TSOA 19-3 From the Eyes of Junior Research Analysts

The thought of joining the adult workforce is an exciting, yet scary thought for many young adults; to go from knowing everything to realizing how little you actually know. Fortunately for the Junior Research Analysts (JRAs), Global Systems Engineering (GSE) provides real world experience that prepares us for life after college.

GSE recognizes the importance of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field in the defense of our nation and strives to support the education of young adults in this field. Providing experiences like these to young adults educates and inspires the next generation of great minds that will help defend our nation in the future.

One opportunity presented to the JRAs was attending the Technical Support and Operational Analysis (TSOA) 19-3. This event is held multiple times throughout the year to assess and showcase new technological products for defense in real world scenarios. The one we attended was five days long and there were about 100 people in attendance. Accompanying four of GSE’s full time employees was group of six JRAs on Monday and Thursday; two JRAs attended Tuesday as well.

We were the only people in the room that were primarily attending to observe. This allowed us to really understand the event and how it works. However, it was fairly intimidating.

McKenna Disbrow, a JRA, expressed feeling excited. “I thought the event would be more informational and involve just listening to people talk, but it was a real experience watching the vendors interact with the warfighters and each other to most effectively assess the products.”

The event started with a safety briefing and general overview of what was going to happen and who everyone was. Each vendor had the opportunity to give a 2-minute brief about their product, which was beneficial because it allowed us to understand the uses of each product and how they contribute to the situation being assessed. There were 27 products that were presented at this TSOA that varied in different uses. It was incredible to see the result of the development of new technology and how it can benefit defense.

After everyone was settled and the training began, the JRAs were given a list of potential vendors that GSE would like to see attend the Chemical and Biological Operational Analysis (CBOA) in 2020. The CBOA is a similar event to the TSOA, that GSE also attends, but is specifically for chemical and biological defense products. When looking at vendors and products for these events, one must look to the future and guess what products will best help us in 2028.

The group was divided up according to interest to ensure everyone had the opportunity to network and interact with people who are involved in their field. Networking is a very important aspect when it comes to a professional career. The JRAs were able to practice networking with these working professionals. This allowed them to create a connection that could be useful later in their careers while learning something new.

Nick Francis, another JRA, expressed, “I wish we knew more people here, but making the connections today will help us know people for next time.”  

Elizabeth Halford, Senior Program Manager at GSE, thought it would add to the experience for us to have a “Meal Ready to Eat” (MRE) for lunch. Warfighters eat MREs out in the field to get a quick, easy, high-calorie meal to replenish their energy. A chemical reaction takes place that heats up the food so you can eat a hot meal without a kitchen.

Like warfighters do, each of us randomly reached in and picked one out. My first meal was macaroni in tomato sauce. It was not bad and smelled rather appetizing. JRA Pierce Jennings was not so lucky and had a chicken dish that smelled like tuna. There was an abundance of food and snacks available in each bag, so we were able to trade around with each other.

On Thursday, we had the unique opportunity to go down range and watch the “situation” play out in-person. There was a mock-city where situations were set up to most effectively assess the products in a relevant, realistic environment. The warfighters and the “bad guys” took the situation extremely seriously so they could provide accurate feedback about the competence of the products.

Attending this event was an extraordinary experience that was not only fun, but highly educational both academically and socially. The other JRAs and I are incredibly grateful to GSE for this opportunity.

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