Cadets intern at EUCOM, act as force multiplier
August 29, 2013
As college students from across the country prepared for a summer of work, vacation, and pool-side fun, a handful prepared for a summer internship in Stuttgart, Germany with the United States European Military Command.
The students were from Army ROTC programs around the U.S., and traveled to Germany as part of an ROTC Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency mission. As part of CULP missions, the Cadets practice their leadership skills and learn about the culture, language, people and customs so when they commission they will be more well-rounded and adaptable to other cultures.
The purpose of the Cadets' internship is to broaden their understanding of the Army, how the military-all branches of service--works in a joint environment, how different military jobs relate to a Combatant Command--military commands organized on a geographical or functional basis--and how they work with different allied nations. Such experience is an education that Cadets don't usually receive.
Think of it as working for a local company, and you are given the chance to spend a year at a joint corporate venture overseas where several similar companies do business under the same umbrella. While there, you learn about regulations, country business codes and practices, international marketing and business strategies, logistics--and other issues that you had never thought about. But all of it will make you much better in your job at home.
According to Ray Causey, CULP division chief, most of the Cadets are given responsibilities commensurate with those of field grade officers in various staff sections. These real-world staff responsibilities such as planning, coordinating, writing and briefing high level staff officers are valuable broadening leadership experiences for them.
Basically, the Cadets were utilized the same as any other staff officers assigned to the headquarters, said Trevor Boyko, EUCOMs academia coordinator in the civil partnership division .
"They were expected to work side by side with field grade staff officers and their work was briefed to our senior leadership and held to the same standard," he explained. "They were smacked down when they screwed up and praised when they got it right--it was really a great 'welcome to the real world' experience for them."
Cadet Craig Allan Smith who is majoring in foreign languages at the University of Southern Mississippi was one of the Cadet interns assigned to European Command Headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany
"I (was) assigned to the Directorate Security Cooperation Programs Division, specifically the Mil to Mil and Partnership for Peace Programs Branch," Smith explained. "I assisted in (ensuring) correctness and necessity of over 2,000 Concept and Funding Requests for over 22 countries.
"Competing for the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge and interacting with German soldiers has really opened my eyes to the German military," he said. "I've learned how an Army range operates, how difficult it can be to travel to certain places when you're in the military, how much paperwork is involved in everything regarding the government, and how down to earth (a lot of) higher ranking (officers) are. One thing I have yet to learn is how to quickly recognize a brigadier general on his bicycle speeding towards me in time to salute!"
Linda Benedik, EUCOM managers' internal control program manager, and process improvement specialist, said when she heard she was getting a Cadet to mentor for the summer she was looking forward to the help. But she added that there are a few differences in working for a COCOM verses a smaller command.
"Given that we are a senior, seasoned workforce we are more accustomed to people being aware of their duties, stepping up to tasks and not requiring a lot of supervision," she explained. "The cadets coming to us, much like the summer hires, require more direct supervision and a lot of guidance. This isn't good or bad, it simply is true.
"They have to learn about the Army, as well as the job duties, and in many cases are just building a work ethic so they are also learning how to manage their time …and it may be the first job they've ever had where a quality deliverable was expected of them."
She said that the Cadet she was assigned to work with, Cadet Jayvee Andrada, built training packets to support Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Classes, built web-sites for students, and secured and uploaded training certificates. He also assisted in the building of the Managers' Internal Control Program read-aheads and sat in on various command briefings.
"Cadet interns are a great idea," she added. "I would love to have a Cadet drop in more often! While it forces me to slow down to teach what needs to be done, it pays off as the work gets done."
Benedik said having a Cadet intern allowed her to focus on higher level tasks, which expanded the overall output and productivity for her office and reduced her stress levels.
"And I believe the payroll costs to EUCOM are also an incentive - we get a sizeable return for a small investment," she noted." I've had to dust off my supervisory skills and improve my mentoring skills to tune in to the younger generation. I have used the opportunity to document the processes for daily tasks as I teach them to the Cadet."
James Welton, a EUCOM regional affairs planning specialist, said he thought the Cadet internships were a benefit to EUCOM, and a useful experience for the cadets.
Under his supervision, Cadets reviewed plans and policies, made edits to country plans, as well as supported high-level conferences, and updated country pages on the USEUCOM Portal.
"The Cadets' have been a tremendous benefit to the mission, in terms of getting assigned work done, and I think they will benefit in their future Army careers by the experience," Welton said.
Additionally, Welton said that the Cadets helped him keep ahead of his work schedule and he was more productive overall in meeting deadlines during a period of personnel transition and reduced manning over the summer months.
"I have a renewed faith in America's 21st century generation of future officers," he added.
Cadet Austin Myers, an international relations major at Virginia Tech, was one of Welton's Cadets. He said among the things he learned, were "how a joint environment works, how officers from the O-4 level and up operate, and (I received) great leadership advice from very high ranking officers."
"The (hardest part was) the learning curve in going from being a Cadet and dealing with Cadet problems to going to an actual Combatant Command and dealing with real world problems," Myers added. "But my favorite part, again, the learning curve …I like the challenge of dealing with learning about the world and how it interacts in terms of the military outside a classroom."
But Myers said he was grateful for his summer internship and that it has been, "a great opportunity and a big chance for Cadets who are worthy enough to show that they can handle real world situations and real world work when presented with the opportunity."
Other Cadets also noted the learning curve in adapting to positions not typically experienced by Cadets.
Cadet David Kemp, a criminal justice major at Weber State University, is also a prior-service Army sergeant who is participating in the Green-to-Gold program. Kemp's duties were within the Civil Partnership Division and included coordinating all training events for both cadets and interns, as well as navigating them through in-processing, and overseeing the administrative details such as assignments, status and wellbeing. Kemp said the hardest part of the mission for him, other than missing his dog, was also his favorite: adapting to a staff officer position.
"I am learning what it is like to work as a staff officer and I am able to see the big picture," Kemp explained. "I am learning what it takes to work in a joint setting and how there are multiple military cultures, and I am learning a great many things regarding EUCOM and its position in Europe and on a global scale.
"We are being trained for second lieutenant positions (while) in ROTC, but here we are given assignments or assisting in assignments that O4 or O5 and in some cases O6s are working on. We are way above our pay grade here and it is challenging but very, very, very rewarding. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything, even seeing my dog."
Smith added that he believes the internship program is, "the best program I have heard about or been exposed to for ROTC Cadets.
"What my (friends) and I received here is going to positively influence the rest of our careers."