By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs
FORT HOOD, Texas — Twenty-one students from five Central Texas-area colleges took part in a Career Exploration Day here Tuesday with the Army unit responsible for testing all new and modernized equipment.
A short briefing began the day-long event, with an up-close look at a Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft system, M1A2 Abrams tank, Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, and then climaxing with some small arms hands-on training at Fort Hood’s Warrior Training Center where students manned a simulated gun truck in a convoy down the streets Baghdad and a shoot house full of bad guys and hostages.
Paired with 11 U.S. Army Operational Test Command (OTC) mentors, some students left considering a career as an Army Civilian employee.
“I’d love to work somewhere like this, doing the testing and the analysis,” said Melanie A. Peavy, a student at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.
“I learned a lot about testing and I’m actually super excited. You get to see all of the work that’s put into it, but you also get to make sure it’s going to work for the military in the field and it’s going to perform the way they designed it to,” continued the future aerospace engineer.
“They’re fighting for us,” said Peavy. “I’m not over there fighting but if I was, I would want something that works.”
One OTC mentor with nearly 20 years in operational testing said he talked with students about how their degree paths can open up opportunities to work at OTC or the Army in general.
“They ask a lot of questions about opportunities in the Army and how things work,” said Bill McKiernan, a senior test plans manager in OTC’s Maneuver Test Directorate.
“I hope they get an appreciation for service to their nation,” he continued. “It’s a valuable service that we do that contributes to defending the nation and freedom around the world. It’s not about the money; it’s about job satisfaction. It’s a great place to work. It’s a great place to serve.”
Most students heard about OTC’s Career Orientation Day by receiving an email through their school’s career center.
“I have always been a history buff and always been interested in the military side of things,” said Brent E. Smith, a junior studying electrical engineering at the College Station campus of Texas A&M University.
“So it’s really awesome to see the Grey Eagle and the M1 Abrams Tank – you know, things you always see on TV, and to actually be able to see them in real life, how they operate and to see the engineering side of it. You get to think about, ‘O.K. How can we improve this? What kind of data and analytics do we look at to improve this system to save lives?’”
Smith said, “I would love to be a civilian engineer working on these types of projects. It would be a great opportunity for me because I’ve always had a passion for these types of things.”
OTC’s Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff Col. Fred Snyder told the students the Army could use their youth and knowledge.
“The way the world works today, the work force we have is extremely skilled, but we need some new brain power and new energy for the future,” he said. “We must invest now to test for the future, and ladies and gentlemen, you are the future.”
Snyder presented the students the idea of how their fields of study could be applied in support of the military and government.
A tanker himself, he talked about how the M1 Abrams tank was first tested in 1980, and is still used today.
“That M1 right there, dating all the way back to 1980, we still use that tank today with several upgrades making it more lethal than it has ever been, and every one of those upgrades have been tested by OTC,” he explained.
“As you get ready to graduate,” he said, “I want you to think about this. Do you want to go and work for an organization that has a real mission, has a real purpose, has a modest and consistent paycheck, where you add value to the organization, or do you want to graduate and chase money for an unreliable paycheck. A lot of young folks today have the education but only see dollar signs, and wonder why they are miserable all the time, or why they are unemployed.”
OTC actively recruits from some of the top area colleges and universities and is looking for Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics talent, to diversify the future workforce.
Students from Texas A&M University College Station, University of Texas San Antonio, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, Texas A&M University Central Texas, and University of Texas Austin attended the event.
For job postings in the world of operational testing go to USAJOBS.gov and search for “ATEC.”
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
As the Army’s only independent operational tester, OTC tests Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to provide data on whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.