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General Dennis L. Via, Commanding General, U.S. Army Materiel Command, center, discusses educational opportunities with Drs. Clytrice Austin Wilson, left, and Derrick C. Scott, both representing Delaware State University, at Academia Day 2015 held Friday at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
General Dennis L. Via, Commanding General, U.S. Army Materiel Command, center, discusses educational opportunities with Drs. Clytrice Austin Wilson, left, and Derrick C. Scott, both representing Delaware State University, at Academia Day 2015 held Friday at Aberdeen Proving Ground. (Courtesy of CECOM Public Affairs / Submitted photo)

The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, a subordinate element of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, welcomed representatives from local colleges and universities to its Academia Day 2015 at Aberdeen Proving Ground Friday to talk about internships and other opportunities for students.

The collaborative effort highlighted the AMC, CECOM and APG worldwide missions and employment capabilities and used as an opportunity to ignite and foster an interest in public, civilian service.

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Combining the AMC 1000 Intern Initiative started by AMC Commanding General Dennis L. Via and adding it to the Education Partnership existing at APG under CECOM Commanding General and Senior Installation Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford, Friday's invitation-only event to collegiate educators and administrators showcased the state-of-the-art facilities, professional employees and future opportunities existing within AMC, CECOM and at APG, while also aiming to build long-term relationships with local post-secondary institutions.

"Today is all about our future," Via said. "I am here today because someone ignited a passion in me, a fire. I have always felt I needed to return that favor and try to ignite the same in others."

In discussing his personal upbringing as a youth from Martinsville, Va., to the four-star position he occupies today, Via explained how a teacher saw in him qualities he did not know he had. He credited that impetus as his start in life and used the example to stress to the academic audience that one never really knows when opportunity knocks. And federal service is a viable option.

"What my career has shown me," Via continued, "is that there are tremendous opportunities in the federal service for a valuable, fruitful and productive career. The problem seems to be that we don't seem to tell that story enough and that's on us. But we want you, our post-secondary academic professionals, to know about us and express upon your students, that federal service is a viable option upon graduation. One that appreciates and continues to develop talent."

"Our workforce is aging and many are approaching retirement," he said. "We need to grow the future not only today, but over and over to make sure our soldiers, who are out there in harm's way, remain the best equipped, best trained and best prepared force in the world."

The day-long agenda featured welcomes and information from Via and Crawford, seminars on success in the federal career path, navigating the www.USAJobs.gov website, and insights on federal resume writing techniques. It also included a discussion panel staffed by former federal interns who shared their personal experiences of federal employment, hoping to impart insight and lessons learned along the way.

The afternoon included hands-on demonstrations and information booths by the various AMC and APG agencies, centering on the work they do at APG in the defense of the country.

"Our watchword has to be service and creating a passion for that service," Crawford said. "When this day is over, do not forget about service. Federal service is about service to the nation, not just necessarily restricted to the Army. Today is not an end step, but rather a step in a process to develop today's youth for future leadership."

Crawford credited Via for the Academia program during his brief introduction.

"It takes vision to look over the horizon and see the challenges pending and then commit to addressing those challenges. General Via has done that here by giving us this opportunity to do our part to address that challenge."

Educators attending the event said they found the input valuable.

Denise Traynor, a Program Management Specialist from Frostburg State University, said she came to explore options for FSU-Cecil College students majoring in materiel engineering.

"We are just up the road now in Cecil County," Traynor said. "We have just opened this program in concert with Cecil because this particular degree will work well in the needs of Aberdeen Proving Ground. Materiel is everywhere and that is what I am hearing from both General Via and General Crawford today. I intend to use this day in an attempt to create entry pathways which our students can access for APG employment and beyond. It's exciting."

"As the dean for the College of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at Delaware State, I am committed to looking for opportunities for our students," said Clytrice Austin Watson. "I see broad opportunities here and possible internships that can serve to be great life lessons. I have to admit I was not aware of all the opportunities here at APG and hearing that alone has exceeded my original expectations for today."

"I felt like I might be an odd man out at first," said Dr. Andrea G. Lange, assistant dean for academic initiatives at Washington College in Chestertown.

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"But in hearing the discussion about the need for humanities and social science types in the federal government was great and a refreshing variation off the hard sciences domination. Our education curriculum at a liberal arts institution can bridge the interest between the liberal arts student and the hard science side. That alone was encouraging for me."

"Another item is we are about to engage in a 3-plus-2 engineering program with Columbia University in New York City," Lange said. "It would be an added benefit if those students could maybe check in here and do a summer engineering internship as they move from quiet Chestertown to the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. It's an option worth exploring."

While Friday's CECOM event can trace its roots to the first Academia Day held at HQ AMC in Hunstville, Ala., in May, future events are expected, Via noted.

He said AMC intends to hold these events to grow the federal workforce at all major subordinate commands within AMC, with CECOM as the first. To synchronize those efforts, every major subordinate command in the AMC family tree attended Friday and provided their G1/personnel departments to discuss availabilities at their locations.

"This is not a one-and-done," Via said. "We all have important jobs we do each day but our most important mission is to grow the future. The students we influence today are those we are building the foundation with and for."

"Invest today to ignite tomorrow's future," he said.

Greg Mahall is with CECOM Public Affairs at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

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