At age 38, Jennifer Childs has an impressive resume and could rest on her laurels. That’s not likely to happen as this Huntington Ingalls Industries employee continues to add to her credentials with professional and personal accomplishments.
She’s worked with the Pascagoula shipbuilder — the state’s largest private employer — eight years with the current job title of ship design manager of the National Security Cutter program — ships built for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Childs was born near Indianapolis but moved to Coral Springs, Fla., at a young age and was reared there. She is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where she majored in physics.
“I wanted to serve my country. A recruiter came to my school and got me interested in the Navy,” she says of her decision to enlist.
Later, Childs went to the academy’s nuclear power school and served on two Navy destroyer ships with various ports of call. She was deployed to the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea for four months without stopping at a port after the terrorist strike of 9/11.
She’s no longer on active duty but serves in the Navy Reserve and holds the rank of lieutenant commander.
“In the Navy, I found I enjoyed being the leader of a team, and that’s carried into the job I have now,” Childs says. “I wouldn’t change that for anything. Things you think are roadblocks — I wanted to be a pilot but my vision wouldn’t support it — turn out to be for the best.”
“Jennifer brings an infectious energy to our engineering team, said Dave Belanger, vice president of quality, process excellence, engineering and ILS. “Her education, Navy background, and engaging personality well suit Jennifer for her current Ship Design Manager role. She is a committed self starter that takes on any and all challenges and we are excited about her continued growth. “
Childs definitely recommends Navy careers for young people.
“I remember being 22 years old, sitting on the bridge of a destroyer at night and I was the oldest person on duty,” she recalls.
“In the Navy you take on responsibility and leadership at a young age whether you’re an officer or not. Those are skills you can carry with you into civilian careers. It was a remarkable experience for me.”
She was one of the first women in the Navy’s nuclear program.
“Women are serving on ships and submarines; they’re definitely part of the team,” she said. “Now a lot of women are in the senior ranks. The opportunities are there for women.”
Through the Navy Reserve she will continue to serve and accumulate 20 total years of service.
“Also, I believe the product I help produce at Huntington Ingalls supports the nation’s security and viability while also bringing resources and economic development to the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” she said.
“I’m part of a fantastic team working on the Coast Guard cutters. I get to work with people from all the organizations at Ingalls, including designers and other engineers.”
Childs really likes watching the whole ship come together.
“There’s nothing like it. I’m very proud of what we build, knowing that each one is off to do good things,” she said. “I feel I’m still serving my country.”
With her husband, Peter Chaveriat, on active Navy duty, Childs is content to work at Ingalls and live in Ocean Springs. Since leaving active duty, she has earned a MBA degree and become a passionate supporter of community activities.
She volunteers with the Gulf Coast Honor Flight and served as guardian for two World War II veterans on the group’s trips to Washington, D.C.
“It was so fulfilling to go on these trips, touching and emotional,” she said.
She also works with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) outreach with students. “We’ve got to get students interested in these things when they’re young, and Ingalls does a great job of putting it in the community, such as the STEM workshop for teachers giving them low-cost ideas for their schools,” she said.
“The engineering competition Ingalls sponsors for kids is amazing.”
Additionally, Childs is involved with a group of women engineers at Ingalls who do things in the community.
She is currently enrolled in yoga teacher training and enjoys kayaking, cycling and reading naval history and spy novels in her leisure time. She recently was selected one of the Mississippi Business Journal’s Top 50 under 40.
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