Military engineer group boosts STEM at Malmstrom

  • Published
  • By Kiersten McCutchan
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

Programs and events by the Society of American Military Engineers pair with programs and events by Science, Technology, Engineering and Math initiatives like peanut butter and jelly, or more aptly, nuts and bolts.


Across the country there is a critical need for STEM specialists to lead in future technology and innovation efforts across many industries.


The U.S. Air Force mission – to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace – requires the greatest minds the nation has to offer. Motivation for many STEM specialists who would like to serve the Air Force comes from the desire be a part of something bigger and make a difference. 


How to become involved

The Big Sky Post, the local area SAME group, leads community collaborative efforts to identify and resolve national security infrastructure related challenges. Many military members at the 341st Missile Wing and from across the state are members of the group.


"People at Malmstrom involved in military engineering or who are interested in STEM career paths are usually involved with the Big Sky Post," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Villines, 819th RED HORSE Squadron water and fuel systems maintenance craftsman.


Villines is also a Big Sky Post SAME board member and their secretary.


“The post here is one of the most active posts for the region, and we receive accolades from SAME groups all around the world,” said Villines. “The military component of the board here is mostly run by RED HORSE. The Big Sky Post is just about half military members and half engineer members from local and statewide engineering firms.”


The president of the Big Sky Post is Master Sgt. Amanda Jones, 819th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron superintendent operations support.


Recently, law enforcement, youth programs and the library at Malmstrom have expanded outreach efforts to help the Air Force STEM program meet its mission.


Mission driven

The goal at Malmstrom is to recruit people for jobs and to provide information to students and Airmen about STEM education paths and vocations. The Big Sky Post helps Malmstrom meet this mission.


“One of our goals is to increase even more (Malmstrom) base involvement and interest in STEM disciplines in the community at large," Villines said.


Big Sky Post holds monthly meetings and other professional and social activities attended by members of local government, military members throughout Montana, private industry, students and other interested parties.


Big Sky Post members and non-members met April 26 for their monthly meeting and one-hour tour of the Giant Springs fish hatchery. The fish hatchery has recently made many upgrades to their process and facilities.


“Tours are organized to look at and learn about other organizations. In our community, we want to ensure the broad spectrum of knowledge in engineering infrastructure, improvements and operations is passed on through our professional generations,” Villines said.


Enhance STEM professional development

Events are open for members and the general public. The Big Sky Post also holds special events to honor SAME or community members who demonstrate exceptional STEM skills.


“Our networking, too, is incredible. Very often our military connections with the private sector mean we can solve challenges faster and grow ideas, knowledge and who you can make future contacts with in the industry,” Villines said.


In May, the group will meet for a Rainbow or Ryan – two of the largest local dams – tour and a visit to the powerhouse.


The date will be set soon, so check in with the group if wanting to attend the dam tour or future events, Villines said.


Interested students, Malmstrom personnel or community members interested in STEM/SAME professional development or membership, or for anyone who would like more information, can contact Villines at 406-564-6535.