REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Career exploration involved a lot of fun activities for a group of middle and high school students who spent a week learning about Redstone Arsenal.

And for some that career exploration may have actually changed their aspirations for the future.

“I wanted to be a lawyer,” Darby Nash of Buckhorn Middle School said. “But I don’t know now. After seeing all these things going on at Redstone Arsenal, I want to work for the government.”

That’s precisely the reaction organizers were hoping for from the second annual Adventures at AMCOM student experience. The weeklong educational initiative is designed to provide opportunities to learn about Arsenal careers, explore the fields of science and technology, and understand what it takes to become an Army civilian. The program reaches out to the younger members of the community and educates them concerning the importance of AMCOM’s role in supporting the Soldier and how they can be a part of that mission in the future.

“It opened my eyes to all the different opportunities,” Sabina Dang of Randolph School said.

“It’s neat to know that whatever we decide to do, we can come back here and get a job, even if we decide to be a zoologist,” Dortha Bradford of New Century Technology High School said.

This year’s Adventures at AMCOM included the following students listed with their schools: Dortha Bradford, New Century Technology High School; Blake Muzny, New Hope High School; Sabina Dang, Randolph School; Jacqueline Martin, Sparkman High School; Shelby Morgan, Jacob Loach, Cassidy Elliott and Joshua Abreo, Liberty Middle School; Roderick Cook, Lee High School; Ebony Ford, Johnson High School; Matthew Watts, Katherine Steel, Steven Riddick and Patrick Lee, Grissom High School; Austin Anderson, Excalibur Christian School; Katie Jones, Challenger Middle School; Darby Nash, Buckhorn Middle School; and Christopher Lin, Challenger Middle School.

For some of the students, the week’s hands-on activities re-emphasized their desire to pursue an engineering degree and eventual employment with research and development programs at Redstone while other activities introduced students to a wide range of non-science careers in such areas as acquisition, logistics and foreign military sales.

“This program lets you into Redstone Arsenal and into AMCOM and AMRDEC, and lets you get a feel of what goes on here behind the fence,” Redstone senior commander and AMCOM commander Maj. Gen. Jim Rogers told the students during their awards ceremony.

“I hope it opened your eyes a little bit … It’s a huge mission here at Redstone and you all saw a piece of that.”

He encouraged the students to get college degrees, adding that 95 percent of the jobs on the Arsenal require that level of education. He also encouraged them to seek summer employment opportunities on the Arsenal.

“Take a look at the programs we have to bring you back and that grow into a government job. They’re open and available,” Rogers said.

The week included visits with the Security Assistance Management Directorate, Army Dosimetry Center and Radiation Standards Laboratory, Integrated Materiel Management Center, Software Engineering Directorate and the Garrison. There were hands-on activities that included taking a flight helmet apart and then rebuilding it while also correcting errors in the helmet’s technical manual; developing a foreign military sales case; flying a Kiowa helicopter simulation and calibrating the weights of a bathroom scale.

“It was the best week of the summer,” Katherine Steel of Grissom High School said. “We got to go and do so much stuff we wouldn’t normally get to do. It was a huge privilege and a whole lot of fun.”

Several of the students said they enjoyed the hands-on activities, particularly the master planning activity at the Garrison where they had to develop plans for a new “green” building on the Arsenal.

“We had to figure out where to put a building on a map,” Austin Anderson of Excalibur Christian School said. “We had five teams and they came up with completely different plans.”

The students also enjoyed learning about the science " such as artificial lightening and how to put an unmanned aircraft system together -- and other aspects behind the projects on the Arsenal.

“It’s been extremely educational,” Matthew Watts of Grissom High School said. “I thought all they did on the Arsenal was blow stuff up with rockets. Now, I know there’s a lot more out here that has to do with missiles and engineering. I also learned about USATA, IMMC and calibration.”

“The in-depth research really interested me,” Nash added. “I learned that long before you blow something up you have to do all the stuff that involves safety and reliability. It doesn’t start with a bang. First you have to do a lot of research.”

The students also learned about teamwork and about the Redstone mission.

“Everyone who works here has a mission. Everyone is so focused. Supporting the war fighter is the ultimate goal,” Katie Jones of Challenger Middle School said.

“I didn’t know what that actually meant. Now, I’ve been here a week and I understand what supporting the war fighter means,” Steel said.

“It’s the best jobs. But it’s not just about the income. Everyone here supports a bigger purpose,” Nash added.

Adventures at AMCOM proved to be as good as advertised, the students agreed.

“I really didn’t know anything about the military except from what I’ve seen on TV,” Joshua Abreo of Liberty Middle School said. “I wanted to learn and get a chance to see the Arsenal since I’ve never been out here. This gave me the chance to learn about what goes on out here and see the military inside and out.”

Besides learning about the Arsenal, the students also appreciated learning about each other.
They have established a Facebook page to keep the group in touch with each other.

“My parents are both military so I wanted to learn more about what they do and learn about what else happens on the Arsenal and I wanted to meet people from different schools,” Steel said. “Everyone here has been great and I hope to keep in contact after the week.”

Rogers picked up on the sense of friendship and camaraderie that the students developed during the week, and the excitement they had in learning about the Arsenal.

“I know this week was pretty cool. It’s better than Space Camp,” Rogers joked.