Weapon Intern Program offers insight, opportunity

  • Posted: Thursday, June 8, 2023, 3:23 pm

Sandia Weapon Intern Program

To many CNS employees, the Sandia Weapon Intern Program, like much of the work at Pantex and Y-12, is shrouded in secrecy. From the name alone the uninformed could be forgiven for assuming the program is a pathway for aspiring young people into the United States’ nuclear weapons complex.

Yet, while WIP affords its alumni no end of career-advancement opportunities, the word “intern” scarcely captures even a portion of the reality of this yearlong adventure.

“The Weapon Intern Program, from my perspective, [is] more of a deep dive into the enterprise and almost a graduate-level course on the complex business we do,” said Josh G.

In short, this 11-month internship is among the Nuclear Security Enterprise’s best-kept secrets.

“I had heard about this program through several sources and knew a few people in my department who had participated in the past,” said Alaina H., a 2023 Pantex WIP participant. “I was really interested in the opportunity to visit the other sites that contribute to our nuclear deterrence and learn from [subject matter experts] across the complex. In particular, I was interested in visiting the [Department of Defense] sites to see where the finished product ends up and to learn about potential use cases and what factors the navy and air force care about most in the weapon designs.”

WIP was created in 1998 to accelerate learning by blending classroom and multimedia-based instruction from more than 250 SMEs. Participants complete both individual and team research projects, visit numerous NNSA sites, and have access to mentors who provide a direct link between the complex’s past, present, and future.

It’s an intriguing notion, but especially given everything facing today’s enterprise, why create a program that takes employees away from their jobs nearly an entire year? According to NPO's Yessica F., a Nuclear Explosives Safety program manager and Howard’s peer in the 2023 program, the answer lies at the crossroads of past, present, and future.

“Sandia’s responsibility associated with its nuclear weapons’ mission requires the continuing transfer of decades of nuclear weapon-related knowledge and experience to new generations of nuclear weaponeers,” she said.