U.S. ARMY KWAJALEIN ATOLL, Republic of the Marshall Islands (Aug. 10, 2013) -- West Point Military Academy Cadet Ian De Mallie was given a unique opportunity for a four-week internship at Reagan Test Site last month. De Mallie arrived July 16 and departed Friday. He's from Charlotte, N.C., and begins his junior year at West Point next week, studying physics.
An astrophysics class at West Point exposed De Mallie to the fact that the U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command offers various internships all over the country. He originally applied for an internship in Colorado Springs, but then learned about an open slot here at U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll. The internship at RTS perfectly fit De Mallie's goals for his future. "I'd really like to do what's called FA40, which is being a space operations officer, and working in SMDC eventually in my Army career," he said.
De Mallie worked closely with Dr. Aaron Fleet, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Lincoln Laboratory, during his internship. De Mallie's main task during his internship was a radar interference project, which investigated various effects that can cause problems for the RTS radars when they are collecting data during missions. "This was a good project for Cadet De Mallie because it allowed him to learn the basic principles of radar operation by building a mathematical model of a generic radar system," Fleet said. "He used the model to understand effects of electromagnetic interference on radar operation. The subject matter was matched to the level of coursework that he has taken during his first two years as a West Point physics major. After he leaves RTS, I will continue to use and augment his model to answer questions regarding radar performance in harsh electromagnetic conditions."
Fleet also took De Mallie to Roi-Namur, where he toured the historical Japanese landmarks and Keirnan Reentry Measurements Site. He learned about radars and how they work. He was amazed that some of the radars on Roi were built back in the 1950s and are still functioning today. "It was really helpful to go inside and see how everything is coordinated, and meet all the different people who work there," De Mallie said. They explained how they gather data and what they do with it. He gained an understanding of the RTS mission and how they serve as the "eyes and ears of the Pacific." He was also introduced to Marshallese culture with tours to both Enniburr and Ebeye. "That was really good to get to see a little about the RMI and how everything functions [between the RMI and U.S.]"
As a cadet, one of the challenging aspects of the internship was to work with PhD's and be expected to understand and work at their level.
"Cadet De Mallie did a fine job in exploring a new subject area with which he was previously unfamiliar," Fleet said. "He built his model using the industry-standard Matlab computing software package, despite being largely unfamiliar with it prior to coming to RTS. His aptitude for confronting new challenges speaks well of the West Point student body and the technical training they receive."
While it was challenging to be a 22-year-old in this working environment, he found that everyone was eager to explain their goals and mission to him. He enjoyed getting insight into how the civilian side and military side function together to complete a single mission. "I'm familiar with, in the military, being out in the field. It's interesting to come see this side of the military, where they're actually doing academic [work]."
De Mallie was allowed time for recreation while here. He went deep sea fishing, tried surfing for the first time, saw a turtle while snorkeling and got to ride in a helicopter. De Mallie got the impression that Kwajalein is a tight knit community and "you can't live out here without enjoying yourself." He had never heard of Kwajalein as of a few weeks ago, but said he would love to come back at some point.
De Mallie's future plans include finishing his physics program at West Point, and then he hopes to commission in two years as an aviation officer flying helicopters. Later in his career, he hopes to go into special or space operations. Eventually, he wants to get his master's degree or PhD in physics and work in the government sector.