East Aurora New York National Guard Soldier Erin Colburn Accepted to West Point
Soldier was notified of her acceptance while serving in Kuwait
CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT (12/05/2012)(readMedia)-- New York Army National Guard Spc. Erin Colburn, an East Aurora N.Y., resident, has been selected for admission to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Colburn, who joined the New York Army National Guard at age 17 in 2009, was deployed in Kuwait with the 27th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, when she was informed of her selection.
Colburn, the daughter of Bonnie and Darrell Colburn of Marilla, N. Y, was presented with her letter of selection by Lt. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, Commanding General of Third Army, and a graduate of the Academy himself. The presentation took place aboard the Army's Logistics Support Vessel Maj. Gen. Robert Smalls (LSV-8) on Oct. 27.
In Kuwait Colburn served as non-commissioned officer in charge of the Camp Patriot Intelligence Section.
Colburn applied to West Point through a special program that reserves 85 seats in each class for members of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve. She applied in September and was accepted in October.
Colburn said that it's the experience she's had during her deployment, "seeing how officers and NCOs interact at different levels," that drives her to want to be an officer.
After the presentation, Colburn was featured in the filming of a "Go Army, Beat Navy" commercial, highlighting her steering the vessel as it defended against United States Navy Sailors coming up alongside the boat. The commercial is due to air during the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia on December 8.
To join the Army National Guard at age 17, Colburn had to get permission from her parents.
"We knew it was what she truly wanted to do, so we stood behind what she wanted. She's always had a very mature attitude towards her decision-making," her mother said.
Colburn said part of her choice to join the military came from a desire to help and serve others.
"I needed to find a way to give back to my community after Girl Scouts," she said. "I couldn't be a Girl Scout forever, so I joined the army," said Colburn.
She had long considered a career in journalism, but changed her focus towards the military because she wanted to experience what was going on first hand. As her father puts it, "She didn't want to report on it, but wanted to help do it."
Colburn chose to become an intelligence analyst specialist, and completed training in January 2011, quickly followed by her first drill with the 27th Brigade Support Battalion's Headquarters Company in Buffalo, N.Y. in April 2011.
She was assigned to the intelligence section, where she began working under the battalion's S-2 intelligence officer, Cpt. Jessica Jurj.
"[Colburn] quickly demonstrated an exceptional ability to multitask, to take charge, and a good leadership quality. For someone her age – at the time she was 19 – it was way above what I would expect of a Soldier with such little experience in the military," Jurj said.
The unit was sourced for deployment to Afghanistan that coming December (later changed to Kuwait in January 2012). Although Colburn had aspirations to become an officer, she postponed in order to support the deployment.
In October 2011, during the battalion's three-week, pre-deployment training, Colburn was given the the responsibility of daily intelligence gathering.
"It was the first time where I was working completely independently," she said. "I was pretty much put into a brand new environment...and I worked first shift, which is when everything happens, all by myself."
Once the battalion settled into their mission at Camp Patriot, Jurj assigned Colburn to be the acting Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the, now larger, intelligence section. In addition, she was also assigned as the physical security NCOIC for the camp.
"She, without a doubt, operates at the junior officer level," said Jurj. "The great thing about Specialist Colburn is that she operates with little guidance. The biggest thing, too, is she seeks that challenge...she looks forward to [it]."
After more than a year of working together, Jurji said that it's Colburn's character that will help her succeed the most at West Point.
"She motivates other soldiers. She's always seeking the opportunity to volunteer, help others, and take charge." Mrs. Colburn said, "She's very determined. Once she puts her mind to something, she gets it done."
All of these qualities have come in handy as Colburn has worked towards a bachelor's degree in emergency management through online courses during her deployment. Though she won't be able to complete the degree before starting at West Point, it's a step towards her long-term goal of working in emergency management and homeland security.
At home, in Marilla, there's a feeling of excitement and pride.
"[To] those we have told, it's not unbelievable that she could do it, but unbelievable that it's happening...it came as a surprise. I told her I knew she could do it if she wanted to," said Mr. Colburn.
"Erin, regardless of what she did, has always tried to do her best. I guess the people in the military have taken notice, and now she's being rewarded for it."
Colburn, who plans to study geospatial intelligence, is slated to begin her career at West Point in July 2013.
From a story by 1st LT Avery P. Schneider, 27th Brigade Special Troops Battalion New York Army National Guard.