ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — West Point cadets gained hands-on experience with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) Army projects by interning alongside scientists and engineers with the Army Futures Command (AFC) this summer.
The Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center – a component of the AFC’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) – is a participant in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s Advanced Individual Academic Development (AIAD) program, which offers cadets the opportunity to spend several weeks immersed in a Center workplace related to their chosen STEM career field.
“These cadets are future Army leaders, and many of the lessons they learn here will follow them when they graduate from West Point,” said Col. Mark Henderson, the C5ISR military deputy director. “Their time with us helps them build strong personal relationships, particularly in regards to the acquisition community and the modernization processes the Army undergoes when bringing technology from concept to final product and ultimately into the hands of Soldiers.”
Henderson added, “When they enter active duty, they’ll always be able to reach out to us, and this kind of networking benefits the Army as a whole.”
During their internship, the cadets had the opportunity to speak to senior military leaders such as Lt. Gen. Laura A. Potter, the Army deputy chief of staff, G2; C5ISR Center Director Joseph Welch; Henderson; and others. Some cadets were able to spend a day touring the Pentagon, meeting key personnel and expanding their base of Army knowledge.
In addition to the networking and leadership development capabilities of the program, a key aspect of the program is allowing cadets to see the Army’s STEM programs up close.
“By participating in the AIAD program, the C5ISR Center gives our future Army scientists and engineers the opportunity to apply their academic knowledge to practical, hands-on situations related to the Center’s mission,” said Ralph Veney, the C5ISR Center AIAD coordinator. “When cadets graduate from West Point and enter the Army, they may end up working on the very technology that we’re developing here. This experience allows them to hit the ground running with a broader understanding of the Army’s capabilities.”
Cadets at the C5ISR Center — who all had STEM-related majors such as electrical engineering, computer science, and mechanical engineering — were assigned to a project aligned with their academic degree. The program allows cadets to see how concepts they learned at school can be applied to real-world situations.
“The program gave him an opportunity to really be immersed in Army research and see what we actually do,” said Dr. Carolynn Moore, a C5ISR Center physicist with the Infrared Camera Technology Branch, who supervised Cadet Joshua Daffin this summer. “These kinds of experiences are helpful when it comes time to figure out what to do after graduation and building confidence in choosing a direction for a career.”
Daffin spent four weeks in a C5ISR Center lab constructing a device using components that can be used to measure shortwave infrared signals. This gave the cadet hands-on experience building and testing a piece of equipment for future use in the field.
“Getting these kinds of accomplishments as a scientist and engineer is important,” Moore said, noting that cadets have the opportunity to apply their scholastic knowledge to a real-world problem.
Cadets must apply for the program through the U.S. Military Academy, which has partnerships with numerous government and private organization partnerships. The cadets accepted and then served two- to four-week internships during the summer break. There are a limited number of AIAD slots, and participation in the program is competitive.
“I’d say for me, the most interesting thing is that you study all this stuff at school, but when you come here, you get to actually see how the professionals do it,” said Cadet Nicholas Liebers, a recent participant in the Center’s AIAD program.
In addition to learning about various STEM projects, the experience also aims to provide cadets with experiences that will enhance their education and prepare them to be future leaders for our military.
“Many of the employees here are military veterans, and they used the equipment in real-world combat areas of operation. When they came back, they used the key lessons learned to help improve the equipment,” said Cadet Tristen Laney, a recent participant in the Center’s AIAD program. “It is absolutely incredible what they develop here, and I would love to be a part of it in the future.”
The C5ISR Center has formally participated in the AIAD program since 2014. While the program was halted during the 2020 summer break due to COVID-19, for this summer, the Center welcomed nine cadets over two sessions.
For more information, contact the C5ISR Center Public Affairs Office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The C5ISR Center is the Army’s applied research and advanced technology development center for C5ISR capabilities. As the Army’s primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the center develops and matures capabilities that support all six Army modernization priorities, enabling information dominance and tactical overmatch for the joint warfighter.
The C5ISR Center is an element of U.S. Army DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation’s wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is an AFC major subordinate command.