Passion and independence lead NSWC Dahlgren division engineer from Vietnam to the United States

DAHLGREN, Va. — Born and raised in Vietnam, Thao Tran spent most of her teenage life in a communist country. She remembers sweet times like supporting her family, helping her mother correct her papers and going to school, but she also remembers terrible times like her father who spent eight years in the prison camp for high-ranking military officers who fought against the Communists.

It was impossible for her to go to university in Vietnam because of her father’s military status. Tran knew this was not the life she wanted, even at an early age. As an independent and intelligent young girl, Tran set her sights on a place where she could succeed.

At the age of 12, she expressed to a neighbor that one day she wanted to go to the United States. Tran would have a chance to escape from Vietnam three years later. Tran, his brother and father and 93 others loaded into a handmade bag
boat designed for 30 people to go to sea in the hope of being rescued by ships on the international waterway.

By the end of the first day, the boat’s engine had failed and they were already low on food and water. For four days and five nights in the face of storms and famine, they were at sea in a boat that was not meant to sail in open waters. They were rescued by a Korean fishing boat which took them to a refugee camp in South Korea. Tran was later transferred to a refugee camp in the Philippines where she remained for six months before heading to the United States.

Once Tran moved to Washington State, she continued her education by attending two years of high school before enrolling in a local community college where she focused on learning English.

She faced many challenges due to the language barrier, but continued to excel academically. Tran’s passion for math and science led her to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Washington.

She moved to Redondo Beach, California to work for TRW Inc. (now Northrop Grumman) designing monolithic microwave integrated circuit frequency multipliers and low-noise amplifiers using low-electron high-mobility transistor technology. gallium arsenide.

A later move to Seattle brought her closer to her family and a new job at a communications start-up designing radio frequency transmitter and receiver modules. When the startup closed, Tran found an amazing opportunity to work on Kwajalein Atoll as a Principal Receiver Engineer, located in the Marshall Islands, home of the Ronald Ballistic Missile Test Site. Reagan.

When asked what life was like on the island, Tran had nothing but happy memories. Kwajalein is one of the most remote places on earth. One side of the island is home to one of the largest lagoons in the world, while the other side is the
Open Pacific.

“It was a huge shock at first, but we loved it because everyone was treated like family. Every weekend we got together and had potlucks. We ate food on the beach and the kids were going swimming,” Tran said. “We also snorkeled straight from the shore, went sailing to Bigej Island on a friend’s sailboat, and occasionally went sea fishing on a boat. rental boat It was amazing because you didn’t have to worry about anything.

After five years at Kwajalein, Tran took up a position at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) with the Electromagnetics and Sensor Systems Department in 2008 as a radar analyst for several projects.

In 2020, Tran joined the Warfare Analysis and Numerical Modeling Department in support of the Mission Level Engineering Branch to model planned and exercised mission threads from operational and system architecture in order to capture deployment and combat capabilities. “I like to keep learning and expanding my knowledge base every five years”