Starla Pointer / News-Register
EASA student Kimberly Goss explains her team s hovercraft project to Rear Admiral Nancy Norton.  It was an amazing opportunity to get to meet her,  said Goss, a senior. She said she was especially impressed by Norton s advice that students take advantage of the amazing opportunities offered by the Engineering and Aerospace Science Academy.
Starla Pointer / News-Register EASA student Kimberly Goss explains her team's hovercraft project to Rear Admiral Nancy Norton. "It was an amazing opportunity to get to meet her," said Goss, a senior. She said she was especially impressed by Norton's advice that students take advantage of the amazing opportunities offered by the Engineering and Aerospace Science Academy.
Starla Pointer / News-Register
EASA students take turns snapping photos with Rear Admiral Nancy Norton. 
They also gave the Navy official at tour of their classrooms in the Evergreen Space Museum.
Starla Pointer / News-Register EASA students take turns snapping photos with Rear Admiral Nancy Norton. They also gave the Navy official at tour of their classrooms in the Evergreen Space Museum.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Admiral visits EASA

In order to keep doing her job effectively, Navy Rear Admiral Nancy A. Norton said, she needs people like the students in McMinnville High School's Engineering and Aerospace Sciences Academy.

People who are highly interested in math and science. Skilled in engineering and physics. Adept at applying their knowledge and skills to solve problems.

"The Navy is very different today," Norton told EASA students during a visit to McMinnville Tuesday. "It's all high-tech, very complex systems. We need a very high-tech workforce with skills like you're learning here."

Norton is director of warfare integration for information dominance. As such, she in charge of a wide range of programs that support weapons and satellite systems, surveillance, intelligence, cyber security, undersea, unmanned and electronic warfare. 

"I make sure all the programs fit together and provide the best capability for the Navy, efficiently and effectively as we can with your tax dollars," she said. For instance, she said, her department ensures that ships can talk to each other securely.

Secure communication helps the Navy fulfill its mission of global security and emergency response, she said.

Navy ships help out with natural disasters — providing food and medical support following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, or technical expertise following the 2011 Japanese tsunami and nuclear reactor meltdown, for instance, she said.

And they support other military forces responding to threats. For instance, Navy aircraft carriers were floating airfields during the first 56 days of U.S. intervention against ISIS in Syria.

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The rear admiral came to Oregon this week for Veterans Day activities. She also had time to visit several high school and college Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs — including EASA, which is housed at the Evergreen Space Museum.

A native Oregonian, she grew up in Coquille and Roseburg. She originally planned to become a doctor.

After receiving her undergraduate degree, she joined the Navy to earn money to pay for medical training. But she soon fell in love with a communications job, and earned a master's degree in computer science instead.

The Navy had always appealed to her, she said, recalling the marketing campaign that promised "Join the Navy and see the World." That promise came true, she said, as she's visited 56 countries during her 29 years in the service.

She's one of about 330,000 people who wear the Navy uniform. Another 200,000 or so civilians also work for the Navy, providing support in areas such as recruitment and human resources.

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She told EASA students she loves her work and probably wouldn't change a thing if she had it all to do over again. Still, she would have loved to participate in a program such as EASA, where students work as teams, create things and are mentored by professionals from aviation, space and other high-tech fields.

"I'm so envious of you being able to go to school in this amazing facility!" she said, looking around at the planes and space craft displayed alongside the EASA classrooms.

EASA students and teachers, along with local Petty Officer Brian Hoegar, the local Navy recruiter, greeted Norton when she arrived for her 90 minute visit. They showed her some of the equipment they use, such as a 3-D printer and a wind tunnel for testing airfoils; and items they've built, including robots, a hovercraft and tiny nanolab experiments designed to be rocketed up to the International Space Station.

"Very cool!" Norton said several times. "You're lucky to have this! Do you feel lucky?"

"Yes!" students chorused.

"You should," she said.

Norton also spoke with several of the museum docents, many of whom are veterans who volunteer their time. "Thank you," she told them.

Later, she answered questions about the Navy, her experiences and her high-tech job.

When a student asked about cyber warfare, for instance, she said she doesn't think war will ever play out entirely between computers. However, she said, every future war will involve cyber warfare.

"We're seeing it already. Every terrorist group is using cyber," she said. "Everything depends on computers, and we have to keep them working."

An EASA classmate asked her what it's like to be a high-ranking Naval officer.

"Do you know any big secrets?" the student asked.

"I know a lot," said Norton, sounding as if she'd heard the question from teens before. "But I can't tell you. That's classified."

 

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