area.” Dominion Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources.

Blevins will present the grant to museum officials during a ceremony and reception Dec. 12 at the UMW Dahlgren Campus. Others speaking include: House Speaker Bill Howell, state Sen. Richard Stuart, Del. Margaret Ransone and Capt. Pete Nette, Dahlgren base commander.

Ed Jones, president of the museum foundation board of directors and editor of The Free Lance-Star, says the organization has ambitious goals for the coming year.

“During the next chapter for the museum in 2013, it’s time for bricks and mortar,” Jones said, adding that it will get a boost from Dominion’s contribution.

“The museum is moving forward with a first set of exhibits” in the former welcome center. “These exhibits will include key artifacts that relate to the aviation history of the Dahlgren base,” Jones said. “Special events, including forums, receptions, volunteer days and lectures, will be part of an opening schedule next year,” in lieu of a traditional grand opening.

Jones added that more regular use of the museum building will come as it moves forward with exhibits and artifacts along a “history trail” on the museum grounds.

The museum plans to be a key participant in events celebrating the base’s 95th birthday next fall, Jones said.

“As part of that effort, we hope to become a starting point for tours of the base.”

Fundraising will be a priority in 2013, Jones said, “as we seek to expand our membership of more than 200.”

The foundation will work with Sen. Mark Warner to garner support among defense contractors, particularly those with links to the base.

Planning for the museum began more than two years ago to gather, protect, display and explain materials from the Dahlgren base. It’s the first of a new generation of Navy Heritage Centers run not by the Navy, but by private foundations.

Dahlgren Heritage Museum Receives $50K Donation

Dahlgren Source. Thursday, 13 December 2012

Dr. Rob Gates, Vice Chairman of the Dahlgren Heritage Museum Board introduced guests at the Dahlgren Heritage Museum event at the University of Mary Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 12 honoring the gift of $50,000 to the Museum by Dominion Resources.

Ed Jones, President of the Board and editor of the Free Lance Star, accepted the check and told those present at the event that some of the gift will be used to get the museum open and in operation. Plans are to open on a limited based during 2013 and use the facility for forums and community events.

It is expected that the museum will also become a destination location for travelers because of its location and because the Commonwealth of Virginia will have a tourist kiosk in the building.

In attendance at the event were Senator Richard Stuart and Speaker of the House Bill Howell, who helped facilitate the gift. Delegate Margaret Ransone, Dahlgren supervisor Ruby Brabo and James Monroe supervisor John LoBuglio was also in attendance.

Senator Endorses Dahlgren Museum


By: Cathy Dyson

One of the first questions Sen. Mark Warner had for supporters of the planned Dahlgren Heritage Museum was one every organizer wants to hear.

“What can I do to help?” he asked.

On Monday, Warner met with board members of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, which wants to create a museum devoted to the history and technology of the Navy base, and its effect on the community.

The senator asked specific questions about the museum’s mission, fundraising and status, then pledged his support.

“Dahlgren has played an incredibly important role for many, many years, and this would be a great place to highlight it.” Warner said of the proposed museum. “I would wholeheartedly endorse this.”

The group met at the University of Mary Washington’s Dahlgren campus. Those gathered included officials from the university, King George County and the Navy base, and foundation members.

The senator, who owns a farm in King George on the Rappahannock River, said he felt guilty, as a part-time resident, for not visiting the Dahlgren center sooner and having a conversation about the museum.

But he promptly agreed to include language in the senate version of a defense bill that directs the Navy to support heritage efforts such as the Dahlgren museum.

Warner also offered to get defense contractors together and urge them to lend their financial support.

Dave Deputy, a member of the museum board, asked if Warner would do the same with corporations and businesses.

“Words from above don’t hurt,” Deputy said.

Warner toured UMW’s Dahlgren campus – and later the base. King George Supervisor Ruby Brabo started requesting the senator’s visit soon after she was elected last fall.

Fellow museum members were thrilled by Warner’s words of encouragement.

“This really is a boost for all of us,” said Dr. Robert Gates, fundraising chairman of the Dahlgren museum.

He joked that he couldn’t pass up the chance to give the senator a membership application.

Two years ago, foundation started planning the Dahlgren museum, searching for Navy artifacts and a place to put them.

In March, the group signed an agreement to move into the former Potomac Gateway Welcome Center on U.S. 301 in King George, Gates told Warner on Monday.

“Did they give it to you for free?” Warner asked.

“For $10 a year,” Gates answered.

“That’s pretty good,” Warner said, smiling.

Foundation members hope to paint and do other work on the building in the coming weeks. They’re gathering frames and display cases and hope to start putting up exhibits at the former welcome center and throughout UMW’s Dahlgren campus.

Gates said the foundation has accomplished a lot in a short time. The group has raised $150,000 but would like to have about $1.5 million to get exhibits ready and cover operating expenses in the next five years. Local businesses are supportive, Gates said, and the group hopes Warner will help make connections outside the county.

“We are well on our way,” Gates said. “We are uniquely positioned to tell the Dahlgren story.”

New Dahlgren Heritage Museum Officially Opens

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 – King George Journal

Article by: Doug Davant


Editor’s Note: In the year 1906, British Adm. Sir Jackie Fisher launched a revolutionary new type of a naval surface combat ship, reflective of his personal coat of arms motto: “Fear God and Dread Nought!”  The new ship would become known as HMS Dreadnought, the world’s first modern naval battleship,  and it brought about the world’s first arms race.


When HMS Dreadnought was built the U.S. Navy’s proving ground for large caliber naval weapons was at Indian Head, Md.  Built in 1898, Indian Head was relatively new at the time of Dreadnought. But, as the new British battleship began eclipsing all known records for long gun accuracy in the first decade of the 20th Century and rendering the rest of the world’s navies obsolete, it was soon realized that Indian Head was insufficient to support the longer ranges of the new weaponry that modern battleships would now have to have.  A new naval gun range would be needed.

It just so happened that a long stretch of fairly straight Potomac River existed approximately 20 miles downriver from Indian Head. It was located in King George County, and, when it was first built in 1918, it became known as “the Lower Station” of Indian Head.

Then, when test firing got under way in earnest and the war clouds of the First World War began threatening the shores of America, it became more familiarly known as “Dahlgren” to honor Rear Adm. John Adolphus Dahlgren, the acknowledged “Father of Modern Naval Ordnance.”

Flash forward 94 years of today as the drive for a museum to honor nearly a century of scientific technology, invention, and innovation was formally launched last week.

The museum, much like Fisher’s vision of his HMS Dreadnought, will serve to underscore the products of engineering; some of the finest that this nation has ever produced. And much of that engineering came from the minds of the women who served Dahlgren through the years.

At the official inaugural of the Dahlgren Heritage Museum, held at the Dahlgren campus of the University of Mary Washington, four of those women reflected on that service before an audience of more than 200 attendees who came to hear about their experiences.

Gladys West led off the panel of the four that highlighted the evening’s focus: “Women in Science and Technology at Dahlgren.”  West came to Dahlgren in 1956.  She had just graduated from Virginia State University and had originally set her sights on a career as a math and science teacher.

“I did well in high school in my classes,” West explained, “and an adviser encouraged me to go into math and science…I was teaching in Martinsville but I always had wanted a higher paying job and when I got feelers from Dahlgren I came down. It was closer to home as I’m from the country and Dahlgren was very rural and I found Dahlgren delightful.”

West went on to marry here and raise a family while at the same time working on what was then one of the nation’s first super computers, the Naval Ordnance Relay Calculator or NORC.  She also helped pioneer what was later to become the Global Positioning System and later earned a doctorate degree in public administration.

Next up on the panel was Ann Swope, at Dahlgren since 1981.  Swope came up through Dahlgren’s co-op plan, beginning as an environmental scientist and ending up as current chief of staff at the base’s largest tenant activity, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division.

“I was hired over the phone,” Swope remembered, adding that she came from a family steeped in biological science but stressed that she “didn’t want to go into med school” because of the hours demanded of doctors.

“When I got here I was the only female in my building and there was only one restroom,” Swope said, “and I discovered immediately that it was a men’s room!  Thankfully I was able to use another one across the road.”

Also awkwardly discovering a male-dominated environment was Dawn Murphy.

Murphy, who came to Dahlgren in 1983 as a computer scientist supporting the backbone of the Navy’s surface combatants, the Aegis fleet, found herself the lone woman on an Aegis cruiser.

“I ended up in the admiral’s quarters,” she said.  “It was a great week…I had my own facilities and my own room!”

Cynthia Holland anchored the panel and spoke about her job on the base’s current premier project, the Navy’s experimental electromagnetic railgun, while at the same time holding down her other job, that of a full-time mom.

“I’ve been a naval officer and lived in science…basically, I’ve been a nerd my entire life,” she said.  “Ninety percent of the challenges I’ve faced have nothing to do with my gender the other 10 percent do because they are maternity issues.  But I’ve found this place really supportive and helped me be a good engineer as well as a good mommy.”

The evening, hosted by the museum’s foundation, was emceed by Ed Jones, editor of Fredericksburg’s Free Lance-Star newspaper and president of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation.

Jones, the son of a Dahlgren engineer and a graduate of Harvard University, grew up on the base and was educated through primary schooling at the Dahlgren School, which he has often described as the cornerstone of his learning experience.

Jones, along with several other advocates, started brainstorming for a Dahlgren museum two years ago and noted “when we began we had the key question: ‘Is there enough support in this community for a museum?’

“Looking out over this gathering of more than 200 people tonight the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’!” he said in declaring the museum “open for business.”

Thus far, the museum’s foundation has collected approximately $140,000 in various kinds of donations. Its goal is to raise a total of $1,500,000 to operate the facility, which will be located at the former King George welcome center off U.S. 301 at the foot of the Harry Nice bridge.

The U.S. Navy will donate several obsolete cruiser and destroyer gun barrels and carriages to enhance the building.  Additionally, the museum will feature a panoply of Dahlgren historical items that were built for the Navy.

Such items might include the famed Norden bombsight, static displays of guided missiles and remote controlled airplanes, possibly notes on the triggering device for the first atomic bomb, plus parts of the world’s first computers.

Shining a spotlight on ‘this fabled base’

The Dahlgren Navy base is a treasure trove of military history unrivaled in its focus on ordnance–all the things on Navy ships that go “boom.”

To gather, protect, display and explain materials dating to World War I, a group has been formed to start a museum.
“It is being shaped as a brand-new pilot project for the Navy museum system,” says Gary Wagner, a spokesman for the Naval Support Facility.

The Navy museum system comprises 13 sites around the country.
“As a new feature, they are creating Navy Heritage Centers and using this project as a pilot for that new [model],” Wagner said.
The museum will be run not by the Navy, but by the newly created Dahlgren Heritage Foundation.
The base was established in 1918 as the Naval Proving Ground, to test guns destined for Navy warships. Over the years, the site along the Potomac River evolved into one of the Navy’s premier research and development labs. It includes a 25-mile firing range along the river.
“Interest in establishing a museum about Dahlgren really took off following our celebration of the base’s 90th birthday in 2008,” Wagner said.

The event brought together people in the community who had lived and worked on the base. Many of them thought a museum would be a good addition.
Ed Jones, editor of The Free Lance-Star, spearheaded initial efforts to promote the idea to the Navy. Jones, who grew up on the base and whose father was a program manager with the former Naval Weapons Laboratory, said the timing is right.
“The professionals on this base have done a good job of telling the story of what Dahlgren has contributed to our region and our nation, but we need a bigger megaphone.

“We need to make sure our region and our country understand what went on–and continues to go on–at this fabled base.”
Jones said that, beyond ordnance and technology, “It’s also the social and economic history of this place–the story of a remote Navy outpost, carved out of King George County marshes and farms in 1918, that went on to become the nation’s most important ordnance testing facility, and then so much more.”
Coincidentally, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division–the base’s largest tenant command–had already begun to collect and archive important documents and artifacts related to the command’s history.

Base representatives, along with officials from the Naval History and Heritage Command, met in July and Jones was elected president of the foundation board.The next step is to finalize bylaws and a concept of what the museum will be, then going back to the community for help and guidance, Wagner said.
“We’ll be looking for folks who can support this initiative in a number of ways, drawing on their expertise in multiple areas,” Jones said.
Meanwhile, the group is exploring possible sites, which likely will be outside the base, so that it will be easier for the public to visit.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Email: rdennen@freelancestar.com

Copyright 2010 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.