USAMMC-E senior enlisted leader lives Army motto to ‘Be All You Can Be’

By C.J. LovelaceApril 11, 2023

Promotion ceremony
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Col. Deon Maxwell, left, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Europe, shakes hands with Sgt. Maj. Andrew Colburn to congratulate him on his promotion March 3, 2023, at USAMMC-E in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Colburn serves as senior enlisted adviser to the organization. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
Pinning SGM
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The children of Sgt. Maj. Andrew Colburn affix his new rank to his jacket sleeves during a ceremony to promote the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Europe’s senior enlisted adviser to the rank of sergeant major March 3, 2023, at USAMMC-E in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Also pictured is USAMMC-E Commander Col. Deon Maxwell. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – In the early 2000s, U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Andrew Colburn got some great news, although it didn’t feel that way initially.

He was getting laid off from his factory job at a machine shop in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.

“It was a good job and things were going great. It was paying for school at the time, but the economy started to crash and certain things like that started to go down,” he said. “When I got laid off, I could no longer afford school.

“It seemed like I was kind of stuck, so I ended up looking to the military.”

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, Colburn chose to enlist. It turned out to be a watershed moment for the then-20-year-old, jumpstarting his education and future career as a medical noncommissioned officer.

Now with over 20 years of service, Colburn, 41, who was promoted to the rank of sergeant major March 1, currently serves as the senior enlisted adviser at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Europe, a direct reporting unit to Army Medical Logistics Command.

USAMMC-E Commander Col. Deon Maxwell said Colburn is a “phenomenal father, adviser and battle buddy,” whose ability to provide for his children while taking care of the needs of the formation “has been very impressive.”

“His dedication to leader development is making a tremendous impact on our NCO and Soldier population,” Maxwell said. “He is without question the right senior enlisted adviser at the right time for Team USAMMC-E.”

Colburn began his career in 2003 as a combat medic with the 168th Medical Battalion at Camp Humphreys, Korea. From there, he joined C Company, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airbourne Division, where he completed two tours in Iraq.

“I loved joining the Army,” he said, reflecting on his early years of service. “I didn’t have kids or anything at the time, so the 18-month deployments I was just fine with. I even stayed a little longer to help the new unit come in and get set up.”

During his deployments, Colburn said he started to mature as a Soldier and really started to enjoy his role on the team.

“I liked running around and doing all I could to support,” he said, “whether that was running supplies or doing door-kicking missions and stuff like that with different infantry units. But then, all of a sudden, I swapped over to the medical side of the house and started working in hardstand facilities.”

Colburn said it was an eye-opening experience when he moved over to health care delivery in medical treatment facilities. He saw many opportunities and experiences that would translate over to the civilian sector after his service.

“You could easily make a whole career out of it,” he said.

In the years that followed, the deployments slowed down and Colburn decided to go back to school.

However, he no longer planned to pursue a degree in engineering like he had prior to joining the military. He wanted to learn the business of health care.

“That lit the fire, completely,” said Colburn, who in 2009 earned his Bachelor of Science degree in health sciences from Trident University, while serving at an Army health clinic in Germany.

Following his time overseas, Colburn reported to Fort Drum in New York and continued to serve in different health care settings. Later, he joined the staff at the 10th Mountain Division, serving as the division surgeon cell’s operations NCO and then as surgeon sergeant major.

It was during his time at Fort Drum that Colburn, then a master sergeant, first crossed paths with current AMLC Sgt. Maj. Akram Shaheed, who said he knew even back then that Colburn had the potential to continue rising through the enlisted ranks.

“Any task he was given, he handled with little effort,” Shaheed said. “His performance was well above what I expected from a master sergeant. He understood the power of relationships and would often make things happen for the organization through networking.”

With education continuing to be a central theme in Colburn’s career, he completed a second bachelor’s degree in leadership and workforce development from the Sergeant Major Academy in Fort Bliss, Texas. Additionally, Colburn completed all levels of the NCO academies and Observer Controller Academy, as well as Battle Staff, SHARP and Equal Opportunity courses.

Solidifying his recent promotion, Colburn graduated with Class 72 of the Sergeants Major Course at Fort Bliss in June 2022.

Colburn then started another new chapter a few months later when he joined USAMMC-E, where he took on the challenge of learning another new role in the medical field.

“This is my first time working in logistics,” he said. “I was a bit nervous at first. I’d ran medical support for ammo and fuel in the past, but that’s nothing like the work we do at USAMMC-E. Being a medical logistician is really an underappreciated job.

“It’s an absolute necessity,” Colburn said of medical logistics. “Everything stops if you don’t have it.”

Colburn said he’s enjoyed his time serving at USAMMC-E, adding that he measures his impact on the organization by how he’s helping to develop Soldiers and future leaders.

His work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“Sgt. Maj. Colburn is doing an outstanding job as the senior enlisted adviser at USAMMC-E,” Shaheed said. “He has been the motivational force that team has needed. For AMLC as a whole, he is a valued and dependable leader who is willing to do what it takes to get the job done.”

Looking back on the past two decades, Colburn encouraged all younger Soldiers to take advantage of the educational and certification programs offered by the Army to build a solid base for a rewarding career – both while serving in the military and as a civilian in the future.

“You have to build that education to be competitive on the outside; you just have to,” he said. “If you build yourself the right way while you’re serving, you will be able to set yourself up for success.”

The Army tagline “Be All You Can Be” may sound cliché, Colburn said, but it still rings true today.

“I’m not sure people truly understand when they’re being recruited … It just sounds like a catchy phrase, but it really means what it says,” he said. “You can be all you can be.”