Good engineers come up with brilliant ideas about how to solve a specific problem in any given process; the main goal is to make “things” cheaper, faster, and more efficient. The ideal situation in which our resources are unlimited does not exist, there is an endless struggle to save as much time and money as it can be possible. In order to overcome such challenge, engineers must come up with a felicitous brainwave. Usually, great ideas do not come without hard work and after expending many hours thinking about the process we want to improve. However, hard work is never enough, there is “something” more needed. Some individuals have a gifted brain that allows them to find the needle in a haystack, other people must engage in a quest that maybe will never be successful. I am sure that all of us have at some point in our lives––and I am afraid that we will be in the same situation many more times––have faced a task that almost defeated us. As a mechanical engineer, I have seen the point of no return. Where I already have spent to many hours studying a problem, but I have been able to find a solution. Perseverance is the key while also trying many different approaches to the problem. That is the main lesson that I have learned from my previous years of engineering studies. All those years have provided me with a mind set that is ready to analyze any task; to take a look from all the angles of a given situation, and also to develop a special vision of the issues to deal with.
Another great lesson that I have learned from engineering can be stated in one line: always be ready to have many options. Always be ready to accept that all safeguards will fail. In engineering, Murphy’s law is as important as Newton’s Law of universal gravitation, and I believe that is a lesson suitable in any field of life. If I am asked for a good advice to a foreign student that wants to succeed in his or her internship in Washington D.C. it will be the following: do not assume you know everything. The world is much bigger and complex than we think, therefore any piece of information is a little treasure. The United States is the most powerful nation in human history, and it is the greatest democracy on Earth. Along its history, America has proven to be a generous nation and a loyal ally. Without the sacrifices of thousands of young American soldiers, who knows what Europe’s future will be. The U.S. was founded on the highest moral values, unfortunately it has many enemies. We are living in an age in which democracies are under constant attacks, coming from every front that can be imagined. From cyberterrorism and cyberattacks to conventional terrorism, a simple cooking knife or a dirty radiological bomb. The enemies of the United States do not rest. Extremist and radicals all around the world aim to damage America, because for their cause––whatever it is––being able to harm the most powerful democracy on earth is a victory. The U.S. needs to know the world that surrounds its borders and beyond them. This is the reason why knowledge is a weapon against extremists, as the U.S. government improves its awareness about what happens abroad, the better its judgment about how to proceed to erase any threat. The exchange of information with others nations it is a pillar of America’s defense. It is a win-win transaction, because once the trust of the American people is obtained, the relationships only will bring benefits. If the U.S. feels safe about a partner nation, the economic bonds will flourish; investments, and trade will grow exponentially.
I cannot think about one single field in which a foreign student should not be interested in being part of the “deal.” During these weeks in my internship I am learning the different approaches to increase security around the world and to make the U.S. safer from the wave of extremism that tries to reach its borders. At the same time all the lessons that I am receiving can be adapted to my own country. American solutions are not universally implemented, however they point out the best path to follow. A good example of how the exchange of knowledge enriches and makes a safer U.S. is how to improve the security in its ports. With the increasingly exchange of goods, ports are a vital place for tight surveillance. Millions of containers arrive to American ports every day, the government needs to control this endless and growing influx of merchandises. The movement of those goods requires state of the art surveillance equipment. Electronic devices to detect any kind of threat––CRBN: chemical, radiological, biological, and nuclear––have been deployed to stop the “bad guys” from harming American soil. Also, the risks have to be avoided overseas, and within the territory of other nations. That is why the Spanish port of Algeciras––the largest in number of containers shipped in and out of the Mediterranean Sea–– is part of an American security initiative called Mega ports. As a foreign student from Spain I have been able to share with the faculty of the National Defense University how important the role of the port of Algeciras is on world trade. The professors that I have the great pleasure to work with, have been able to discover how important the port on the South coast of Spain has been too U.S national security. A place located thousands of miles away from the U.S, but sends millions of containers to America every year. In exchange, I have learned how agencies can benefit from working together, as it is the case of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Since the last post, I have learned about security technology. My co-workers and I, were allowed to attend a demonstration of helicopters equipped with state of the art technology to detect radiation, and radiation sources. By sharing the economic burden of maintaining a resource for safety, in this case a helicopter, the DOE benefits having a tool to study the behavior of radiation in urban environments. On the other hand, the DHS has another mean to improve the security in large urban areas. This is a solution that can be perfected in any other country. As a foreign student, all of the things I have learned from this week highlight the advantages of being a modest ambassador of my country. It is like being involved in amateur diplomacy in small scales.