Face of Defense: Guardsman Selected for West Point
By Army 1st Lt. Avery P. Schneider
12th Public Affairs Detachment
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait, Dec. 5, 2012 New York Army National Guardsman Spc. Erin Colburn has been selected for admission to the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
Army Spc. Erin Colburn, an intelligence analyst with the New York Army National Guard’s 27th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, receives a letter of conditional acceptance to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., from Lt. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commanding general of 3rd Army/Army Central. Colburn plans to study geospatial intelligence and she is slated to begin her career at West Point in July 2013. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alexander Neely
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Colburn, a member of the 27th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, is currently deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. She began her military career in September 2009, when she was just 17 years old. Her parents, Bonnie and Darrell Colburn, signed a waiver for her to enlist in the National Guard.
“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,” Colburn’s mother said.
Colburn said part of her decision 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.”
Colburn had 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, and completed training in January 2011, quickly followed by her first drill with the 27th BSTB in Buffalo, N.Y., in April 2011.
She was assigned to the intelligence section, where she began working under the battalion’s intelligence officer, Capt. Jessica Jurj.
“[Colburn] quickly demonstrated an exceptional ability to multitask, to take charge, and a good leadership quality,” Jurj said. “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.”
The unit was selected for a December 2011 deployment to Afghanistan, but was then redirected to deploy to Kuwait in January 2012. Although Colburn had aspirations to become an officer, she postponed them in order to support the deployment.
In October 2011, during the battalion’s three-week, pre-deployment training, Colburn was given 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 its mission at Camp Patriot, Jurj assigned Colburn to be the acting noncommissioned officer in charge of the 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,” Jurj said. “The great thing about Spc. Colburn is that she operates with little guidance. The biggest thing, too, is she seeks that challenge … she looks forward to [it].”
In September 2012, after six months in Kuwait, Colburn received an email from Maj. Brian Wire, the National Guard liaison for the United States Military Academy’s soldier admissions. The email included information about a special program for the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, in which 85 seats are set aside annually for soldiers to go to West Point.
Colburn applied to the academy, and 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. On Oct. 27, aboard the Army’s Logistics Support Vessel Maj. Gen. Robert Smalls, Colburn was presented with a letter of conditional acceptance to West Point by Lt. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, Commanding General of 3rd Army/Army Central, and a graduate of the academy, himself.
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 Dec. 8.
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.
Colburn plans to study geospatial intelligence, and she is slated to begin her career at West Point in July 2013.