From left: Cadet Evan Mackie, Army ROTC, Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Cadet Alexander Palaganas, Army ROTC, Florida State University; and Cadet Harrison Smith, Air Force ROTC, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Three Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets have joined a team of University of Nebraska interns through the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska to refine a NSRI-developed wargame exploring the impact of cyber attacks on nuclear deterrence and escalation activities.
Cadet Evan Mackie, Army ROTC, Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Cadet Alexander Palaganas, Army ROTC, Florida State University; and Cadet Harrison Smith, Air Force ROTC, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, are participating remotely and bringing forward their academic skills as well as their practical knowledge of military engagement.
The cadets’ experiences were coordinated through the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Nuclear Science and Engineering Research Center (NSERC), which partners with Department of Defense (DoD) degree-granting institutions to conduct countering weapons of mass destruction (CWMD) research that enhances DoD capabilities and provides the next generation of military officers with CWMD experience to better prepare them to lead in a world with evolving global WMD threats.
Mackie applied for the NSRI experience because of his interest in the DoD’s usage and development of wargames. He was drawn to the military utility of wargames and wanted to specifically work to improve a game within the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) mission space.
“This experience is important because it gets students thinking about national defense and the complexity of our strategic policy and decision making,” Mackie said. “It highlights the opportunity and careers available within the DoD that students can pursue. It gives important exposure to national security.”
Maj. Nathaniel Kaminski, deputy director of NSERC, said his center was particularly interested in NSRI’s relationship with and focus on USSTRATCOM — USSTRATCOM sponsors NSRI’s University Affiliated Research Center designation. As part of the NSERC’s mission, it sponsors cadets for summer internships that develop capacity to enable an effective nuclear deterrent and allow the nation to fight and win on the nuclear battlefield.
“Given NSRI’s partnership with USSTRATCOM, this internship offers an introductory lesson on nuclear deterrence and joint operations,” Kaminski said. “In addition to the multi-service interaction between cadets, the interaction between cadets and civilian students is representative of a Joint Interagency Coordination Group, which establishes working relationships between civilian and military planners on a joint staff.
“The NSRI internship is a great opportunity because the cadets are learning about nuclear deterrence and joint operations. At the conclusion of this internship, we hope the cadets will gain a better understanding of nuclear deterrence issues and consider a future career in the nation’s nuclear enterprise.”
Just two weeks in and Mackie is already seeing into his future.
“This experience has already given me more exposure to career opportunities within the military,” he said. “I have experience in areas that I wouldn’t otherwise have known about if I hadn’t done this internship. It has opened me up to new career paths that I will be interested in pursuing as a future officer in the Army.”