Erik Singels

“I felt there was a world of difference between mastering an application and knowing the core theories behind its proper use.”

Hometown: Eugene, Oregon
Military Service: U.S. Army, 1988-92 and 2007-2010

Degree: BS - Computer and Information Science, University of Oregon
Current Academic Pursuit: MS - GIS

Military Honors:

  • Army Achievement Medal (for setting up the defensive systems well ahead of schedule)

My Military Experience

During my first enlistment in the Army from 1988-1992, I served in Military Intelligence. I was trained in basic and advanced intermediate Russian and served as a transcriber in a listening post in Germany just as the Cold War ended.

When I re-enlisted in 2007, I was with Short Range Air Defense, where I received cross training for C-RAM (Counter- Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar) and was deployed to Iraq. My unit, teamed with U.S. Navy personnel, replaced the Phalanx gun systems that were in place before the troops we replaced left Iraq. These gun systems were designed to defend against Indirect Fire (IDF). We then manned the system, serving as a final check before fire permits were released to the guns in order to prevent the weapon systems from going off and hitting friendly equipment or personnel as they engaged incoming IDF.

Deciding on GIS

Before re-enlisting in the Army in 2007, I was working in a GIS shop. I initially started work as a surveyor when IT jobs began getting farmed overseas. I turned out to be exceptionally competent at post-processing survey data after the fieldwork was complete. From there, I began working more and more with ESRI's ArcGIS suite of applications. My IT background enabled me to quickly learn how to properly use the software, but I felt there was a world of difference between mastering an application and knowing the core theories behind its proper use. So after my second enlistment, I chose to return to school and get an appropriate degree.

My EPPS Success

I love the mental challenge and the support of the professors. I went from living an entire year in a tent in the desert to courses in Database Management Systems and Remote Sensing. That's like shifting your truck into overdrive from compound low. So I'm very grateful to the professors that address my questions during classes and office hours. They contribute to my success here.

Plans for the Future

I'm interested in space physics, astrometry and tracking near Earth orbit items. As much as I like the challenge of detailing events in a three-dimensional space on the globe, I think the added challenge of having to extrapolate positions of objects from observations made at a given time using vector data while the Earth is rotating and orbiting a sun in a solar system that is, itself, in motion ... well, you can see the challenge there.

Advice to Prospective EPPS Student Veterans

Go for it! GIS is a good career field to get into. Right now, unemployment is up pretty much across the board, so look at where the jobs are these days and then pick your field of study accordingly. If you can't spot a good supply of GIS jobs out there right now waiting for qualified applicants, choose another major. But I'm thinking you'll choose GIS after even a cursory job search. We have a bulletin board filled with internship opportunities in a hallway nearby.

Other Interests

I'm reconditioning my shoulders after surgery by practicing archery as a hobby, steadily working my way up to bows with heavier draw-weights as my shoulders heal and strengthen. So right now, you'll find me at an indoor archery range twice a week. When I get accurate enough, I intend to compete in some of the local events in North Texas. When I'm confident in my abilities, I'd like to go hunt feral hogs.