My APG Story: Charlie Nietubicz

Charlie Nietubicz, a retired ARL civilian who began his career at APG with the former Ballistics Research Laborartory in the 1970s, leads efforts to remember the accomplishments and legacy of the installation and its organizations. | U.S. Army Photo by Dave McNally, ARL

Retiree can’t walk away from APG

In its formative years, before it grew into the premier center for Army technology that it is today, like today, Aberdeen Proving Ground drew people from around the country. Some came to contribute to the budding discoveries and early innovations that would bring fame and recognition to the installation. Others came to fulfill the military orders that sent them here. And then, there are those who did both.

Charlie Nietubicz, a retired APG civilian and current defense contractor, is the vice-president of the Aberdeen Proving Ground Centennial Celebration Association. | U.S. Army Photo by Dave McNally, ARL

The U.S. Army brought Charlie Nietubicz to Aberdeen Proving Ground. A native of New Jersey, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Dayton in Ohio, Nietubicz is the son of a World War II veteran.

“I remember my father saying with tears in his eyes, he went so his son wouldn’t have to fight in a war,” Nietubicz said.

He did, however, wear the uniform. Nietubicz arrived at APG in 1971 as a second lieutenant after completing ROTC, to attend the basic and advanced Ordnance officer courses at the U.S. Army Ordnance Center and Schools.

He was initially assigned to the Garrison. With a background in engineering, his curiosity was piqued when he learned about the Wind Tunnel research that was going on within the Ballistics Research Laboratory. Excited to be within reach of such cutting-edge technology, Nietubicz enquired about a chance to work there and was told he’d have to commit to an additional year of service, totaling three years in the Army. He readily agreed and joined the BRL researchers in the Launch and Flight Division.

In 1974, when his commitment was up, he left the military and was hired on as a BRL civilian.

“I really liked working there and being able to use my educational training,” Nietubicz said, adding that while wind tunnel testing dominated his research from 1971 -75, they eventually turned to numerical analysis, or Computational Fluid Dynamics, as it is known today, with a focus on projectile aerodynamics when the wind tunnels were closed in 1975.

While working in the computational arena, Nietubicz was offered a one-year assignment to the NASA Research Center at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California. He spent the year there working with the world’s foremost experts developing computational capabilities for projectile designs and analysis and was able to bring that knowledge back to BRL.

“In the 1980s, NASA was developing computational methods for space shuttle work, and researchers from all over the world were looking to work there,” he said. “When I came back, I shared my research and we were able to use that for the projectile programs.”

By 1992, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory was formed and Nietubicz went to work in the lab’s Weapons & Materials Research Directorate. He worked in the Aerodynamics Branch under Branch Chief Ed Schmidt. Around 1994, Nietubicz was assigned to the Pentagon in the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition Logistics and Technology, ASA (ALT). Exciting things were happening during that time, he said.

Charlie Nietubicz, third from right, helps cut the ribbon during the dedication of the new Michael J. Muuss computer center in 2007. | Photo courtesy of Charlie Nietubicz

“There was a High Performance Computing Modernization Program just getting started that was run by the Department of Defense Director of Research & Engineering,” he said, adding that the government was looking to establish four DOD Supercomputing Centers. ARL prepared a proposal under the direction of Harold Breaux, who was the Advanced Computing Division chief at the time.

‘ARL Director John Lyons almost immediately said yes, we should send in a proposal,” Nietubicz said, adding that the HPCMP eventually chose ARL and three other locations for its Super Computing centers.

When Nietubicz returned from the Pentagon, he was asked to apply for a branch chief and then a division chief position in ARL’s Advanced Computing and Computational Sciences Division. He was selected for both and he also had a temporary assignment as director of the Computational Information Sciences directorate.

“We were still an Army computing center at this time, destined to become one for four Department of Defense Computing centers in 1995,” he said.

Today, the ARL DOD Supercomputing Resource Center, remains one of the five high performance computing centers in the nation.

Known as DOD Supercomputing Resource Centers, or DSRCs, the others are located at the Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi; at the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; and at the Air Force Research Laboratories at Dayton, Ohio and in Maui, Hawaii.

In 1996, ARL celebrated 50 years of supercomputing since the development of the ENIAC and the DRSC was named the ARL Major Shared Resource Center, or MSRC. It did then and provides to this day, leading-edge, classified and unclassified, high performance computing and communications technologies, tools and services to scientists and engineers within the DOD research, development, and test and evaluation community. The MSRC was a critical component of the HPC Modernization Program – an ongoing DOD initiative accelerating the meaningful insertion of the best HPCC capabilities into the RDT&E infrastructure – which ensures tomorrow’s warfighter supremacy.

Nietubicz notes that he’s “witnessed an abundance of change” since he arrived at APG 46 years ago.

Charlie Nietubicz, center, accepts an award for helping with exhibits during the Army Science Conference from John Parmentola, left, Army Director for Research and Laboratory Management and Thomas Killion, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology. | Photo courtesy of Charlie Nietubicz

“I saw them go from keypunch cards to terminals to PCs, and the center go from serial to vector to cluster technonogy, ” he said “It was an exciting time when they used the Advanced Research Laboratory Agency network for email in the early 80s,” he noted, adding that this was effectively, the beginning of the internet.

Nietubicz said he still takes pride in being able to help with the organizational changes that brought about the formation of ARL.

“I was privileged to work with all the directors who shaped ARL,” he said. “I was fortunate in so many ways to work with so many smart researchers at BRL, NASA Ames and ARL. I find it hard to walk away because I believe HPC is in my blood. I hope to continue to do all I can so our research community sees the benefits of HPC and makes it an integral part of their research toolbox.”

Nietubicz works parttime as a high performance computing research leader with Battelle and a principal engineer with the Energetics Technology Center.

APG Centennial

Retirement did not stifle Nietubicz’s devotion to the proving ground. He said when he and other retirees and friends of the installation learned that the Army decided there would be no APG museum they decided to do something to preserve its history. They formed the APG Centennial Celebration Association, or ACCA, in 2016.

“We agreed that we have 100 years of heritage here and that we needed to organize with the initial purpose to help APG celebrate the 100th centennial, and then build for the future by establishing an APG Technology, Heritage and Education Center,” he said.

Nietubicz is the vice-president of the group, which is led by President Barney Michel.

The group provided assistance to the installation for the live fire demonstrations during the Army Birthday celebration in May. It also created and oversaw the installation of the APG Memorial at Festival Park in the City of Aberdeen. The memorial honors the 48 people who lost their lives while serving APG missions since the installation’s founding.

“We decided to celebrate all of them with a memorial for Soldiers, civilians and contractors and place it outside the gate so it would be easier for people to see,” Nietubicz said, noting that Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady suggested the Festival Park site near the city’s 9/11 memorial.

He added that those who would like to honor loved ones or colleagues can still purchase bricks for the site through the end of October and that a ceremony will be held on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, in conjunction with the Veterans Day ceremony hosted by American Legion Bernard L. Tobin Post 128 at the Veterans Memorial in Aberdeen.

Centennial Gala

The culmination of this year’s centennial efforts will be the Gala set for Friday, Oct. 20, Nietubicz said. Former APG employee Joan Michel is leading a committee of about 30 people who are “doing a phenomenal job,” he said.

“They’ve been given three floors of the Merritt Building, a corporate building [located at 650 McHenry Road in Aberdeen, Maryland] and the planning committee is putting together rugs, curtains and other decorations to transform it into a 1920s cabaret.”

“It’s incredible the work they’re putting in to make this a special, memorable night for everyone.”

He said the Army Alliance will host a reception on the main floor from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The cabaret festivities on all three floors takes place 7 to 11 p.m., followed by the after party Speakeasy that starts 11 p.m.

Speakeasies, which came into prominence during Prohibition, were establishments that quietly sold alcoholic beverages. The term referred to the tendency to speak quietly or only whisper about such places. Today, Speakeasy is used to describe retro style bars or establishments.

“People can sit around and relax with their friends and listen to jazz in a speakeasy-type atmosphere,” Nietubicz said.

He noted that dress for the event is formal/semi-formal for civilians; mess dress or Army Service Uniform with bow tie for military.

“Ticket pricing has been adjusted and tiered for Soldiers, first responders and educators, Nietubicz added, as well as for APG employees. Tickets are available at http://www.apg100.org/gala.

“People should go online to check the pricing for their category” he said. “We made it as affordable as we could because we want everyone to come out and celebrate APG’s 100th in the biggest and best way possible.”

The APG Centennial Gala will be held 7 to 11 p.m. at the Aberdeen Corporate Park, 650 McHenry Road in Aberdeen, Maryland, Friday, Oct. 20. There is special pricing for service members and civilians at or below E-9 and GS 12, as well as for community emergency responders and educators. This once-in-a-lifetime celebration is open to everyone. Discounts on groups of eight or more are also available. For more information, or to purchase tickets, go to http://www.apg100.org/gala, call 410-838-ARMY or email gala@apg100.org

APG Discovery Center

Nietubicz said the ACCA is focused on replacing the APG Museum which the proceeds from the Gala will go toward.

“It will be called the APG Discovery Center – Where Technology, Heritage and Education come together,” he said.

“Our vision is a building in Aberdeen that will house the new technology of APG to show the public what amazing things are happening here and to present APG’s rich heritage.

“We’ll have prototypes of 100 years of innovations and technologies, including our modern-day STEM programs. And, we’re working with local defense contractors to include their technologies.”

The ACCA is working with the City of Aberdeen and with APG leaders to establish the Discovery Center.

By Yvonne Johnson, APG News