A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

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GIS Intern Utilizes START Knowledge in the Army ROTC

GIS Intern Utilizes START Knowledge in the Army ROTC

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Charles Derrick, Incident Locations and Geospatial Intelligence Intern

Spring 2016

George Washington University 2017

I first applied to START because I had a desire to find a hands-on experience with geospatial intelligence and more deeply explore the academic environment in the field of terrorism research. Prior to my beginning at START, I had a background in non-proliferation work, US defense policy, and Middle Eastern grand strategy. In prior positions, I had the opportunity to work for academics and former members of both the Pentagon and the White House. Over the course of my previous work, I found that I had an affinity toward the field of counterterrorism but had been frustrated with policy research. START exceeded my expectations in allowing me to gain hands-on experience in the field I hope to become a part of.  

START has one of the highest quality intern experiences that a student or graduate could hope to find in the DC area. In my first month, my exposure to various issues in the counterterrorism realm has been outstanding. I have heard from speakers that work at places like the National Counter Terrorism Center and have biweekly discussions about current topics in terrorism, specifically in the GEOINT field that we work on. We have readings that explore the academic area of terrorism and then apply lessons learned from past practices to common happenings. This knowledge has particularly come in handy in my Army training.

As a cadet in the Georgetown Army ROTC Battalion, I train in other subject areas that complement the work which START has a focus on. However, one portion of the training that is under-developed is access to technical skills which are critical to the next generation of warfighters. I believe that GEOINT will play one of the most influential roles in battlefield tactics and I therefore wanted to gain hands-on training with new GIS platforms. In the coming months, I will be training with a recently-deployed unit and I believe my experience with START will provide me with insight that is unique for a person my age. Even though I may not have the deployment experience that older service members bring to the table, I believe that I can help foster valuable cooperation between the two cohorts. Integrating young leaders who have access to new technology with experienced leaders who have comprehensive subject matter knowledge will create a holistic approach to addressing the developing security threats of our generation.

In the future, my career ambition is to work in the government, specifically using GEOINT tools to contribute to the national security mission. GEOINT is a rapidly expanding tool that is enabled by advances in technology; however, it is difficult to find adequate training programs that can instruct individuals to use new programs. The national security field is expanding to take advantage of open source data, GEOINT being one of the most widely available products for the public. My supervisor has introduced me to innovative ways to collect, analyze, and visualize large data that is available in the public domain. With this knowledge, I can apply for GEOINT opportunities with a background that other students may not have the chance to experience.

In some internships, it is easy for an intern’s work to go unnoticed. However, interns at START are integral pieces of the research that is conducted. They are recognized by the staff for their contributions and I would recommend a START internship to any student or graduate interested in learning more about the field of terrorism research.