Sandia LabNews

Weapon Intern Program celebrates 25 years

Senior mentor tells graduates ‘national security is our business’

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CONGRATULATIONS, GRADUATES — 2023 Weapon Intern Program graduates Benito Martinez and Anna Deberry congratulate one another at this year’s graduation ceremony at the Steve Schiff Auditorium. Martinez and Deberry are among the 22 students who completed the program this year. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson)

The atmosphere in the Steve Schiff Auditorium felt a bit different on the afternoon of Aug. 24 than one might experience at the venue’s typical events. Instead, this “all hands” gathering was composed of families, friends and loved ones who assembled to support and cheer for this year’s 22 graduates of Sandia’s Weapon Intern Program.

Established 25 years ago, the program aims to accelerate knowledge transfer to the next generation of the weapons workforce. The yearlong program is geared toward employees in the national security enterprise with a Q clearance and one to 10 years of experience in nuclear weapons.

“We have a very clear and tangible mission: ensuring the U.S. nuclear arsenal is safe, secure, reliable and can fully support our nation’s deterrence policy. National security is our business,” said Carla Busick, a retired Sandia senior scientist who now serves as a senior mentor for the program. “Today is the start of feats to come. Your WIP credential is a passport to success.”

Busick encouraged this year’s graduating class — marking the 28th in 25 years — to stay in touch with their mentors and seek opportunities to mentor others. “Don’t forget to express gratitude for those who helped get you here,” she said.

Carolyn Buckley, a Weapon Intern Program graduate and Sandia employee, was chosen to speak on behalf of her classmates. Acknowledging the complex geopolitical landscape, she said there is a lot of pressure on those working in nuclear deterrence. “What happens next is up to us,” Carolyn told her classmates.

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COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS — Carla Busick, senior mentor for the Weapon Intern Program, speaks to the class of 2023 during a graduation ceremony on Aug. 24 at the Steve Schiff Auditorium. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson)

Knowledge transfer

More than 200 instructors, senior mentors and experts from across the national security enterprise share their knowledge and experiences about nuclear deterrence with the students. The intern program consists of two phases. The first six months include coursework, visits to various Department of Energy and Department of Defense sites and research projects. In the second phase, participants are embedded in an organization to work on a nuclear deterrence project. The program culminates with each participant developing a final presentation about their project for their classmates and the program management team, who then provide feedback.

In addition to Sandia employees from New Mexico and California, this year’s class also included employees from the Kansas City National Security Campus, Pantex, the National Nuclear Security Administration, Y-12, Savannah River Site, the U.S. Air Force and the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.

With the program completed, the graduates now return to their home organizations and sites. More than 580 participants have completed the program since it was established in 1998. Students have already been selected for the 2024 class, which starts Sept. 18.

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