WIESBADEN, Germany – Living abroad here in Germany. Spending months supporting construction efforts in Poland. Scoping humanitarian assistance project sites in Armenia, Latvia and Lithuania.
While some people may think of making coffee or collating printouts when they think of interns or early positions in their careers, being an Army Fellow with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District has been something totally different for Chris Constant over the past two years.
Constant, a civil and structural engineer who graduated from the University of North Florida in 2016 and came to Europe District after a few years in the private sector, is one of three engineers recently serving as Army Fellows with the Europe District. The Army Fellows Program, which was previously known as the Department of Army Intern Program in years past, allows recent graduates and early career engineers the opportunity to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers while rotating throughout the various offices and branches that support the District’s programs and missions through a two-year program.
“The program is a great way for engineers earlier in their careers to get into Federal service and get experience working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers here in Europe while bringing their fresh ideas and energy,” said Europe District Deputy for Engineering and Construction Jack Galloway. “To be clear though, we put them to work. Sometimes interns or fellows may be observing mostly, but here in Europe District they’ve been producing as they’re rotating through all the different offices and making significant contributions to the mission.”
Constant recently finished his two years in the program and is now settled in the Design Section of the District’s Engineering Branch. Looking back, he said key highlights included time working in the Engineering Division reviewing designs and submittals, supporting Contracting Division during the busy end of fiscal year and living in Poland for a time providing construction management support at the large Army Prepositioned Stock project site in Powidz. He said his time supporting the District’s Humanitarian Assistance program as a project manager left a particularly powerful impression.
“I enjoyed the scope visits for the humanitarian assistance projects, because you get to meet face to face with the people you’re working to help,” Constant said. “Seeing some of the conditions of existing facilities, like some kids’ classrooms in Armenia with no running water or toilets, it gives you perspective. Being able to visit those places and seeing the potential we have to positively influence other countries and their lives is a good feeling.”
Constant and one other fellow from this most recent cycle, Civil Engineer Karon Carter, are assigned to Europe District’s headquarters in Wiesbaden and Environmental Engineer Erin DiNunzio is assigned to the District’s Missile Defense Project Integration Division (MDPID), spending most of her time at the project site at the Naval Support Facility (NSF) in Redzikowo, Poland supporting projects for the Missile Defense Agency there.
For Carter, he said he really appreciated the rotational aspect of the program and getting experience in different sections.
“Working in different sections is one thing I really like about the intern program,” said Carter, a recent graduate of Morgan State University in Baltimore. “I think the most interesting part of the experience is seeing how all the pieces fit together.”
At the program’s conclusion after two years, fellows are paired with an office in the District where their skills and interests match the needs of the District. Rotating through different offices helps to build an understanding of all the things that go into delivering projects and exposes fellows to kinds of work they may not have otherwise experienced.
“I didn’t think I would like design because I thought it was boring in college – I even chose to pursue my master’s in Construction Management over Civil Engineering - but I’m glad I got to experience it because I actually really like it,” Carter said. “I like the uniqueness of every project and I also enjoy the travel. I even just a couple of weeks ago went to North Macedonia to scope sites for future projects there in support of the North Macedonian Army.”
DiNunzio, a recent graduate of Michigan State University, has worked primarily within the MDPID supporting Missile Defense Agency projects. Despite mostly staying within one program, she’s also had a wide-ranging experience as a fellow.
“As an integrated project office, the MDPID is equipped with its own Engineering, Construction, and Project Management branches, which has given me visibility to the various functional areas that would traditionally be found within the District,” DiNunzio said.
While most of her time has been in Poland at the MDPID, she also worked in Wiesbaden in Germany at the Europe District headquarters there gaining additional experience.
“My exposure to the rest of District was limited, until was afforded the opportunity to work outside the MDPID, by being assigned to do a rotation with Installation Support Branch for about four months,” The skills I learned at ISB were easily translatable into MDA and came to be very beneficial with tackling actions on contract modifications and executing JOC (job order contract) task orders.”
Many Districts in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have similar Army Fellows Programs for engineers early in their careers where they get hired and rotate around different offices to gain a broader perspective of District missions and operations. In Europe District the program hadn’t been active for several years, but there are plans going forward for the District to hire a select few new fellows each summer.
The current program participants all agreed they would recommend the program to those considering – not just for the opportunity to live and work in Europe, but for the exciting career opportunity it offers.
“Living and working in Europe has been an eye-opening experience. The opportunity of working in Europe has not only allowed for travel and meeting people from different cultural backgrounds, but given me the ability to sharpen my skills at being able to quickly adapt to new environments,” DiNunzio said. “As cheesy as it sounds it’s a big leap, especially coming out of college - or if you haven’t lived away from home - moving here by yourself is daunting, but it’s so rewarding to see yourself constantly being pushed out outside of your comfort zone. And, as a recent graduate, the continued thirst for knowledge and for being challenged is easily quenched with the various challenging projects that I have been able to be a part of in Europe District.”
Carter echoed DiNunzio’s sentiments that while it seemed daunting at first, he too would recommend the experience to those considering it and recommended Europe District as a place to learn and grow.
“The thought of moving here directly after college was kind of scary at first, but at the end of the day, it’s all worth it and everybody has made me feel comfortable,” Carter said. “There are a lot of great mentors here willing to help and I’ve never felt like I’ve been alone here.”