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WEST POINTERS - THE JOURNEY CONTINUES


THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

- grads beyond west point -


THE JOURNEY CONTINUES is an ongoing series highlighting recent graduates of the United States Military Academy. It focuses on each graduates individual branch selection and what each officer/grad has learned from their West Point experience. Join us as we explore the unique journeys that started with the simple act of filling out an application and that will last a lifetime.



ADJUTANT GENERAL


TAYLOR GAFF

USMA 2018



What is your branch?

Adjutant General (AG), but transitioning to Civil Affairs

What year did you graduate West Point?

2018


What was your major?

Management (link to curriculum)


What is your day to day life in your branch?

We start every morning with the most important activity we do all day—physical training (PT). After PT I start most days with a Calendar Sync meeting with my Battalion Commander, Command Sergeant Major, Executive Officer, and S3 (Operations) Officer. My shop then compiles the Personnel Status Reports from subordinate units and assesses the reports. In the morning or afternoon, depending on the day, we have rotational customer service hours, in which Soldiers can come in to correct pay issues, record issues, etc. After lunch, we process actions such as inquiries, record updates, awards, leave, evaluations, meal cards, promotions/reductions, postal and casualty operations etc.


How is your branch rewarding?

My branch is rewarding because I get to meet and interact with Soldiers every single day. I also get to help these Soldiers, knowing at the end of the day that they are in a better place either professionally or personally because of my and my shop’s actions. Sometimes there are extreme circumstances that require extraordinary personnel actions that are not so black and white. Being able to think critically and analyze the problem set enables Human Resource Professionals to solve issues swiftly and effectively.


What Army offered continuing advanced education have you used / do you plan to use?

I plan on utilizing the Advanced Civil Schooling program to obtain my Master’s Degree. It is an amazing program that allows Army Officers to attend graduate school as a “civilian” while still getting paid as a full time Officer. The additional service obligation is three days for every one day spent in school. I do not know where I would like to go to grad school just yet but am leaning towards an MBA – Operations Management.


What do you do in your time off work (work/life balance, have you taken advantage of free / low cost flights, family and recreation programs, etc.)?

I am a self-proclaimed baker and spend the majority of my free time experimenting with new recipes for cakes, pastries, and cookies. I look forward to sharing my baked goods with my Soldiers and can always count on them to give me an honest assessment. I also enjoy working out, golfing, hiking, reading, and visiting my sister, Alex (CPT, FA, Class of 2015) in Hawaii whenever I get the chance to take leave. I have participated in Post Intramurals at every duty station I have been at, softball in particular. I also volunteer my time and baking skills on the weekends to Brookwood in Georgetown, a non profit community for adults with special needs and functional disabilities.


How many of your friends or mentors from West Point have you stayed in touch with?

My closest friends are those I made while at West Point. I talk daily to a handful of my classmates and we try to meet up as much as we can throughout the year. I have also kept in contact with 2-3 mentors from school. I look to them for professional and personal advice on a regular basis and am fortunate to have such successful leaders in my life.


What mentor or mentor-like figure has helped you the most, and how?

My last boss, Battalion Executive Officer, MAJ Joshua Schulz, has mentored me the most since I have been in the Army and has served as my greatest mentor. He trusted in my abilities and my judgments enough to let me live up to my potential in terms of advising my Command Team and supporting their initiatives from an HR standpoint. He was not a micromanager, he encouraged me to take smart, calculated risks, and was concerned with the actual status of the unit and not just getting the slide to green for the higher headquarters. He encouraged me to take leaps of faith, to remember to invest time back into myself, and how to outwork everybody else to get what I wanted while remaining grounded, humble and maintaining my moral compass. I could not have asked for a better person to work for and with.




Visit WestPoint.edu/admissions to apply to the U.S. Military Academy, or to learn more about what it takes to join the Long Gray Line and become a leader of character as a West Point Cadet.



TRANSPORTATION CORPS



WILLIAM WILSON

USMA 2018



What is your branch?

Transportation Corps

What year did you graduate West Point?

2018

What was your major?

Business Management (link to curriculum)

How do you use what you learned?

I think my major was fairly applicable to my field, as I now get to plan and work logistics for the Army, which has allowed me to see some of the “business side” of operations, and allowed me to work with civilian organizations and sister branches of the military.


What is your favorite part about being in your branch?

My branch has allowed me to travel to a ton of different places. Being in a unique brigade, 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), I have gotten to participate in many exercises that are very atypical for other Soldiers/Officers, even within the Transportation Branch.


What is your day to day life in your branch?

As a platoon leader (where I spent 18 months and completed deployment while in this position) my day to day life was a lot of planning for training, putting out “fires” that always pop up, taking care of Soldiers, and planning for our role in exercises such as convoys, rail/vessel/aircraft loading operations, or field exercises. Currently I work as the deputy BDE S4 (Brigade Logistics Officer), which brings new challenges every day. I manage our brigade’s contracting, oversee maintenance, supply and property, food services, government purchase card programs, and exercise logistics planning.


What is the most memorable moment you've in your branch?

Definitely the surreal moment of being given a no-notice deployment notification in early 2020 (and being the unit movement officer for that, which was definitely “memorable” to say the least). Also, getting to be a liaison officer at a small camp in Kingdom of Saudia Arabia during that deployment.


How many of your friends or mentors from West Point have you stayed in touch with?

I have stayed in touch with a great deal of my friends from West Point. My two roommates were my groomsmen in my wedding (2% club for the win), and I have been/am going to be a groomsman in each of their weddings. I have also kept in touch with a couple of my mentors from USMA and BOLC.




Visit WestPoint.edu/admissions to apply to the U.S. Military Academy, or to learn more about what it takes to join the Long Gray Line and become a leader of character as a West Point Cadet.



AIR DEFENSE ARTILLERY



LAUREN KARBLER

USMA 2020




What is your branch?

Air Defense Artillery

What year did you graduate West Point?

2020


What was your major?

English (link to curriculum)


Where has it taken you (travel), and where is your home now?

I was deployed overseas to Jordan and Kuwait, and am currently stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.


How do you use what you learned?

My major at school definitely helped in my ability to think critically, articulate, and communicate with my Soldiers effectively.


At what point did you decide you were going to branch Air Defense?

When I started I wanted to branch aviation, but at the end of my Yearling year I saw my then boyfriend (now husband) going through flight school and thought… yeah, not for me. Air Defense was always a close second because of its strategic relevancy and the leadership opportunities it provides.


What is your favorite part about being in your branch?

The opportunity I had to deploy and the responsibility I immediately saw that I held as a second lieutenant are some of my favorite parts of being in Air Defense. After my certifications, I held the responsibility of defending strategic assets where we were deployed. I love the fact that as a brand new Air Defense Officer, I was able to see the impact of my job, my training implemented in real-world situations, and how the decisions I made played a critical role in the overall mission I was a part of overseas.


How is your branch rewarding?

Being able to serve as a Platoon Leader over deployment and getting to know about my Soldiers and my job in that environment was extremely rewarding.


How many of your friends or mentors from West Point have you stayed in touch with?

I still talk to my friends from West Point almost daily. They were truly the best part of my time at school. I've also stayed in touch with a good amount of my mentors from West Point as well. I ran into my PL300 teacher in Kuwait and one of the Air Defense branch reps currently serves in the same Battalion as me.






Visit WestPoint.edu/admissions to apply to the U.S. Military Academy, or to learn more about what it takes to join the Long Gray Line and become a leader of character as a West Point Cadet.



ORDNANCE CORPS


COURTNEY SMITH

USMA 2018





What is your branch?

Signal Corps

Where has it taken you (travel), and where is your home now? Travel: 1. Fort Bragg, NC 2. Fort Polk, LA

From: Penns Grove, NJ Currently Live: Highland Falls, NY

What year did you graduate West Point?

2018

What was your major?

Systems Engineering

How do you use what you learned?

I use my undergrad to increase any system or organization’s overall optimization and readiness. I also use my undergrad skills to apply interdisciplinary knowledge to any project or managerial role I partake in. I use the skills I learned from my branch to lead, motivate, and inspire Soldiers and their Families to become the best Signal Corps Soldiers they possibly can be. I’ve gained a ton of signal technical, tactical, and strategic knowledge from leaders, mentors, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, junior enlisted Soldiers, government contractors, and DoD civilians. I used my top secret security clearance to conduct strategic and tactical operations dealing with controlled unclassified, classified, and top secret operations that has improved the readiness and capabilities of several Army organizations abroad and on home station.


What other activities were you involved in?

D1 Track & Field, D1 Women’s Rugby

When you started, what did you want to branch?

Initially, I wanted to branch Engineers, but I rethought this decision and wanted to branch Signal Corps instead to increase and enhance my career path into the world of information technology, cybersecurity, network systems engineering, and software engineering.

At what point did you decide you were going to branch Signal Corps?

I decided during my Firstie (senior) year Branch Week after talking to the Signal Corps representatives.

What is your favorite part about being in your branch?

I love leading Soldiers who possess the knowledge to man, maintain, and troubleshoot the Army network. I have been blessed to work with some of the Army most intelligent Soldiers and Paratroopers. In addition, I admire the technical knowledge that you develop over time to give key leaders the capability to communicate on and off the battlefield.

What is your day to day life in your branch?

As a Lieutenant in the Signal Corps, I was a Platoon Leader solely responsible for the health, welfare, and readiness of the Soldiers in my platoon. Weekly, I would plan signal training and validation exercises by testing all of our equipment to ensure it was ready for any upper echelon missions.

What is the most memorable moment you've in your branch?

The most memorable moment for me was continuously learning more and more about my equipment and its capabilities from the non-commissioned officers and Soldiers in my platoon. Knowing your equipment is vital to all missions.

How is your branch rewarding?

My branch offers a variety of opportunities to increase my tactical, strategic, and technical knowledge. My position requires me to have a top secret security clearance to help secure the Army network. In addition, opportunities such as training with industry corporations (Microsoft, Cisco, etc.) and lining myself up to obtain my Master’s Degree fully funded from the Army is the next way ahead for me. Since every duty station in the Army requires a Signal support element, I can literally be located and stationed almost anywhere in the world which is a plus.

What Army offered continuing advanced education have you used / do you plan to use?

The Army offered me to obtain industry IT certifications, a Master’s Degree, and eventually my Ph.D. degree. It has also granted me the opportunity to go to Airborne School to become airborne qualified to parachute out of planes. I have also been qualified on several positions outside of my normal signal position to help aid with the overall mission success of the organizations within the Army that I have partaken in.

What do you do in your time off work (work/life balance, have you taken advantage of free / low cost flights, family and recreation programs, etc.)?

Outside of work, I used the opportunity to travel to see family, friends, and the rest of the world. I have also used this time to conduct self-study in information technology as well as partake in my hobbies of snowboarding, reading, and running.

How many of your friends or mentors from West Point have you stayed in touch with?

I’ve stayed in touch with every single one of them, and they have given me the best insight that I could possibly ever ask for.

What mentor or mentor-like figure has helped you the most, and how?

Colonel Ricardo Morales has helped me the most. He has taken me under his wing and taught me what I needed to know to be a successful leader and mentor. I aspire to be just like him one day.





Visit WestPoint.edu/admissions to apply to the U.S. Military Academy, or to learn more about what it takes to join the Long Gray Line and become a leader of character as a West Point Cadet.



ORDNANCE CORPS


MARAE KALIAN

USMA 2018



What is your branch? Ordinance with Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), MOS: 89E


Where has it taken you (travel), and where is your home now? I did BOLC at FT Lee, VA, EOD School at EGLIN AFB in Niceville/Destin, FL, and I am currently at FT Carson, CO. However, in EOD, we do Very Important Person (VIP) mission support where we travel where the POTUS, VPOTUS, etc travel. So far, I have been to the Mar a Lago in West Palm Beach, FL, Detroit, Michigan (I cleared the runway for Air Force 1), and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


What year did you graduate West Point? 2018


What was your major? Business Management, Civil Engineering Track


How do you use what you learned? In general, West Point provided me with a ton of leadership skills. However, my major taught me how to manage in all aspects. Classes like Human Resource Management taught me how to best manage people and what helps employees to feel appreciated, help them be more productive, and how to be a good boss. Operations Management taught me how to operate smoothly and understand how things run, which is extremely helpful as the current XO/Operations OIC of my company.


What other activities were you involved in? I played rugby my first two years, was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa (honors fraternity), and helped plan the Special Olympics for the Hudson Valley.


When you started, what did you want to branch? Aviation or AG, but I couldn’t get LASIK and after I learned more about AG, I lost interest in it.


At what point did you decide you were going to branch Ordnance? During CTLT, the 2LT I shadowed was able to get me into different branches that her friends were a part of. I visited an EOD company one day and fell in love.


What is your favorite part about being in your branch? Our mission is special. We have super close relationships because platoons have 8 personnel—including the PL and PSG. We get to blow stuff up, use the robots, and are constantly having to change and adapt to new threats. This job is never boring and I have the privilege of working with the highest caliber of Soldiers and NCOs.

What is your day to day life in your branch? Our work call is at 0930. As a PL, I’d give my guys tasks for the days (350-1 training, cleaning/preparing equipment, etc), or we’d conduct training (ranges, EOD problem sets, etc). Now, as the company’s Operations OIC, I read a lot of emails, complete a lot of spreadsheets, plan training, and coordinate with BN to ensure that everything runs smoothly. I loved being a PL, because I got to hang out with my platoon all the time, but I think being the OPS OIC is giving me a brief glimpse of my future as a Company Commander. Usually, we are off around 1530 and only work late during ranges/training (by late I mean 1700/1800).


What is the most memorable moment you've in your branch? The first time I got to use C4 and TNT and set it up for a demolition shot. It was AWESOME. The instructors at EOD school handed each of us a block of C4, 1 stick of TNT, some det cord, time fuse and ignitors. We all went down and set up our shots and then pulled them and ran back to our safe area to wait for them to go off. Then, one by one, each lane’s shot went off and it was so cool to finally do something EOD related because mostly everything we had done was in the classroom up to this point. It was such an adrenaline rush to watch my shot go off and see that I was finally doing what I had chosen to do.


How is your branch rewarding? The job is not only cool, but the relationships we build in EOD are for a lifetime. We are all so close and I know that I can count on anyone in my company and vice versa. We have a ton of fun, work hard when we need to, and are all driven to be successful.


What Army offered continuing advanced education have you used / do you plan to use? I want to go back to West Point and teach in BS&L (my department) after I complete company command. That would require me to get my MBA, which I am hoping to do at Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg, or MIT. If that doesn’t work out, I would consider becoming a warrant and going to flight school.


What do you do in your time off work (work/life balance, have you taken advantage of free / low cost flights, family and recreation programs, etc.)? I love to spend my time working out, hiking, camping, cooking/bbqing, skiing/snowboarding, spending time with my cat and dog, and just enjoying the outdoors of Colorado. EOD is really good about not running its people into the ground. I live downtown in Colorado Springs, so all the cool restaurants are right out my front door. Outdoor Rec is awesome. I’ve rented mountain bikes from them and the prices are amazing. In general, they have everything you could need to rent for an outdoor adventure.


How many of your friends or mentors from West Point have you stayed in touch with? I say in touch with 6 of my instructors/mentors and all of my closest friends. The relationships you build at USMA are unbeatable. You go through so much together and your instructors/mentors are so caring/attentive. You cannot get that anywhere else.


What mentor or mentor-like figure has helped you the most, and how? MAJ Sandra Jackson and Dr. Lissa Young (still teaches in BS&L). I got in trouble my Cow year and both of these ladies developed and mentored me. They never gave up on me, supported me, and helped me through one of the toughest, most challenging, times of my life.



Visit WestPoint.edu/admissions to apply to the U.S. Military Academy, or to learn more about what it takes to join the Long Gray Line and become a leader of character as a West Point Cadet.


CYBER


JINNY YAN

USMA 2016



Q&A


What is your branch? Cyber


What year did you graduate West Point? 2016


What was your major? Double major in Computer Science and Chinese Language and Literature

What is your favorite part about being in your branch? The community is very tight and encouraging. Members of the branch make time for learning during and outside of work hours and encourage others to pursue excellence in everything they do.


What is the most memorable moment you've had in your branch? My opportunity to deploy overseas as a member of the Expeditional Cyber Team, serving as the team's on-ground tool developer. During this experience, I received fantastic mentorship from senior officers across multiple branches, learned about how Cyber fits into the greater picture, and made friends for life.


What Army offered continuing advanced education have you used / do you plan to use? The Army sent me to receive my Master's in Computer Science at Northeastern University and MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Boston immediately upon graduation at West Point.




How many of your friends or mentors from West Point have you stayed in touch with? Some of my closest friends have come from my time at West Point. I am so proud of what they have accomplished all over the Army. I have friends in the Aviation, Military Intelligence, Infantry, Engineer branches who I talk to on a weekly basis.


What mentor or mentor-like figure has helped you the most, and how? Dr. Suzanne Matthews, professor in the EECS (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) department was a top mentor for me as a cadet. Not only did she teach me, but she was also my academic advisor and helped with my academic plan so that I was able to successfully complete my two majors as well as attend a semester abroad in Taiwan. Colonel Christa Chewar (EECS - Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) and Colonel Eugene Gregory (DFL - Department of Foreign Languages) were also instrumental to my success as a cadet as my respective department liaisons.




Visit WestPoint.edu/admissions to apply to the U.S. Military Academy, or to learn more about what it takes to join the Long Gray Line and become a leader of character as a West Point Cadet.




INFANTRY -> SIGNAL CORPS


BRANDON CROMWELL

USMA 2018


Q&A


Brandon Cromwell

What is your branch?

Infantry Branch - Detail Signal Corps

Officers serve the first 3-4 years in a branch of their choice and then transition to a different branch of their choice for the remainder of their service obligation.

What year did you graduate West Point?

2018

What was your major?

Business Management (link to curriculum)

How do you use what you learned?

I use the coding that I learned in Excel, investment knowledge I learned in Managerial Finance, and how to effectively work with others in a work environment and how to motivate others to work hard, which I learned in Marketing.


What other activities were you involved in?

  • Football Manager (4 years)

  • Cultural Affairs Seminar Member (4 years)

  • Honor Rep ( COW Year – C1)

  • Activities Officer (Firstie Year – E3)



What is your favorite part about being in your branch?

Being a Platoon Leader throughout TRX (total resistance exercises) and learning a wealth of knowledge from my NCOs (non commissioned officers).


What is the most memorable moment you’ve had in your branch?

When my platoon received the Best Platoon Award for Team / Squad / Platoon LFX (live fire exercise).


How is your branch rewarding?

It’s rewarding to be able to directly influence and affect soldier’s lives for the better through memorable acts and leadership.


How many of your friends or mentors from West Point have you stayed in touch with?

I’m still in touch with all of my friends and mentors from West Point. They are some of the biggest supporters that I have.


What mentor or mentor-like figure has helped you the most, and how?

Professor Anil Mukerjee (USMA History Department) is the mentor that has helped me the most. He has known me since my 1ST Semester Plebe Year and has helped me during my most difficult times at West Point. He has also been involved in my life and making sure I’m always good. I can go to Professor Mukerjee for anything.






Visit WestPoint.edu/admissions to apply to the U.S. Military Academy, or to learn more about what it takes to join the Long Gray Line and become a leader of character as a West Point Cadet.






MILITARY INTELLIGENCE


ADELINE HENLEY

USMA 2018




Q&A


What is your branch?

Military Intelligence

What year did you graduate West Point?

2018

What was your major?

Business Management (link to curriculum)

How do you use what you learned?

Being an Officer, in itself, is a management role. You’ve got to be organized, balance competing priorities, and ensure the wellbeing of Soldiers (among endless other responsibilities). A lot of classes outside of my major have also contributed to my impact as a leader. You will re-enlist soldiers, warrant officers, and NCOs, and having learned both the officer and enlisted oaths is very beneficial. We’ve used survival swimming in multiple physical training sessions. You’ll reference Cadet Character Education Program (CCEP) discussions when you’re conducting sensing sessions, barracks checks, and group discussions. Lastly, much of the content learned in various classes, such as history and Mil Art, will drive conversations and facilitate networking with various leaders that you meet. West Point definitely sets up its graduates for success.

What is your favorite part about being in your branch?

Military Intelligence gives officers the opportunity to participate in some of the most unique jobs and attach to some of the military’s most elite units. Not only are you constantly being challenged, but you meet some of the most intelligent and driven service members. A lot of broadening opportunities are offered to lieutenants, but even more to captains that have completed their key development time. For individuals that want to transition their service to outside of the Army after their initial commitment, it is my opinion that Military Intelligence allows the easiest transition into the civilian world. Agencies and businesses are constantly recruiting individuals with security clearances and analytical experience; high demand attributes that are found in very low quantities. Talk about job security!

What is the most memorable moment you’ve had in your branch?

I’ve experienced a lot of memorable moments within my branch, but serving overseas during a contingency operation as a Human Intelligence/Counter Intelligence (HUMINT/CI) analyst was definitely the highlight of my career so far. It was incredible to be immersed in an environment that relied so heavily on military intelligence. I was lucky enough to work with various agencies and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) units, and was given the opportunity to explore what the military intelligence community has to offer.

How many of your friends or mentors from West Point have you stayed in touch with?

I don’t know the exact number, but quite a few. My two best friends graduated from West Point and were in my basic officer leader class. We talk at least once a week and I feel comfortable turning to them when I need to vent, laugh, or just talk. West Point creates an amazing network, and no matter where you go in the Army, you will always know someone.


What mentor or mentor-like figure has helped you the most, and how?

My initial first sergeant when I arrived at my current unit is the epitome of an excellent leader and as a new second lieutenant in a platoon leader slot, I required guidance and someone with experience that could answer my endless questions. When I became the executive officer, I had to work hand in hand with him on a daily basis, and I credit a large amount of my success to his wisdom and patience.





Visit WestPoint.edu/admissions to apply to the U.S. Military Academy, or to learn more about what it takes to join the Long Gray Line and become a leader of character as a West Point Cadet.





THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

- grads beyond west point -


THE JOURNEY CONTINUES is an ongoing series highlighting recent graduates of the United States Military Academy. It focuses on each graduates individual branch selection and what each officer/grad has learned from their West Point experience. Join us as we explore the unique journeys that started with the simple act of filling out an application and that will last a lifetime.


Visit WestPoint.edu/admissions to apply to the U.S. Military Academy, or to learn more about what it takes to join the Long Gray Line and become a leader of character as a West Point Cadet.