SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Cadets from the U.S. Military Academy's engineering department are here learning first-hand how Army engineering capabilities support national interests abroad.
The cadets are participating in the Academy's Academic Individual Advanced Development, a program similar to summer internships. The cadets gain valuable, real-world experience through the program by working with military and civilian systems engineers, operations research analysts, and scientists.
The 22 cadets visited several sites around the Comayagua and La Paz areas observing U.S. Army engineers working on the various projects associated with the joint nation, joint service exercise Beyond the Horizon 2008. Projects include destruction of old facilities and construction of new schools and medical clinics.
While in Honduras, the cadets get a real-world peek into how Army engineers operate in a deployed environment at an overseas location. The cadets are also gaining an understanding of the wide breadth of projects Army engineers take on around the world, and they are able to connect the applications they've learned in the classroom with operations the field.
"We spend so much time in academics that we sometimes forget there are differences between what the books teach us and what actually goes into a successful job site," said Cadet 2nd Class Walter Arevalo, a third year system engineer student. "Down here we're getting a broader picture and seeing engineering applications put into use in a very basic environment."
However, it's the opportunity to get their boots muddy with the troops in the field that has been an enlightening experience.
"We got to work with the 471st Engineer Company, a Reserve unit from Puerto Rico, and got to know the troops and what they are about and find out about their background, which helped us discover that citizen soldiers are very diverse," Cadet Arevelo said.
"We thought that because they are Army Reserve engineers they would all be in the civilian construction or manufacturing industry, but they're not-- they are accountants, IT professionals, policemen, retail managers--Reservists represent a broad cross section of society," he said.
Cadets have a variety of choices for the AIAD, but Cadet 2nd Class Ryan Kim, a third year engineering management student, said he was pleased that he selected the Honduran visit.
He said it was down to a position working with an Australian engineering firm, or coming here to see what BTH was all about.
"One reason I ended up choosing Honduras was because it's a humanitarian mission here and seeing the work Army engineers are doing to help others makes it all worthwhile," he said.
Although BTH ended June 3, the cadets are staying on here for another week to receive practical instruction in surveying and operating an Automated Route Reconnaissance Kit, an airborne reconnaissance system used by military civil engineers to provide damage assessment during disasters.