CNO Essay Contest Winner
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Sept. 14, 2017) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson poses with contest winners and representatives of the CNO 2017 Naval History Essay Contest during the 2017 McMullen Naval History Symposium at the U.S. Naval Academy. From left to right, Mr. Samuel J. Cox (Director, NHHC), Mr. John P. Casey (Executive Vice President of General Dynamics Marine Systems, Inc.), Lt. Col. James W. Hammond III, USMC (Ret.), Dr. Ryan Wadle, Mr. Lee Moss (father-in-law of contest winner Lt. Cmdr. Joel Holwitt, USN), Mr. Trent Hone, Adm. John M. Richardson, USN, Lt. John Miller, USN, Lt. j.g. Daniel Stefanus, USN, and Mr. Peter Daly (Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Naval Institute). (U.S. Navy photo)

The six awardees were chosen among a group of 292 total submissions.

"This year's essay contest is just one example of how we're reinvigorating the intellectual debate within the Navy by increasing our focus on the study of maritime history," said Richardson. "It's also critical in helping us think through the design of the future Navy."

Awards in the category of Professional Historian were presented to first place winner, Lt. Cmdr. Joel Holwitt, executive officer, USS Dakota (SSN-784); second place winner, Trent Hone, managing consultant with Excella Consulting; and third place winner, Dr. Ryan Wadle, director of research, Air Command and Staff College's School of Graduate Professional Military Education. Awards in the category of Rising Historian were presented to first place winner, Lt. John Miller, fire control officer, USS Monterey (CG-61); second place winner, retired Marine Lt. Col. James W. "Wes" Hammond III; and third place winner, Lt. j.g. Daniel Stefanus, training officer, Amphibious Squadron 6. 

"I have done plenty of presentations before but getting recognized for something I had written was new," said Wadle. "It was very humbling, but very gratifying." 

The judging committee was comprised of senior staff from United States Naval Institute, USNA, Naval War College, Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), Office of the CNO, and a distinguished naval historian from outside the Navy. The panel chose the essays that best captured the rich history of sea service as it relates to maintaining maritime superiority in today's environment.

"When going through the essays I was looking for outstanding scholarship, use of primary sources and meeting the CNO's requirement for an essay that took lessons from history and applied it to current and future operations," said retired Rear Adm. Samuel J. Cox, director, NHHC. 

The winners received cash prizes, plaques, pens and copper from the USS Constitution. The first place winners from both categories will have their essays published in Naval History Magazine and all winners will be published on NHHC's website. 

"It's been an absolutely incredible experience," said Stefanus. "Meeting the CNO and USNA superintendent was an awesome experience, as well as all the other essay contest winners. I'm honored to be here. {It's] definitely one of the coolest things I've ever done." 

Additionally, the winners presented their papers at the symposium during the panel discussions. 

"It felt really wonderful. Getting up and presenting and giving a speech is one thing, but being recognized is something different and I've got goosebumps," said Hone. "It's really neat to walk up shake the CNO's hand and be here at the Naval Academy, and get that kind of recognition for something that I've written."

The McMullen Symposium ran Sept. 14-15. It is the largest academic conference dedicated to the subject of naval and maritime history in the western hemisphere. More than 300 scholars from 15 nations were in attendance where they presented research and discussed the field.

To read the 2017 winners' essays and summaries, visit