Winning two summer science competitions helped Erin Hanners get hired for a full-time position as a cyber operations analyst at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center. Hanners participated in the Army Educational Outreach Program during the summers leading to her senior year of high school and her freshman year of college.
“She was the only cyber candidate for the end of the summer competition – all the other interns were engineers. She won first place by demonstrating to a room full of engineers how a mobile phone can disrupt small computer networks and operations,” said Tony Gomes, chief of security and cybersecurity at Technology Development Directorate, AvMC.
Gomes became Hanners’ mentor after they were randomly paired together, and they developed a topic for her internship.
“I did a lot of testing on the iOS and Android devices that are given to government Civilians, who have a responsibility to be accountable,” Hanners said.
Hanners’ first internship was part of the AEOP Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program. The SEAP gives students an opportunity to gain firsthand exposure to cutting- edge research at top university and U.S. Army research laboratories and centers around the country. The AEOP is an Army-wide outreach initiative for research and career development in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that is operated through a Cooperative Agreement. DEVCOM executes the AEOP COA on behalf of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, Research & Technology, and the Army Science and Technology community.
After Hanners graduated high school, she enrolled in Athens State University, Alabama, from where she will graduate in the fall of 2023, with a Bachelor of Science degree in management of cyber security operations.
“One of the best parts of my internships was the opportunity to work with brilliant people, to listen and learn from them, and then mirror how they conduct business,” Hanners said.
“Erin and I reunited in the summer of 2018. She wanted to participate in the AEOP College Qualified Leader summer hire intern program, and she asked me if I would mentor her again. I gladly accepted,” Gomes said.
During Hanners’ second internship, she built a device to detect and intercept wireless signals, demonstrated how easily signals can be captured, and validated the importance of using encryption in a tactical environment.
“After she won both competitions, I convinced my management chain that we needed to hire this intelligent young lady, who we may all be working for one day,” Gomes said.
Hanners accepted a position as a government Civilian in 2019, as a cyber operations analyst. Now, she oversees daily cyber operations within the DEVCOM AvMC Technology Development Directorate. DEVCOM AvMC, one of DEVCOM’s eight technology centers, is responsible for developing, integrating, demonstrating, and sustaining aviation and missile systems capabilities to support Army priorities and improve Army Readiness.
Her advice to students who may be interested in an internship is, “take the opportunities that come along and don’t be too picky.” She also believes it is important to have a mentor and invest in STEM education.
“If we don’t invest in future generations, then our Army, our defense, and our country will suffer. STEM education is so important to ensure we have a future,” Hanners said.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, is home to thousands of Army scientists, engineers, technicians and analysts working around the globe to leverage cutting-edge technologies and empower the American warfighter with the data and abilities to see, sense, make decisions and act faster than our adversaries – today and in the future.
As part of Army Futures Command, DEVCOM takes calculated risks to find new technological solutions each day. Our experts drive innovation, improve existing technologies and engineer solutions to technical challenges. Our work goes beyond theory to simulation and prototyping. We take potential science and technology solutions from the lab “into the dirt” for experimentation alongside Army Soldiers. DEVCOM prides itself as a global ecosystem of innovators, from world-class universities and large defense contractors, to small, minority-owned businesses and international allies and partners.