|BAGHDAD, June 27, 2007 — Standing in front of roughly 200 soldiers from 603rd Aviation Support Battalion May 17, 2007, at Camp Buering, Kuwait, a slim female figure raises her voice for quiet.
Beside her, butcher paper is covered with phonetically spelled Arabic words. The class on Arabic language, history and culture is about to begin, and 2nd Lt. Heather Wilson, military intelligence officer for the 603rd ASB, Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, wants to make sure everyone hears what she has to say.
“My hope is that every soldier, every small interaction, can be a positive one,” she said about the purpose behind her class. “I think that it’s so important to learn the culture when you go to that country.”
Learning, say soldiers working with Wilson, is something at which she excels. Already, they say, Wilson shows remarkable promise as an officer and a leader through hard work, high initiative and a stick-to-it quality rarely seen in young officers.
“She’s great,” said Sgt. Kelvin Cooley, 603rd ASB military intelligence non-commissioned officer in charge. “I mean, she’s really willing to learn.”
One example is learning the Arabic language itself, said Cooley. After taking an Arabic college class, Wilson began studying Arabic on her own time and can be found at her desk with an Arabic language primer developing her skills in this difficult language on many nights.
“She’s really dedicated and always willing to learn and she takes initiative,” said Cooley. “Arabic is probably one of the hardest languages to learn beside Farsi or Urdu.”
Despite being described as a dedicated military intelligence officer, Wilson’s varied life didn’t necessarily point to that vocation.
Mostly raised in Lusby, Md., Wilson didn’t set out to become an Army intelligence officer.
“Actually, I wanted to be an astronaut, as cheesy as that sounds,” she said.
As a small child she lived near Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center. A tour of the complex hooked her on the concept of flying in space and piloting in general.
“Later I re-evaluated my skills and how clumsy I was,” she joked. “Five concussions later, I decided that I shouldn’t be a pilot.”
The intrepid young girl turned to art, only to become a professional painter as a pre-teen. Completing her first oil painting at 12, Wilson entered it into several art shows where she won honorable mentions and notoriety.
After selling several paintings locally, Wilson, who was 16 and attending Patuxent High School in Maryland, tired of the art business and retired as a professional painter. Creating art wasn’t challenging enough, she said, and she was looking for something that tested her limits.
Wilson attended college at Colorado State University at Fort Collins, Colo. The first of her family to go to college, she set her sights on the Army and, specifically, being a military intelligence officer. Both of her parents were enlisted in the Navy, said Wilson, but that isn’t why she wanted to become an Army officer.
She wanted to be an Army officer because it seemed like it would be as much of a challenge as she could handle.
“I love that the Army is hard for me. I love that,” she said. “You definitely learn your limits.”
Lt. Col. Adrian Farrall, commander, 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd CAB, was Wilson’s battalion commander in the military science course at Colorado State and remembers a remarkable young cadet who thrived on challenges.
“She was a great student and a great cadet,” he said. “She took a full course load and her cadet work, but she was more than able to deal with it.”
On top of coursework and cadet studies, Wilson volunteered as a sexual assault and rape counselor at the school.