PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- A new chapter in developing and educating world-class armament engineers and scientists took place here Sept. 10th when eight students were recognized during the Armament Graduate School’s first commencement ceremony.

The school is unique: No other graduate school science and engineering curriculum is known to exist specifically to address armaments. Armament Graduate School course titles include esoteric topics such as “Gun-Hardened Electronics and Components,” “Warheads & Fuzing,” and “Lethality Analysis and War Gaming.”

The Armament Graduate School is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny, whose mission is to empower, unburden, and protect the Warfighter by providing superior armaments solutions that dominate the battlefield. The center reports to the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, or RDECOM.

“Our mission is critical to the nation, and so is growing our workforce,” said John F. Hedderich III, director of ARDEC. “We are developing this unique school and curriculum to grow our workforce so that we can help our nation face very complex future defense challenges.”

“We have to win in a complex world and we have to protect what is our vital interest,” said commencement keynote speaker Maj. Gen. John F. Wharton, RDECOM Commanding General.

“And now we have enemies and adversaries that are more elusive and adaptive than ever,” Wharton told the graduates. “So the work that you do has to give us that decisive edge and overmatch that we’ll need now and into the future.” 

Graduate Tomas "Tom" Bober, a weapons systems analyst, said he enrolled in the Armaments Engineering program for the challenge.

“I signed up because Don Carlucci (the chancellor) said it was going to be the hardest thing you’re ever gonna do, and I really wanted to try the challenge and try to succeed,” Bober said.

“True to his word, Don made this as hard as possible and as rigorous as possible. More than anything, I’ve learned a whole lot that I can apply to my daily job that I couldn’t with the other degrees,” said Bober.

This is Bober’s third master’s degree. He also holds an undergraduate degree in applied math and computer science, a master’s in computer science and another master’s in mechanical engineering.

“This was the hardest one by far and the most applied by far,” he said of his recently earned Armaments Engineering degree.

“Things that were being taught in class could actually be directly applied to my daily job,” Bober continued. “And it’s things that I never knew I needed. And then, when I’m in a meeting or presented a problem that I probably wouldn’t be able to solve without these courses, I can get it done rather quickly rather struggling through text books.”

The school’s faculty includes 28 Ph.Ds from the ARDEC workforce at Picatinny Arsenal and Watervliet Arsenal, many who have distinguished themselves with articles published in peer-reviewed technical journals and through patents earned for the U.S. Army. 

Work began on the Armament Graduate School in 2009. In 2010 the first curriculum was developed. The purpose was to formalize the development of engineers’ and scientists’ critical skills, a process that has occurred at Picatinny primarily through mentoring.

“It takes five to seven years right out of college or university, plus mentoring, for an engineer or scientist to obtain valuable expertise specific to armaments,” said Dr. Carlucci. “Over the next 10 years more than 40 percent of our skilled workforce at Picatinny will be eligible to retire, so to us, learning has a certain urgency.”

“Armament Graduate School will shorten the timeline to about two years so the students can return more quickly to armaments work and ARDEC can retain the institutional knowledge of our retiring workforce and continue growing our competencies,” said Carlucci.