ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- An Army engineer was honored as a Modern Day Technology Leader at the 2018 Annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards -- Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Global Competitiveness Conference in Washington DC, Feb 8-10.

Kevin Kirkwood II, chief engineer at the U.S. Army's Communication-Electronics, Research Development and Engineering Center was honored for his leadership abilities, hard work and dedication.

"It should not be a surprise that Kevin has been named a Modern Technology Leader by the Black Engineer of the Year award committee. Kevin is an extraordinary civilian professional with exceptional leadership skills," said CERDEC Director Patrick J. O'Neill.

"He actively seeks responsibilities and he's one of those people who does his job and assists others with theirs -- all the while, making it look easy. He's a selfless, caring leader with unlimited potential, who makes a difference where he serves; CERDEC is proud to have him on our team, making a difference for our Soldiers."

CERDEC is an Army applied research center that works with the Defense Department and national labs to inform research investments and to adopt, adapt and mature relevant breakthroughs in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance called C4ISR capabilities. Each support Army Modernization priorities.

Kirkwood, senior engineer in CERDEC's Product Realization Engineering and Quality Directorate, leads a team of personnel with expertise in engineering, operational security, foreign military sales, logistics and quality.

He is matrixed to the Product Director, Aerostats within the Program Executive Office Intelligence Electronic Warfare & Sensors, where his team cost-effectively sustains intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting capabilities so that, "bad days don't happen" for U.S. Soldiers.

Operations and support costs are a significant concern, and Kirkwood and his team envisioned creative ways to significantly cut sustainment costs without increasing the approved budget, saving the Army an estimated $6M.

"I understand electronic warfare needs are a priority but after you deploy that capability, you have to sustain it. You have to make sure you can reduce the cost of it without killing the taxpayers," Kirkwood said eagerly about sustainment engineering and the work his team performs.

"If you consciously factor in sustainment at the beginning of development, you can then make that technology more modular so that as we innovate, we can integrate and save and capitalize on what we've already built."

PRD Director, Ron Michel, who nominated Kirkwood for this award called him an exemplary role model.

"He's an approachable and confident leader whom others look up to and want to emulate. I'm extremely proud of him and his growth as a valued contributor and leader within our Army and Department of Defense community of practice."

Kirkwood, who has been with CERDEC since 2007, describes his time as a journey beginning as a nervous college graduate, surrounded by great leadership at PRD who provided him with more and more opportunities in which to excel.

"CERDEC is really diverse in terms of its C4ISR mission and its culture, and that's important for innovation. We bring everyone together with ideas; we figure out what is the best idea; we move forward together, and that's what makes us stronger," he said.

Kirkwood, who graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, is pursuing a master's degree in Engineering Management at Stevens Institute of Technology. He is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, known as NSBE and Society of Hispanic Engineers, or SHPE.

He also makes time to mentor high school and college students interested in pursuing engineering, noting that exposure to programs and assistance with application processes for these kinds of opportunities are vital for aiding upcoming minority professionals.

"A lot of times it's not what you want to do in life, but how to get there," Kirkwood said. "It's really important to have that mentorship and important for me to give back to those who don't know how to get there. That's the missing piece for many and where I want to help, and this award is symbolic of that process.

Where I come from, there's a lot of doubt as to what your goals can be," he added, "and just seeing others come from the same place and make it, means something."

The BEYA award recognizes the women and men who are shaping the future of engineering, science, and technology. Kirkwood said that it is one of the most significant awards he's received, and he credited his team as a large part of his success. "My belief is that the power is in the team, the people, and the leader just kind of orchestrates that."

"I want to help everyone move up because we have a moral obligation to give back to the community so that we can uplift everyone else. We do that by being the best that we can be so that we can make this place a better place."

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The U.S. Army's Communication-Electronics, Research Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.