“It was one of the most special and moving moments of my professional career.” That’s how Matthew Kennedy, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and BAE Systems program manager, described the day he escorted Major Matthew Wade Worrell’s family during the 2010 dedication of the Worrell/Weeks Aircrew Protection Center (WWAPC) – a missile warning research, development and testing center in Merrimack, N.H. The $20 million center is dedicated to Major Worrell and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jamie Dunbar Weeks, U.S. Army special operations soldiers who were killed in Iraq when their helicopter was shot down by enemy fire.
Kennedy was selected to escort the Worrell family in part because he had first-hand experience with missile warning technology both as a member of the U.S. Army and as an employee at BAE Systems. As an employee of our company, Kennedy worked as a program manager for the Common Missile Warning System (CMWS) – the very technology that safeguarded his Army unit and that the WWAPC was designed to support.
A graduate of United States Military Academy at West Point, Kennedy served in the active U.S. Army for eight years and then transitioned to the Massachusetts Army National Guard where he has served for the past 16 years. He joined our company in 2004 as a program manager for the CMWS program – a technology that protects against infrared missiles by locating the threat and dispensing countermeasures to defeat the attack.
At the time, CMWS had yet to be fielded, but was about to be fast-tracked in response to U.S. Army helicopters being shot down in Iraq and Afghanistan by insurgents with shoulder-fired infrared missiles. As a result, a team of Army and BAE Systems staffers came together to rapidly install the CMWS systems on hundreds of aircraft in theater. Some of those aircraft belonged to Kennedy’s National Guard unit.
“In one of my first CMWS program meetings, while thinking about what an honor it is to be involved with technology to help protect soldiers, I quickly realized that according to the meeting notes, my Guard unit was about to receive the systems in advance of combat operations,” said Kennedy. “That’s how I learned I was about to be deployed. And it was at that moment that I realized I may need to ask my new employer for some time off.”
Soon after that meeting, Kennedy left for a 16-month deployment as a joint aviation task force operation officer and Blackhawk helicopter pilot in command, as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His aircraft received the CMWS equipment in theater and quickly put it to use. Kennedy completed several combat missions protected by the CMWS hardware that was built in our Nashua, N.H., facility, and after his deployment, he returned to that very building to continue his career at BAE Systems.
Kennedy is now coming up on his 10-year anniversary with our company, and upon recently completing his MBA, he learned that he was selected into the U.S. Army War College Fellowship at Harvard University. In addition, Kennedy continues to help deepen the bond between industry and military by arranging trips between his Guard unit and BAE Systems’ coworkers in an effort to introduce those who serve to those who protect those who serve.
“My military service and my role at BAE Systems are so tightly intertwined. In both instances, I’m part of something bigger than myself; from serving in battle to contributing to the work done at facilities like the Worrell/Weeks Aircrew Protection Center. I’m proud of my service to my country and my company.”