(Editor's note: Several Senior ROTC Cadets at the University of Nevada, Reno wrote the article below on their internships experiences. The article was submitted by chair of the Department of Military Science, Michael Minaudo.)
Some college seniors, many searching for a career, might decide to take internships at major corporations, giving them exposure to the kind of work they could be doing following graduation. The Army ROTC program affords opportunities to attend unique internships which the average student would not. Cades from across the nation compete for the diverse internships offered through different organizations. Cadets must be scholars, athletes, and leaders, staying in excellent physical condition while maintaining a high GPA and demonstrating their ability to lead others. Additionally, cadets must also submit an essay as part of the application process. This past summer, Cadets Jacob Ziolkowski, Brandon Castinado, and Robert Park were selected and participated in internships at the Pentagon and with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
While at the FEMA Region IV headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., Robert Park interned at the regional Defense Coordinating Element (DCE), a small Army contingent which helps to coordinate the active-duty Army's response to emergencies. Many Americans still have a negative view of FEMA, attributed to the slow response to relieve victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005; however, Park commented that FEMA has changed since then, noting, "FEMA and the DCE review every event, from training to actual incident response. They implement methods to improve on things that do not go well, and it has resulted in professional organizations which can respond at a moment's notice."
"I learned how the military supports civil authorities in the event of an emergency," Park added. "The capabilities both the National Guard and the active Army can bring to an incident are immense. The DCE deploys with FEMA and has the capability to coordinate with the active Army anything from additional responders to air lifts to supplies, when deemed necessary by civilian authorities. As a future Army officer, the internship provided me with valuable insight as to how the military can help American citizens at home."
Cadet Jacob Ziolkowski also worked in the Pentagon, yet with a different agenda to his internship. For one week he worked in the Army G-34 section, which is responsible for monitoring natural disasters within the United States and to activate active duty units in the event that local authorities are unable to provide enough assistance. This organization is constantly monitoring all weather events in the United States and plays a major role during major emergencies, as they are they coordinate with DCEs attached to each FEMA region to provide the support required. Ziolkowski helped organize data into usable databases and commented on how active this organization is in helping to help the American people: "It's amazing how only a small handful of people are capable of organizing and delivering much-needed aid and assistance to anywhere in the country on a moment's notice. The level of discipline and dedication required to do so is noteworthy."
While in the Pentagon, Ziolkowski and Brandon Castinado worked for the Security and Stability Operations team, or the SSO, developing country stability studies.
They considered the stability of other countries, assessed their domestic response programs, and provided insight into what challenges the Army might face when responding to a major disaster in those countries, such as requiring additional medical personnel or supplies to help with reconstruction. Ziolkowski commented, "As a geography major, it was very rewarding to utilize my studies to help develop a product which will be used by such a large organization." Castinado and Ziolkowski's stability studies will be utilized by SSO for future operations in developing countries as a foundation and framework to develop stability plans.
The cadets were also exposed to the culture of higher leadership, as they worked for generals. Brandon Castinado recalls a meeting he had with Brigadier Gen. Fields while interning with her team, "BG Fields took the time out of her day to meet with cadets working for her. She gave us valuable advice, as future Army lieutenants to always look at the big picture from all sides, be competent in your job, and to always care for your soldiers."
Park also commented on the mentorship he received at his internship: "The entire staff at the DCE took time to help develop my critical thinking and briefing skills, and they took time out of their schedules each day to mentor me on how to be a more effective leader." The cadets were able to network and be mentored by officers and noncommissioned officers on how to be successful Army officers.