Internship Update from Harris

Describe a typical day/your major projects/responsibilities on your internship.

I’ve been interning at USAFRICOM for over a month now, and a typical workday goes something like this: I am up by 5:00am (0500 in military time), a German breakfast, walk my dog, dress in a suit and tie, and walk/bicycle into work around 7:30.  As an intern, I’m not required to clock-in until 9:00, but I choose to arrive at ~8:00 along with the majority of the workforce; my intent is to be held to the same standards as everyone else. When I arrive at my desk each morning, I first check-in with my supervisors for a status update about all of the projects I’m working on, and get a verbal update on periphery projects. On most days, nothing catastrophic has occurred in the twelve hours I’ve been away from my desk, so I proceed to pick-up where I left off the day before. 

Describe the workplace culture/environment.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of working in a U.S. regional combatant command thus far has been the variety of tasks assigned to me; nearly every week is different from the last in terms of the type and scope of work. For instance, the first project assigned to me was a Coast Guard Memorandum of Understanding (colloquially known in military acronym lingo as an MOU).  As I mentioned in my fist blog, an MOU is typically a legal document detailing the exchange of goods or services for money.  As a new intern with absolutely no previous experience in such matters, it seemed like a monumental task – one that didn’t necessarily align with what I initially thought comprised the work of the Maritime Security directorate at AFRICOM. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy working on that particular project, it was just very different work than what I was expecting. 

In contrast, after I finished the MOU, I was immediately assigned my next major project: arranging the travel for over 40 African county representatives to attend a conference about Maritime Security in Yaoundé, Cameroon.  Nothing could be more drastic in terms of a change in daily routine. Instead of quietly perusing legal documents and double-checking cost calculations, I was suddenly calling desk officers at African embassies and establishing contacts with people all over the world.  Over the course of my internship, I have come to understand many positions in the Department of Defense share this otherwise unique feature of work diversity. I find the promise of a continuous variety of different jobs to be one of the most alluring aspects of Department of Defense work.

Share what you are using from your classes, things your involved in, etc.

As a psychology major, the most major-relevant skill I have been able to incorporate into my daily life working at AFRICOM is a mastery of interpersonal communication.  In an environment like AFRICOM, you are constantly interacting with people from myriad backgrounds, cultures, and societies where language may very well be a complicating factor.  It is imperative that one is able to communicate effectively with professional people from disparate backgrounds, and vastly different work experiences and occupations (lawyers, doctors, special forces infantryman, logisticians, ship captains, etc.) with a shared pursuit to accomplish the mission at hand.  

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