NRTF Aguada Technical Director Honored with 2019 Copernicus Award

Steven McMiller, technical director for Naval Radio Transmitter Facility (NRTF) Aguada, Puerto Rico, a unit within the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic (NCTAMS LANT) Enterprise, has been honored as a Copernicus Awardee by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) and the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) the Chief of Naval Operations announced by message earlier this month.

McMiller led the NRTF’s effort to recover following the devastation from Hurricane Maria September 2017 due to a four-foot storm surge that flooded the Fleet Submarine Broadcast System (FSBS) transmitter and the high winds that destroyed structures, security fences, and antenna components.

McMiller had the facility full mission capable (FMC) June 2018.

“Mr. McMiller’s efforts were exemplary,” said Capt. Jody Grady, commanding officer, NCTAMS LANT. “Through ingenuity, initiative, and creativity, he not only restored full capability to the FSBS global system, but prevented millions of dollars of maintenance from being deferred from other critical FSBS sites.”

McMiller’s story is nothing short of amazing and shows true strength of character and leadership.

As the sole U.S. Navy representative at the NRTF, McMiller used independent judgement to develop an unprecedented recovery strategy. Realizing electricity was vital to recovery, he secured a ten kilowatt diesel generator and had it wired into the NRTF power panel to support initial recovery efforts. With all commercial power and communications networks unavailable, he partnered with the U.S. Border Patrol and established a NRTF telephone communication post and initiated a daily battle rhythm of status reports and mission updates.

Working in austere conditions, he participated in dismantling, hand-cleaning, sanitizing, and testing the transmitter parts down to the circuit card and sometimes component level for re-use. Further, he developed an in-depth process for restoring the transmitter to FMC status and tracking the repair progress. His completion percentage methodology was used to track recovery progress for higher authority, to include, a six-point transmitter restoration method, finding and acquiring the necessary repair parts, drafting contract modifications to increase staffing and repair parts funding, and working with engineering activities to establish test plans for critical equipment.

In addition, McMiller took the lead role as Facilities Project Officer for over $8 million in recovery work. He submitted repair recommendations, monitored work progress, and provided status reports. The breadth and scope of work was massive as he directed his on-site contractors in the cleaning and repair of two solar turbine generators. Additionally, he led contractors in replacing switchboards and disconnects (personally seeing to the quality checks afterwards), repair of the facilities ventilation system, replacement of voltage regulators, replacement of all electrical circuits below four feet, installation of new flood protection barriers, replacement of walls, doors, and ceilings, roof repairs, asbestos abatement, rebuilding access roads, dredging the station canal system, and repairs to security fencing.

“I am incredibly honored that AFCEA and USNI recognized my work to get the facility up and running again, but it truly was a team effort that was fully supported by NCTAMS LANT, and the NRTF onsite contractor, ” McMiller said. “I see the award as being a team award that was won out of necessity – this facility is critical for our national defense communications and we had to get it running!”

McMiller will receive the award in February at a reception during the AFCEA/USNI West 2019 conference in San Diego.

The Copernicus Award recognizes individual contributions to Naval Warfare in the disciplines of Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I), Information Systems or Information Warfare (IW).

NCTAMS LANT operates and defends responsive, resilient, and secure computer and telecommunications systems, providing information superiority for global maritime and joint forces.

Find out more about the NCTAMS LANT Enterprise by visiting

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally published at the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System Hub ( The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

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