ERDC names computer for Medal of Honor recipient

Published 4:05 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2023

In its 25-year history, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center has developed a reputation for developing equipment to protect the members of America’s military.

On Tuesday, ERDC officials named their newest supercomputer after one of those members, retired U.S. Marine Cpl. and Medal of Honor recipient William Kyle Carpenter. Carpenter is the third Medal of Honor recipient from Mississippi to have a computer named for him.

“In 2018, the first system we named was named after Army Maj. Ed Freeman from Neely, Mississippi,” said Bobby Hunter, chief of ERDC’s Supercomputing Research Center. Hunter was talking to the more than 100 people gathered for the ceremony launching Carpenter’s computer, which bears his picture and an account of the effort that made him a Medal of Honor recipient.

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“Major Freeman received the Medal of Honor after putting himself in harm’s way to save a number of his fellow warfighters in Vietnam. In 2022, we named a supercomputer after Marine Lance Cpl. Roy Wheat from Melle, Mississippi. Corporal Wheat received the Medal of Honor after giving his life to protect his fellow Marines in Vietnam.”

Hunter said naming the computers after Medal of Honor recipients is the start of a new tradition for ERDC’s information technology lab. For more than 25 years, the supercomputers had been named after precious minerals and gems.

“In 2018, it was suggested that we change the name and I thought, ‘we can’t change the name,’” he said. “After I went online and started reading the stories behind these Medal of Honor recipients, I realized this wasn’t a good idea. This was an incredible idea. It was awe-inspiring and emotional to me to read these stories.”

A native of Flowood, Carpenter joined the U.S. Marines in 2009 because he wanted “to do something bigger than myself.” In  2010, he was in Afghanistan assigned as a squad automatic rifleman with Fox Company of the 9th Marine Regiment serving in Helmand Province in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

He and a fellow Marine were manning a rooftop security position when the enemy began an assault with hand grenades, one of which landed inside their sandbagged position.

Not thinking of his safety, Carpenter moved toward the grenade to shield his fellow Marine from the blast. The grenade exploded with Carpenter absorbing the force of the grenade, severely wounding him but saving his fellow Marine.

He was medically retired in July 2013 as a corporal and in June 2014 was presented the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama. He is the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient.

Hunter said the supercomputer that bears Carpenter’s name is comprised of 277,000 computer cores and has more than nine PETA flops of compute capability.
A PETA flop, he said, is a floating point and operation per second.

“That’s how we measure the speed of these supercomputers; this system here can do nine quadrillion calculations per second. That’s a nine with 15 zeros. To help put that in a little bit of context, if we had Corporal Carpenter and 9,999 scientists and engineers all doing a calculation per second on a calculator, it would take them 28,500 years to do what this computer can do in one second.”

This computer will serve DOD scientists and researchers in this decade and into the next to solve some of the most complex and challenging problems in protecting and supporting warfighters, Hunter said.

“Corporal Carpenter, naming this system in your honor, is just a small token of appreciation that we all have for your service and sacrifice in protecting our community,” Hunter added.

“I know you will all be very surprised when I tell you that Marines don’t usually spend a lot of time around advanced computing systems,” Carpenter said. “But this is truly an extraordinary moment, being a kid who thought that it couldn’t get any better than a Nintendo 64. It is incredible to see how far we as humans have come in our pursuit of knowledge and technology.”

Carpenter said seeing the computer was one of the most impactful hours of his life.

“I thought I was going look out and see just a plain computer with nothing on it. And then I looked through that window and I saw myself,” he said.

“To all of you, whether you are here from the great state of Mississippi, like me, or you are here as a patriotic American who loves and supports this mission, thank you. I’m forever grateful for this unforgettable moment shared with you. This supercomputer is also symbolic of our military and this mission.”

After the ceremony, Carpenter said when told of the honor he “first had to learn what in the world a supercomputer was. That kind of evolved into being surprised and in a way, wondering ‘Why am I going to be the name of and the face of this incredible new creation that so many people worked endlessly on for years?’

“This goes far beyond supporting our military. It’s for our military, our nation, our world and ultimately humanity,” he said. “The majority of what our military does is just good things for people — humanitarian assistance when natural disasters occur, like rolling in the National Guard.”

Being a Medal of Honor recipient puts Carpenter in a small group, but he is adjusting to the honor with the help of other recipients.

“It means a lot and it’s very humbling to have been recognized by my country and by the Marine Corps and by our military,” he said. “I just hope I can always be the veteran and the Marine and the friend that I need to be when called upon.”





About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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