During the 2011/12 Christmas break I started looking for summer internship opportunities in the defence sector, the applications for which are extremely in depth. Having found a number of vacancies with the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) of the Ministry of Defence, the best part of an afternoon was spent digging up long forgotten information including past addresses and post codes, parents’ birth and passport information and education and work history. This was followed by the not inconsiderable task of finding three non-relatives willing sign their name to a glowing character reference including my lovely manager at Careers Network.
Having applied to around ten internship positions DSTL offered I started receiving rejection email after rejection email, but was eventually invited down to interview for two of the positions I’d applied for just outside Portsmouth. One of the most interesting interviews I’ve had to date began with a number of ‘competency based’ questions before being challenged to really think on my feet and solve a series of military logistical scenarios: “The UK Government wants a new fleet of tanks, what are the considerations it needs to make?” for example.
A couple of weeks later I was offered one of the positions, subject to a nervous three months while a background check was conducted, mostly spent recalling any questionable associates I’d had, minor misdemeanours I’d committed and speculating on the various drunken antics I couldn’t remember (I swear I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to do that there!) Eventually however security clearance was granted and suddenly all the effort I’d put in was worth it, I moved down to the south coast to start a twelve week placement at the beginning of July 2012.
The first couple of weeks were an integration period, learning the security protocols, IT systems and being issued my own laptop and ID to be worn at all times. After that I was assigned a number of projects within my team which was the direct analytical support to live military operations (Support to Ops). Requests for information were called/emailed in from active bases around the world and generally a rapid turnaround was required. The first month was spent helping out where I was asked with a variety of tasks whilst I always had a background project to be working on.
The second period of the placement was a one month augmentation to a SCIAD (Scientific Advice) team on a military base in Warminster to work directly with the military personnel on site. This period was spent learning the appropriate techniques to perform analysis on field data and compile reports to send back. A higher security level was needed for this work (‘Secret’, up from ‘Restricted’) and this period gave me a much greater insight into the work being achieved by the British Armed forces across the globe, as well as learning exactly how the military and civil servants interact and the differences between their systems of operation.
The two hour commute to and from Warminster each day, whilst allowing me a lot of reading time, was I admit getting me down a little, so I was relieved when I returned back to Portsmouth for the final month. The majority of this was spent on one task in particular, a research project which lead me to collaboration with various allied and group counterparts including the United Nations, NATO, US Department of Defense and the Australian Defence Organisation. The report ended up the size of a dissertation with primary and secondary research included and a verified solution to the initial request. The work was published internally and is available on the UK Government’s Secret network. The placement culminated in being offered sponsorship (£1500 per year whilst studying and a guaranteed interview for the graduate scheme), which was very flattering.
The whole experience gave me a feel for working for a government department, an insight into the British armed forces and the many arms of the defence industry and was generally an extremely gratifying experience, not to mention the writing skills, analytical skills and communication skills picked up along the way.
Pete, 1st Year Physics