West Point cadets are swapping the classroom for the shop floor at the Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD).

The United States Military Academy sends West Point cadets studying systems engineering around the globe each summer to work with industry, Department of Defense, government, and academia for three weeks through the Advanced Individual Academic Development (AIAD) program.

While this program has been around for some time, this is the first time it has come to CCAD, an industrial depot responsible for the repair, manufacture, and overhaul of joint rotary wing aircraft -- the very helicopters warfighters rely on in the field.

"I was the first one to take part in this internship [at CCAD]," said Cadet Jed Lee, who interned at the depot in June. "This is a growing program we're still trying to develop and it's already improving."

"They wanted us to see real-world systems like CCAD and try to apply what we learned in our studies and classes," Cadet Elizabeth O'Donnell, a twenty-year-old aspiring pilot. "I wanted to get a real life experience and apply engineering to it," she said. "I didn't really know what CCAD was so I wanted to learn more about that. I want to learn more about aviation in general."

While Lee and O'Donnell were aces in engineering, seeing it applied at an Army depot was something entirely new and challenging, especially since they only had three weeks.

"It was cool to see how complicated the process is for a single aircraft to undergo for repair," Lee said. "It's interesting to see how systems engineering can be incorporated into a government [facility like] CCAD that works directly for the military."

"My first day here, I viewed the production process from disassembly to final line to test," Cadet O'Donnell said. "I had no idea that it was that complicated and complex."

"It takes a long time to understand how an industrial operation runs," admitted Mr. William L. Braddy, Depot Executive Director. "The cadets are only able to scratch the surface."
The internship culminated in a project to identify production improvements that could benefit CCAD. This Master Scheduling project was briefed to CCAD leaders on their final day, impressing upon senior leadership the value these cadets bring during their three-week stay.

West Point cadets in the program are typically rising juniors or seniors majoring in one of three Systems Engineering majors: Systems Engineering, Engineering Management, or Operations Research. The opportunities give cadets a chance to observe how Systems Engineering methodologies, tools, and techniques are applied in world-class organizations. This helps bring concepts they have learned in the classroom to real-life scenarios.

When they weren't hitting the shop floor, the cadets got the chance to enjoy what Corpus Christi had to offer. Cadet O'Donnell visited the local beaches, aquarium, and other tourist spots in South Texas. Lee opted for fishing.

"I got some red snapper on the first day of the season on a deep-sea fishing trip…and I accidentally caught a sea turtle," he said.

At the end of their three-week internship, cadets out-briefed the senior leadership of the organization.

"I was able to see all the work going in to build an aircraft," said Cadet O'Donnell. For the future, if I am a pilot and something breaks down and we have to repair, I know there's a lot of attention to detail. If we need to repair it we can send it to CCAD and it's a lot cheaper than buying new."

CCAD is the only facility in the Army's organic industrial base currently available to Systems Engineering Department (SED) interns. While the program is still new, CCAD is learning all it can from these first interns to maximize the learning opportunities for future interns. Another cadet is set to arrive in July.

Page last updated Fri June 28th, 2013 at 12:54