U.S. Army Cadet James Oliver, a senior studying civil engineering at the University of Portland (Oregon) in the Portland Battalion Reserve Officers Training Corps, aspires to work as a military officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and deploy overseas. An internship at the New York District in summer 2014 reinforced that ambition.
Cadet Oliver was stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, America’s premier joint war-fighting base with nearly 65,000 employees and measuring 20 miles east to west. There, James studied a variety of operations under the guidance of his sponsor, Capt. Tim Shebesta, and Paul Jalowski, resident engineer.
James’s main assignment was studying a complex $40 million project at the airfield, making renovations to taxiways Lima and Golf that connect the maintenance/parking areas to runways. Improvements include: concrete resurfacing; new electrical and communications equipment below ground; redesigned grading to improve runoff and reduce standing water; and brighter LED lights along the perimeter to guide pilots. Oliver described the operation as having “many moving parts;” Capt. Shebesta said having 12 sub-contractors on site and keeping the airfield open added to the challenge.
The importance of a well-maintained airfield cannot be overstated: Golf (7,800 ft.), and Lima, (5,900 ft.), are used by C-17 cargo planes ─ the largest in the Air Force capable of transporting nearly 180,000 pounds, including paratroopers and most Army equipment. Work is expected to be complete by winter 2014-15.
James split his time between site work and the office, comparing notes with Capt. Shebesta and working alongside many civilian employees. He kept a daily progress log, wrote reports, identified areas of conflict between Corps’ and contractor’ employees, and assisted with contractor’ negotiations by analyzing data and presenting items of concern. James also briefed New York District Commander Col. Paul Owen and other leaders about construction progress. Cadet Oliver said these experiences enhanced his learning by bringing classroom concepts to life, especially from a construction materials’ class.
The internship included significant travel to District installations with varying missions. James visited the U.S. Military Academy at West Point north of New York City, the oldest continuously-occupied military post in America and home to nearly 4,400 cadets, and a civil works project in Port Monmouth, New Jersey, learning how beach replenishment (adding sand) provides coastal-storm risk reduction for seaside communities. When asked what he would tell others considering ROTC, Oliver would emphasize that in terms of engineering, it provides opportunities to “branch out” and gain experience with other aspects of the profession, including interpersonal relations and management training.
A FINAL WORD
The New York District was pleased to host and mentor three Army Cadet engineering students in summer 2014, each learning a great deal through hands-on activities and showing good potential. Upon completion of ROTC, graduates are commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the Army and begin specialized training. Based on the successes this summer, the Army has some promising cadets preparing to serve the Nation.