Silver Springs resident Lindsay Haig's journey from college graduate to administrator at cutting-edge ground testing facility

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Who remembers their first "real" job? Sometimes that first work experience is one we would prefer to put behind us, but it can also lead to positive and unex¬pected outcomes.

When Arnold Engineering Development Center's (AEDC) Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9's Lindsay Haig, a 2007 grad¬uate of the University of Maryland, learned she had landed a job at AEDC's Tun¬nel 9, she had mixed feel¬ings. On one hand, she was excited, but Haig also admitted to feeling a little nervous, too.

Tunnel 9, located in Sil¬ver Spring, Md., provides aerodynamic simulation in the critical altitude regimes associated with strategic offensive missile systems, advanced defensive inter¬ceptor systems, and hyper¬sonic vehicle technology. Test customers include NASA, DARPA and a host of DoD contractors.

When Haig learned Tun¬nel 9 was managed by the Air Force, she thought the facility was part of an Air Force base. She also envisioned a large, formal and micromanaged work environment like the one parodied in the Dilbert comic strip.

Her first day on the job quickly dispelled both preconceptions.

"When I came here I saw people wearing jeans and everyone seemed laid back," Haig said, explain¬ing that Dan Marren, Tun¬nel 9's site director, also briefed her on the facility's history - how the wind tun¬nels used to be part of the larger Navy Ordnance Lab at White Oak, which was situated on a 700-acre tract of mostly rural land. The Navy connection struck a chord with her.

Coming from a Navy family, including grand¬parents and uncles, and learning that her coworkers were a small, close-knit group, Haig said any ap¬prehension she had initially felt was gone on her first day. Pleased to have her "foot in the door, doing administrative work," she soon was taking on more responsibilities.

Marren said finding em¬ployees who fit well into Tunnel 9's work environ¬ment can prove challeng¬ing.

"At White Oak, being 700 miles from the main base in Tennessee, means we have to do most things on our own - this creates a need for people who can adapt," he said. "We look for folks who are versa¬tile, flexible and have a hospitality focus.

Lindsay fit right into the Tunnel 9 environment from day one."

Haig is often the first person a potential visitor contacts or sees at Tunnel 9 - it is her responsibil¬ity to initiate the security screening process for any¬one wanting to visit the facility.

"We have to make sure they are U.S. citizens or they can't get through the gate," she explained, add¬ing that she also is the site director's secretary.

More recently, Mar¬ren got her involved with LabQuest, an alliance of local businesses, elected officials, economic devel¬opment partners and resi¬dents who have supported the Naval Ordnance Lab (NOL) in the past and are supportive of Tunnel 9 and the Federal Research Cen¬ter, housed in a complex still under construction on land formerly occupied by the NOL - in the residents' "back yard."

"Recently, I took on this new job to get the tours together, get the badges done and get everything organized," she said. "I've met countless Maryland delegates, senators and congressmen - that's been exciting, but you have to do your research before they show up."

Marren said maintaining positive ties between Tun¬nel 9 and the community is an important job requiring certain social skills.

"Working closely with the community and other stakeholders at the Federal Research Center requires a personal touch," he ex¬plained. "Being a good neighbor is critical to get¬ting our mission accom¬plished. Having a consis¬tent face, besides mine, that can represent the Air Force well and follow through is important and Lindsay took to that role splendidly. I can't be everywhere all the time, and knowing that AEDC will be well repre¬sented is a great comfort."

Haig said she has thor¬oughly enjoyed the whole experience and it has her considering pursuing a ca¬reer in public affairs.

"I love psychology, too - that still interests me, but I have a friend who is in mass communications," she said, admitting be¬ing torn between the two fields.

When Haig isn't busy with arranging tours of Tunnel 9 or screening visi¬tors and handling other var¬ious administrative duties, she spends time as a vol¬unteer at the Montgomery Humane Society. She also enjoys fishing, jet skiing and sports in general.