W. Gabe Powell is not your typical geospatial sciences student. With more than 10 years experience in the U.S. Army and a first-time teaching job at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (USMA) lined up for 2016, Powell—a 2014 USGIF scholarship recipient—has accomplished much in his career thus far.
Powell has even set out to achieve his third master’s degree in geology from the University of Mississippi. His first master’s degree is in agriculture with a focus in weed science from Mississippi State University. His second, that he received a 2007 USGIF scholarship while pursuing, is in public administration with a focus in urban and environmental planning from Texas State University at San Marcos.
“It is exciting to see how my three fields of focus are all interconnected at both macro and micro levels,” Powell said. “Understanding these relationships and the geospatial technologies that can solve problems for all of them give me a skill set that will allow me to contribute significantly to the Intelligence Community, the USMA, and the soldiers and citizens I work so hard to protect.”
Powell’s military career is focused in applied and tactical intelligence. Since enlisting in the U.S. Army in 2004, Powell has completed missions in humanitarian relief, counterterrorism, and nuclear response.
He was deployed to Iraq from 2006 to 2007, where he served as a member of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. Additionally, he served in Afghanistan from 2011-2012 as an ISR collection manager for the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, applying geospatial technologies in support of the War on Terror.
Powell said one of his most intense military assignments to date was most recently, when he served as a senior intelligence officer for the Defense Chemical, Biological, Nuclear, and Radiological (CBRN) Response Force. In this role, he focused on saving lives and mitigating human suffering in worst-case scenarios. Powell recalled responding to a simulated nuclear detonation in the U.S., during which he and a team assessed the freshwater supply using LiDAR data to model the water storage capacity of the affected area.
“Gabe is an exceptionally competent professional whose unparalleled judgment and work ethic will benefit any organization to which he calls home,” Dr. Greg Easson, director and professor of the University of Mississippi’s Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute, wrote in a letter of recommendation to the USGIF Scholarship Committee.
Powell is in the process of completing his geology master’s degree thesis, which studies the use of synthetic aperture radar data to evaluate changes in the land surface in relation to the Louisiana and Mississippi Interior Salt Basins and the Bayou Corne sinkhole in Assumption Parish, La.
Upon completion of his geology degree, Powell will teach geospatial information science at USMA beginning in 2016.
“Teaching is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Powell said. “West Point allows you to influence the best and brightest futures of our nation. As such, it is an excellent platform to preach the benefits of geospatial technology.”