REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- From an early age, Anna Locke wanted to be an engineer.

"Since I was just a child, I remember hearing stories of my father's efforts to help our Soldiers as an engineer for [the Department of Defense]. I thought he had the most interesting job in the world," Locke said. "I knew from a young age that I wanted to pursue an exciting career that results in helping those that risk their lives to protect this country."

Today, Locke is fulfilling that dream as an electrical engineer at the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's aviation and missile center.

"I fell in love with the high pace environment and the hands on activities such as hardware fabrication and aircraft modification installs. Not everyone can say they get to climb around on helicopters for a living," she said.

In seven years at the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center's Prototype Integration Facility, Locke has done much more that climb on aircraft. PIF program manager Danny Featherston describes Locke as an invaluable team member and critical to the facility's success on a wide array of projects.

For example, her management of the OH-58D Common Missile Warning System integration project was instrumental in its success. The CMWS which provides missile warning and countermeasures for infrared guided missiles to aircraft, thus increasing aircraft and Soldier survivability, was voted on by Soldiers as one of the 10 "Army's Greatest Inventions" Award recipients of 2011.

"The CMWS program was one of the most challenging and exciting projects I have worked on," Locke said. "The challenging piece was managing a program of sizeable magnitude with numerous contributors and stakeholders. The excitement came from knowing this modification has the potential to save aircraft and more importantly, Soldier lives."

Locke found inspiration in another recent effort, the GAU-19/B, which she describes as the coolest program that she has ever supported.

"It really brought me back to memories of my father's projects and stories; having the opportunity to participate in some live fire testing, witnessing a .50 caliber Gatling gun light up a hillside is an incredible sight," she said.

For the last 10 years, the PIF has used the talents and intellect of its dedicated mix of a government and industry workers to provide the war fighter with rapid solutions to problems both large and small. The facility provides turn-key solutions for prototype development, manufacturing, systems integration, modification, experimentation and subsystem/system testing. Today the PIF is the model of rapid response throughout the Army.

Locke said she is excited about the future of engineering, and specifically the facility's efforts going forward.