REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- As they prepare to lead future Soldiers tomorrow, two West Point cadets learned how the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command is building future space and missile defense forces today.

U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, Cadets Haley Duke and Caleb Shifrin spent part of the summer in the USASMDC/ARSTRAT's Concepts Analysis Laboratory, or CAL, as part of an internship before heading back to "The Long Gray Line."

The CAL was founded in 2004 to bring in high school and college students to perform hands-on tasks for government projects and to start an in-house technical capability for some of SMDC's research, such as concepts analysis, radar technology, ground station development for the new generation of small Army satellites, and more. It also is designed to entice students and recent graduates, giving them challenging, hands-on work in science, technology and engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines.

"Being at SMDC has been very informative," Duke said. "I definitely didn't know anything specific about Redstone Arsenal or the command so it has been nice get a general overview of the installation and what it does for the nation.

"I really had no idea of what SMDC, and specifically the CAL, did for the Army," she added. "I didn't know that innovative workshop ability was here at SMDC.

Duke, who is going into her fourth year at the U.S. Military Academy, began July 23 and will be at SMDC until Aug. 12. Her work will focus on the effects of natural radiation in the space environment on standard components employed in small satellites being developed by the command's Space and Strategic Systems Directorate.

"Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal are great places," Duke said. "I have been able to make connections with people, and especially those associated with West Point. I am really thankful for the people and community because they are really open and willing to talk whenever I have needed it."

Duke and Shifrin witnessed how the CAL efforts will have an impact on the Warfighter and how manufacturing capabilities in the tactical environment can be used to provide components rapidly and at a low cost to the Army. They learned how CAL support to SMDC satellite efforts will aid in the collection of imagery data to support battlespace awareness and enable beyond-line-of-sight communications.

"I got to experience a wide variety of objectives that SMDC has," Shifrin said. "It has been great to broaden my horizons and see other aspects of what the Army has to offer. It has been really good to potentially see where I can go in the future.

"There is a definite tempo change here," he added. "Just looking at the number of civilians here in comparison to those in uniform is much different. Overall, being here is not what you generally think of being in Alabama. Huntsville is very different and that is a pleasant surprise."

Shifrin, who is going into his third year at West Point, was at SMDC from June 19 to July 15. During his internship, he was able to develop some reusable code using matrix laboratory, or MATLAB, software and Systems Tool Kit, or STK, software to help "automate" analysis of satellite coverage.

"The experience I have gotten from being around such highly knowledgeable people at SMDC is rare," Shifrin said. "Being here you are surrounded everywhere with people who have PhDs and multiple master degrees in the STEM fields and that is not something you see every day."