By Mike Strasser, West Point Public AffairsApril 6, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. (April 6, 2011) -- On March 29, the Engineer Regiment congratulated West Point Class of 2011 Cadet Erin Anthony on becoming the first recipient of the David M. Fraser Award for Engineering Excellence and Leadership during the 2011 Engineer Branch Send-off Dinner, hosted by the Society of American Military Engineer and the Army Engineer Association.
"I\'ve heard great things about David Fraser as a cadet and as an officer, and really can relate to him as a leader, athlete, and engineer," Anthony said. "It was terrific to have his parents and brother there for the inaugural award and having them in attendance made the night special for me. Finally, being selected to receive the Fraser Award by my peers is a great feeling."
Anthony, a civil engineering major, developed an interest in physics while in high school.
"For me, civil engineering combined the fundamental math and reasoning I loved about physics with very concrete results," Anthony said. "I love that my future profession carries so much respect, and I think to rewards of being able to look at a bridge, road, or building 20 years from now and say 'I built that,' will be forever rewarding."
Anthony said the Send-Off Dinner was the first formal event the engineer cadets experienced with their future colleagues.
"The Engineer Regiment is truly a great group of Soldiers, officers and alumni, and I think (this event) demonstrated how beneficial those connections will be for us as we move forward in our Army careers," Anthony said. "The fact that so many industry leaders sponsored the event proves the great bonds between Army Engineers past and present, and we are looking forward to developing those relationships in the coming years."
The Engineer Regiment represents the entire family of the Engineer Branch, to include active-duty, retirees, reserve and National Guard members of all ranks as well as the civilian component of the Corps of Engineers. The Send-Off Dinner is an annual gathering at West Point of the Engineer Regiment community, established in 2005, to celebrate the legacy of the Army's oldest branch as well as to welcome its newest members.
To the 138 future engineer officers from the Class of 2011, Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp provided some advice.
"We're going to be looking for two things from you. We're looking for competency out of you, and that means what you've learned here is a very important part, but you're about to get the practical application of your life. Some call that on-the-job-training and you'll see that in your very first duty assignment," Van Antwerp, the 52nd Chief of Engineers and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commanding general, said. "I really think you're prepared more than you even know coming out of here. But there's another part that we're paying you to do and that's to lead. They don't call your platoon sergeant the platoon leader for a reason, and that's because you are the platoon leader."
Van Antwerp said every leader he's known has the ability to conceptualize the road ahead for themselves and their organization.
"The second part of that is being able to persuade others to go with you," Van Antwerp said. "You'll find that many won't go with you because they resist change or something else, so this is where you have to lead. I call that having influence. Leadership, at its essence, is influence."
Van Antwerp shared his time at the podium with Lt. Col. Calvin Hudson, incoming commander of the 249th Engineer Battalion. Van Antwerp said cadets should benefit from the insight of an engineer officer who is transitioning to commander of a battalion which is doing "a lot of the heavy lifting all over the world."
"The first thing I have to do in this transition is to work on my mindset and calibrate myself just a little bit, because this is an important job," Hudson, Van Antwerp's current Aide de Camp, said. "I have to take care of the No. 1 engineer in the U.S. Army and make sure he is properly armed to do his job. I think about that drastic change of thinking about the 400 men and women serving in that battalion and how do I focus on making them successful."
Forward thinking is critical to providing that care, Hudson said, visualizing where he and the battalion should be three or four years out.
"You also need to be able to objectively assess that battalion and take them where they need to go," Hudson said. "It's also important to be in the best shape physically, spiritually and mentally I can possibly be, because I'm a leader. I need to go in full-throttle and work the hardest...because your Soldiers know, they watch you, and they'll know if you are physically fit and mentally tough. So I better be ready."
Speaking with some of the cadets prior to the dinner, Hudson asked them what they expect from their battalion commanders. Drawing little by way of response, he advised them to think on that.
"You need to have an expectation of your battalion commander, your company commander and definitely your platoon sergeants and squad leaders," Hudson said. "They can make you or break you."
West Point Class of 2011 Cadet Michael Thiesing was presented the Sapper Spirit Award from the Army Engineer Association, given to Engineer Soldiers who demonstrate mastery of all tasks during the course of instruction. Engineer Spirit is defined as demonstrating the ability to motivate others while displaying consistent and infectious enthusiasm toward mission accomplishment under demanding conditions, and being creative and ingenious when developing solutions to problems.
"Receiving the Sapper Spirit Award was a great honor, and I'm extremely grateful to the Army Engineer Association for sponsoring the award," Thiesing said. "It's nice to get to be the one to stand up in front of everybody and be recognized, but I easily could have picked a dozen of my classmates out of the audience who deserve such an award as much, if not more so, than me. None of us have made it here alone. Cooperation, especially in tough engineering courses, was absolutely essential for all of us."
For Thiesing it was originally a toss-up between studying chemistry or engineering, so he decided to do both by way of majoring in chemical engineering. He feels fortunate to be so close to joining the engineer community.
"Ever since pinning on our first castles in November we have been made to feel like we are a part of a family," Thiesing said. "Almost without exception, engineer officers are proud of what they do and they are enthusiastic about doing it. More so than anything else, (this dinner) affirmed those feelings of enthusiasm and family and made me even more excited to join their ranks in the Engineer Regiment."
With just several weeks left until they become commissioned engineer officers, Anthony expressed confidence the entire Class of 2011 is well-prepared to face the challenges ahead.
"I know I speak for all 138 new engineers when I say we are so excited to graduate and begin our careers," Anthony said. "The Engineer Branch provides many diversified opportunities, from Sapper and route clearance to construction and topography. Many of us have a solid engineering background and can't wait to put it to practical use."
Thiesing described the feeling as anxious and ready to start doing the job they've trained for over the past four years.
"I think if you talk to any firstie you will find that they have some concerns about stepping into the extremely important jobs the Army has waiting for us after graduation, but at the same time we are all confident and ready for the challenge," he said. "After four trying years at West Point, everyone is anxious to get out there and put our knowledge and skills to work."