HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Although Jeremy Smith’s life path took him many directions, his journey eventually landed him where he wanted to be – as a respected computer scientist for the United States Air Force.
Smith, who works for the 519th Software Maintenance Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, began his path toward computers early in life while growing up on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Monument Valley, Utah. His interest stemmed first from his father, a networking specialist who helped bring Internet to the reservation. But like many kids, his curiosity in computer was fully piqued by Nintendo.
“I wondered how Super Mario jumped,” he said. “I wanted to know everything, from the controller button, to the game console, to whatever happens inside the game console. I wanted to know how all of it worked.”
Following high school graduation, he pursued a computer science degree at Weber State University. The classes were difficult and after a few semesters, he dropped out.
“I tried some hard labor jobs, and that really wasn’t much fun,” Smith said.
He joined the Utah Army National Guard, and in 2010 deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer. His unit’s primary mission was route clearance to include finding and disposing improvised explosive devices, ensuring routes were safe for coalition forces. It was there his interest in computers and technology returned.
“I was a gunner, and I would use an electronic turret that could mount four different types of weapons,” he said. “The turret was controlled by a joystick from inside an armored vehicle. It had thermal vision for spotting enemies during night missions. You could point a laser at far distances and it would calculate how high to raise the weapon. It was really cool, and I wanted to know the science behind it.”
Upon returning from deployment, Smith looked at a few options, including joining the military, furthering his education, or applying for trade jobs such as painting and welding. When he and his wife found out they were expecting a child, his decision was made.
“I was ecstatically suprised,” he said “It put things in perspective and forced me to come up with the best plan possible.”
That plan was to go back to school. He retook some classes and worked to improve his grade point average. Through perseverance and hard work, a few years later he graduated with a computer science degree and a game development certificate.
His experience with the military was positive, so he decided he wanted to work for a company that supported the military. What he landed was even better – a job with the Air Force, which gave him the opportunity to serve his country and do something that is directly important to the nation’s defense.
Smith works on a software team with a mission of providing operational flight program groups a way to test, develop and debug software for fighter jets, specifically the A-10.
“We build test stands which are essentially aircraft replicas with additional hardware and software for testing purposes,” he said. “With these test stands, we have our own custom software that we use to simulate and emulate the avionics equipment of the airplane. This allows us to run the aircraft equipment in dynamic, simulated flight and allows us to verify that the software does what it is designed to do.”
He said the job is challenging, yet rewarding.
“I really like what I do,” Smith said. “I am constantly learning new things and different ways of writing more efficient code. I’m challenged every day. I feel like I’m way better now than when I first joined the team.”
Smith said he encourages others in the field to consider becoming a civilian computer scientist for the Air Force, as there are many jobs needing to be filled.
“No matter your background, if you have the desire and passion to do this type of work then Hill Air Force Base has jobs available,” he said.
The software team at Hill is rapidly growing, with the base expecting to hire more than 150 computer scientists and engineers each year for the next five years. To be considered for employment, send a copy of your resume and unofficial transcripts to 309SMXG.firstname.lastname@example.org.