During a reception at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, Maggie Milbourne (fifth from right) met with USAMMDA team members who have welcomed the new U.S. Army enlistee as their first "adopted" Soldier. Milbourne begins her military commitment with basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, on June 19. Left to right: Jennifer Secula, Marianne Erlichman, Leslie Oberhaus, Linda Hartman, Whitney Kline, Chrissy Gallo, Maggie Milbourne, Shaoying Liu, Alecia Janney, Tracy Ulderich, Laura Coombs. (Photo courtesy of Erin Bolling, USAMMDA public affairs)
So, it's easy to see how even a little reassurance from this dedicated team might go quite a long way with a new recruit.
The 18-year-old enlistee, Maggie Milbourne, is a recent graduate of Jefferson High School in Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia. By all accounts, she is a typical American teenager — personable, polite and sharp-minded. What may separate her from the usual, however, is the confidence she displays in her decision to join the military.
"I've always wanted to join the Army, but I really didn't rush into this," said Milbourne. "I had been thinking about it for a long time, and I had been meeting with the recruiter since last fall, so I was ready when I signed on for my commitment."
Milbourne recently visited the USAMMDA building to meet many of the team members who have joined together to establish their own version of the Adopt-A-Soldier program. Over the next four years, the group will remain in touch with Milbourne as she progresses through basic training, advanced individualized training, and her future assignment as an intelligence analyst.
Tracy Ulderich, USAMMDA's Regulatory Operations chief, organized the program in support of Milbourne, as their two families have known each other for quite some time.
"Having Maggie as our adoptive Soldier is helping to tie USAMMDA's mission to a particular individual," said Ulderich. "It helps to make the work we do — creating important medical products for our Warfighters — more tangible."
"Sometimes our desk jobs keep us far removed from our Service Members," she continued, "so we plan to follow Maggie through her journey and support her transition to military life. Hopefully, staying in touch with her will provide us with insight on how we can do our jobs better in order to protect her, and other Warfighters, at home and in theater."
Although she is looking forward to the challenges Army life will provide over the next few years, Milbourne said that she intends to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered by the military. While her initial commitment is exactly three years and 32 weeks, she hopes to remain in the Army longer to complete a bachelor's degree and perhaps enter Officer Candidate School in the future.
For now, however, preparing for basic training is Milbourne's top priority, as she is scheduled to arrive at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, on June 19. Since last fall, she has been exercising and running daily with her best friend, who has also decided to join the Army. Although they chose to enter into military service together, he is heading to boot camp at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, per his duty assignment.
The conditioning program has certainly helped Milbourne, who scored extremely high during her physical readiness training test at the Army recruiter's office. Among the class of new recruits, she received award certificates for both highest overall PRT score (262) and achieving a 100 percent completion rate for sit-ups (85 within two minutes).
Regardless of the preparation, though, boot camp is meant to be rigorous; but Milbourne appears ready for the challenge.
"I knew what I was getting into [with boot camp], and I even watched videos to help me prepare," she said. "Although it will be pretty tough, the fact that I have a group of people here at USAMMDA who care about me, and are supporting me with their thoughts and prayers, will really be helpful."
Many USAMMDA staff members were present to meet the young recruit on the day of her visit, and they gathered around the main conference table for introductions and to offer well wishes to Milbourne before she officially begins her new journey as a U.S. Service Member.
Col. William E. Geesey, commander of USAMMDA, can sympathize with Milbourne, as he began his own military career as a young enlistee fresh out of high school. He shared some of his experiences with those in attendance, and then offered advice to the recent graduate.
"When you're a young Soldier, coming out of high school, you're probably leaving home for the first time." he said. "So it's nice to have an ‘adoptive family' that you can reach out to when you're missing your hometown, your friends, and your immediate family.
"Everyone here is excited to have you as a part of our extended USAMMDA family," he added. "We're certainly behind you in your efforts, and you can reach out to us if you need anything — we'll do all that we can to help."
After completing basic training in September, Milbourne will relocate to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, to begin an AIT program in Army intelligence. She said she hopes to make a career of the military, if possible, and she plans on making the most of the training she is offered. As the first military member of her immediate family, Milbourne shared that her parents and four siblings are very proud of her decision to serve — perhaps almost as proud as she is of her choice.
In honor of her new military family, during her high school graduation ceremony Milbourne wore a personally decorated cap that featured a Stars and Stripes image along with the words, "Go Army." She is clearly pleased with her new venture, and it's probably safe to say that the Army is pleased with its new trainee.
"I really think it's cool, to know you have people backing you up while you're going through the intensity of Army training," said Milbourne. "I think it will help to make it easier."