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Air Combat Command teams with William & Mary for e-internship program

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jonathan Carkhuff
  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs

Before the conclusion of the 2022 spring semester, undergraduates from William & Mary presented individual research projects on United States security interests to the Air Combat Command International Affairs team here. 
The e-internship program between ACC/IA and William & Mary began in 2012, and helps build future leaders by giving students the opportunity to interact with and learn from the experience of ACC advisers and military personnel throughout the semester.

“Our e-internship program with William & Mary is a one-of-a-kind experience with the next generation of international affairs decision-makers,” said Tim Wilson, ACC’s international engagements division chief. “These students will help create and shape policies that will impact our Air Force in 2030 and beyond. Not only do we value the opportunity to interact with these future leaders, but we hope their exposure to what we do is beneficial to their future careers.”

The e-internship program links students with national security and foreign affairs related organizations in the United States and around the world. Aside from ACC, past internship organizations have included: Defense Innovation Board, National Defense University, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, U.S. European Command, and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.  

“This partnership with ACC/IA is a vital link between a student reading something in a book and understanding the nuances and complexities of real-world events,” said Dr. Kathryn Floyd, director of William & Mary’s Whole of Government Center of Excellence. “By working with ACC’s experts, students apply their classroom learning to a research project that serves the needs of the Air Force and contributes in a small way to the security of the United States. Our students receive insider feedback and unclassified assessments from ACC members who live and breathe these subjects every day, while sharing with ACC/IA the perspective of a liberal arts undergraduate.”  

Three students from William & Mary participated in the internship with ACC this spring. Abby Stern, a sophomore from Culpeper, presented her research on “NATO Expansion and the accession of Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization”; William Rieck, a sophomore from Franklin, Tennessee, presented his research on “Light Attack within the U.S. Air Force: An Asset or a Liability?”; and Alec Veit, a sophomore from London, England, presented his research on “How the U.S. Air Force can integrate within Southeast Asia to deter China.”

“Having the opportunity to team up with the ACC/IA team was truly an incredible experience,” said Rieck. “As a student who is interested in the world of military and defense, I really could not think of a better environment to learn and hone my professional skills.”

For Stern, working with ACC/IA prepared her to handle the constantly changing world of international affairs and gave her skills to adapt to changing situations.
“The world is fast paced and ever changing, and because of this it is vital to be able to move quickly with these changes,” said Stern. “My research topic changed multiple times because of current events, and my research methods also had to be quickly adjusted as the topic changed. My ability to think on my toes and not only accept changes as they came but thrive because of them developed immensely from my experience in this program.”

E-interns telecommute to their internships approximately ten hours a week during the fall and spring semesters and can receive up to three credits. The students presented their research to several members of ACC/IA, as well as officers and senior enlisted personnel on ACC’s staff. Each topic was followed by a question-and-answer session and time for feedback.

According to Veit, the discussion with ACC members emphasized the intricacy of international affairs.  

“Fielding questions and receiving feedback from ACC staff shed light on the complexity of the many stakeholders involved in national security issues,” Veit said. “They brought up concerns that I never considered before, which certainly developed my critical thinking skills moving forward.”

For Rieck, receiving feedback was a chance to learn from every individual in the room. “It definitely was a little nerve racking, especially when you realize the cumulative knowledge of everyone else in the room compared to yourself,” he said. “Despite this, I just wanted to appreciate the insight I received and try to learn as much as I could from each person I spoke with.”

Stern noted that the feedback received from ACC staff members broadened her understanding of international affairs.

“Interaction with ACC gave me a more holistic understanding of NATO expansion, in a way that academic literature is unable to provide,” said Stern. “Much of my work focused on gathering information from academic sources, but feedback from ACC took my understanding of this topic one step further. Through their input, my final topic was refined and reflected the current international arena more accurately.”

For the students, individual project presentations are the culmination of months of work, research, and learning in preparation for a career that shapes U.S. security policy.  

“My hope is that the students reflect on this tremendous opportunity and incorporate the professional advice they receive as they prepare for their future careers – perhaps with the Air Force,” said Floyd.

Similarly, members of ACC/IA shared their bright hopes for the students’ futures.

“My favorite part of the internship is getting to work directly with the students as each of them brings their own perspective to these complex national security issues,” said Lindsey Collett, e-internship program manager and foreign affairs specialist at ACC/IA. “Over the course of the internship, you see the development of their knowledge and confidence as they progress with their research and contextualize it to the Air Force and ACC. By the end, they not only have a well-crafted final project that combines that enhanced understanding with their own unique viewpoint, they're also able to present it to a room full of professionals and thoughtfully respond to the questions and feedback.”

Additionally, for ACC/IA, the staff is grateful for the opportunity to work with the next generation of leaders in the international affairs arena.

“Abby, Alec, and William researched tough issues that Air Force and Department of Defense leaders are challenged with today, and they displayed exceptional critical thinking in their final presentations,” said Charles Bailey, ACC’s deputy director of international affairs. “ACC/IA is incredibly grateful to these students for their hard work and to the e-internship team at William & Mary. We look forward to continuing this relationship for years to come.”