Every time a piece of ammunition or explosive makes its way to the fleet from Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), it is thanks to the work and support of dozens of employees. From development to testing, it is the work of individual people that gets things done.
When it comes to testing explosives and energetic items, NSWCDD test engineer Lanie Pepitone is a master with nearly 14 years of experience. The King George native works in the Weapons System Test Engineering Branch of the Gun and Electric Weapon Systems Department, spending most of her time at the Explosives Experimental Area (EEA) in the Potomac River Test Range complex performing hazard assessment testing, which refers to anything from temperature and humidity testing to shock and vibration, as well as 40-foot drop and insensitive munitions testing, according to Pepitone.
According to Walt Dzula, Weapons System Test Engineering Branch head, Pepitone “coordinates all phases of testing to include initial meetings with the customer, safety document and test plan development, test execution and final reporting.”
Her primary area of expertise is with Navy missiles and Rocket Motor Static Fire (RMSF) testing, where her engineering experience is “unsurpassed in the division,” according to Dzula.
RMSF testing at EEA has been conducted on several different rocket motors. In order to test these rocket motors, they must be disassembled from the remainder of the missile system.
“A missile is a self-contained weapon system with its own propulsion and guidance system. Since the rocket motors we tested were disassembled from the missile, we had to determine how the rocket motor was initiated when part of the complete weapon system. Then, we designed a firing system that would allow us to static fire each rocket motor independently,” said Pepitone. “A lot of that work was conducted in 2007, but since then we have had several other customers reach out to us for this type of testing. Our reputation must be growing.”
Before joining the workforce at NSWCDD, Pepitone had secondhand knowledge of base operations through her father, who worked in the same department in the 1970s and 80s. After graduation from Longwood University with a degree in math, Pepitone took a job with a contractor outside the NSWCDD gates. Around the same time, Pepitone started dating her now-wife, who had just taken a job at NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity (she has since moved back to NSWCDD, and now works in the Strategic and Computing Systems Department). The pair dated for 12 years before getting married in 2014.
“One of the things that has really surprised me over the years is how society in general has changed and how accepting people have become of different races, religions and sexual orientations,” shared Pepitone. “I remember in high school, it wasn’t something that was talked about. I was worried about how I would be [perceived] in the workforce, but I have had nothing but positive interactions here at Dahlgren.”