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Cadet broadens experience with internship at Army testing installation

Students who enlist in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps commit themselves to full-time military service upon graduation.

But in the years leading up to fulfilling that commitment, they spend each semester and summer training for their future and learning about all aspects of the U.S. Army.

ROTC Cadet Cullen Wilkes recently spent three weeks at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, familiarizing himself with the Army’s test and evaluation process.

Wilkes’ internship was an optional follow-on training after ROTC advance camp training.

Wilkes was familiar with Yuma Proving Ground’s mission and chose the installation because he’s studying aerospace engineering with a minor in military and science at the University of Alabama.

“There were few opportunities that had engineering involved. I had the opportunities to watch one of the videos and I saw a lot of explosions, tanks, Bradleys and various other artillery pieces and it caught my eye and I was looking forward to coming out here.”

Wilkes interned with the Combat and Automotive Systems Division and the Bradley team lead, Julio Zambrano, served as his mentor. Zambrano has mentored cadets in the past and enjoys the process.

“When they come to [Yuma Proving Ground], they have no idea about everything that we do, and how. By the time their internship is over they go back with a bigger and better overview of what we do, and they go home and share that knowledge.”

Wilkes said he got a crash course on the Abrams, Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and artillery while visiting combat vehicle and ammunition test sites. He was thankful for the experience and the opportunity to ask questions, noting that it might take his peers years to have the same opportunity.

Wilkes said the internship will help him as he returns to the University of Alabama for his final year and focuses on his senior design project.

“I will have the difficult task among my team of questioning every single thing that happens,” said Wilkes. “Because of this experience, I will try to think of every possible way that it could fail so that we can work around it, make it better and make sure it does not fail in its environment.”

As a Soldier the internship has provided Wilkes with a newfound respect for the work that goes into providing the warfighter with safe equipment.

“It’s given me the opportunity to see what goes into the equipment that I will be using one day. I am grateful that the people here are passionate about what they do. I feel like I am in good hands.”

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