West Point Internship
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Physicist/Optical Engineer Bruce Pixton gives instructions on using a head-mounted display to Cadets Ian McGary and John An in the C5ISR Optics Lab, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. (Photo Credit: James K. Lee, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
West Point Internship
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Cadet Ty Trotter plots a model rocket course in the Radio Frequencies Lab, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (Photo Credit: James K. Lee, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
West Point Internship
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Cadets Anshul Chettri and Ty Trotter receive instructions from Radio Frequency Senior Engineer Emanuel Merulla and Electrical Engineer Travis Buffington in the Radio Frequencies Lab, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (Photo Credit: James K. Lee, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Sept. 7, 2023) – The Army’s C5ISR Center hosted the U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s Academic Individual Advanced Development program this summer. Cadets worked directly with experts from the Center on multiple projects, some that may be their academic capstone project.

Cadets Rylan Pettus, Vernon Paul Real, Anshul Chettri, Ty Trotter, Ian McGary, John An and Ryan Christel participated in the program. The mentors who guided the cadets were Cyber Technology Team Lead Brian Cavanagh, radio frequency senior engineer Emanuel Merulla, Mission Assurance Branch Chief David Arty and physicist/optical engineer Bruce Pixton.

Most cadets were grouped in pairs according to their majors and project choices in Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center labs. They visited labs, viewed demonstrations and field exercises at Fort Belvoir and Aberdeen Proving Ground, as well as visits to the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, according to Ralph Veney, the program coordinator and C5ISR Center employee.

The C5ISR Center is an element of the Combat Capabilities Development Command.

“We have two freshmen computer science majors this year, so they fit right in with the type of work that we're doing. They’re knowledgeable on a lot of computer science, technology, and applications. It works out well. We can put them to good use,” said Cavanagh.

The summer internship had different rotations of cadets depending on their other commitments at West Point. They each get about three weeks with C5ISR Center.

West Point Internship
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Physicist/Optical Engineer Bruce Pixton work with Cadets Ian McGary and John An in the optics lab (Photo Credit: James K. Lee, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
West Point Internship
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Cadet John An tests a head-mounted display to visualize virtual objects in a C5ISR optics lab, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. (Photo Credit: James K. Lee, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
West Point Internship
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Cadets Rylan Pettus and Vernon Paul Real participates in computer science training at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (Photo Credit: James K. Lee, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
Cadet Ryan Christel works in a C5ISR Center cybersecurity lab at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Cadet Ryan Christel works in a C5ISR Center cybersecurity lab at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (Photo Credit: Dan Lafontaine, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

Pixton’s cadets explored optical technologies at Fort Belvoir’s labs, such as helmet-mounted displays to get a feel for what Soldiers currently use in the field and future technologies that could be integrated into Soldier systems. They practiced testing and troubleshooting systems and visited with automated target recognition teams and other optics groups.

“We explored an industrial-grade 3-D printer that allows us to make, with quick turnaround, housings that are helpful in mounting the helmet and camera and setting up our tests,” said Pixton. “We also 3-D print objects just to see if they fit within a certain volume or just to give us an idea of usability.”

Pixton described the milling machine used to shape their helmet-mounted display mounts as a time and cost-saving alternative to sending them to vendors for modifications. The cadets also worked on a Near Eye Display Test Station and calibrated the display light meters.

This was the first time many cadets worked with Army civilians and service members and first experience in civilian labs.

“Coming to the optics lab, I didn’t know the Army’s capabilities or how they worked with vendors, contractors and corporations to develop products,” said McGarry. “I thought most of the Army’s tools were made in-house, and what I’ve learned is what this lab also tests products, applies it to systems we have, or have Soldiers interface with the technology to provide feedback. Then either make changes or send info back to the vendors on what needs to be fixed.”

The most enlightening experience was to sit with senior civilian leaders, acquisition officers, noncommissioned officers and subject-matter experts with doctorates in the lab who shared their work experience, McGarry said.

“It made me realize how blessed we were to be given an opportunity like this to get information and practical experience from so many knowledgeable people that really care about, not just us, but the Army and their mission,” McGarry said. “We found out a lot about why civilians choose to work for the military when they could go to the private sector, and the amount of benefits, work/life balance and passion behind serving this nation was incredible to see as a cadet.”

John An, a cyber science major, focused more on the experience outside the labs. He enjoyed the visits to the Pentagon and the Capitol, going to an airfield to see Black Hawk helicopters and seeing civilians and military interact with each other in the field.

“My idea initially was that Army officers would be breathing down the necks of civilians, but that really wasn’t the case,” An said. “It seemed like civilians have a lot of freedom about what they get to do, and they work together well.”

Merulla’s cadets Trotter and Chettri are mechanical engineering majors who worked on a capstone project dealing with optimizing tracking systems for model rockets in the radio frequencies lab. They worked closely with electrical engineer Travis Buffington.

They are part of a group of West Point cadets who engineer missiles that are tested at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, for the Mechanical Engineering Department’s biggest capstone project, Trotter said.

Trotter’s partner Chettri chose to study model rocket and antenna performance because he believes it will help his future career as an Army officer.

“I want to be a combat officer, eventually leading soldiers in the force,” said Chettri. “Improving our battle space advantages gives us the ability to fight better. It’s relieving to know that we have this technology to help us out there.”

The cadets continued about how exciting it is for them to study emerging technologies and the difference they plan to make in the future.

“I think the program is really well run. I feel like C5ISR and Army DEVCOM are the hidden gems in the Army,” Chettri said. “Knowing the Army has this type of capability makes me feel really good. I hope I never have to leave the Army. But when I’m ready for a new era in my life, I know DEVCOM and C5ISR will be an option for me when I’m ready to get out.”

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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 the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. 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 a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.