REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – ROTC Cadet Lauren Utley was near the end of her freshman year at George Washington University when she applied to a number of internships on USAJOBS.
Utley had little experience and was only finishing her first year in college, so she was surprised when Col. Susan Smeltzer, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Commander’s Action Group director, called her for an interview.
“I was absolutely dumbfounded when she called me because I didn’t even expect that application to go anywhere,” Utley said. “It felt surreal. I was like, ‘oh my gosh, this is really happening.’”
Utley’s internship began May 19, and she said she has already learned so much.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far. Everyone is amazing here and I’m really interested in hearing about all that SMDC does,” Utley said. “Col. Smeltzer is really awesome, and she lets me sit in on almost all her meetings. I’m just really exposed to everything because I still almost have no experience in the military. Col. Smeltzer, and Maj. (Tony) Lamboy and everybody in the CAG have just done a really great job exposing me to everything.”
Utley said she has learned many professional and organizational skills through the internship, and she said she hopes to solidify them as she continues working throughout the summer. Coordination skills have also become very important.
“I really hope to get better at coordination because, even as I’m starting to prep for the former commander’s conference and Space and Missile Defense Symposium, I’m already having to do so much coordination. I’ve done a little bit, such as setting up meetings and emailing people for information, but this is really showing me how important coordination skills are because you have to get everybody in the same place,” Utley said.
To enrich herself and gain military experience, Utley applied to internships in Huntsville, Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland.
“This is something I had wanted to do on my own. I lived in Huntsville, a great city. It has amazing agencies on Redstone and in the city. So, I thought it would be great to apply to do an internship at one of them,” Utley said.
Utley is an international affairs major while working with the D.C. National Guard. She decided on this path after talking to her cousin, who went through the Green to Gold Program, which enables enlisted Soldiers to receive their first bachelor’s or master’s degree and become commissioned officers upon graduation.
“I really like my major. I have not taken too many classes on it, but from the intro class that I’ve taken, I’ve noticed that I love the policy aspect of it. I’ve written a few policy memos, and I’ve really enjoyed them, finding out the different ways you could approach this and what those outcomes might look like depending on the pathway you choose,” Utley said.
As she continues in her career, Utley said she hopes to choose an exciting military occupational specialty, such as aviation or air defense artillery.
“I’ve really been exposed to aviation and flying helicopters, so I’m really considering that just because I absolutely loved flying in the helicopters and the F-16, and it blew my mind,” Utley said. “I’m also looking at air defense artillery or military intelligence. I kind of hope to do something fun and something that I love in the military and do more of the intelligence in my civilian career.”