Erin Mauldin

A West Point valedictorian who received her diploma in May from President Obama. A Rhodes Scholar who studies at Oxford and trains with the university’s rowing team. The first American woman to graduate from French Commando School.

Erin Mauldin

Second Lt. Erin Mauldin’s résumé has more than its share of superlatives, but this month’s magazine rack adds another, from a less-than-expected source:
She’s now a “Cosmo girl” — sort of.
The 22-year-old was the lone American representative in a Cosmopolitan magazine feature entitled “8 Incredible Women Who Will Inspire You to Break the Rules,” a compilation put together with support from some of the magazine’s 60-plus international editions and backed by the Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings initiative.
Mauldin’s “world-rocking work” is listed alongside an 18-year-old Polish chemist developing a treatment for pancreatic cancer, the first female soccer agent in South Africa and an Olympic weightlifting hopeful from the United Arab Emirates. Chelsea Clinton wrote the introduction. Mauldin’s labeled “the trailblazer” for her post-Oxford plans to enter the infantry.
“We thought, this is someone we need to have in the magazine and tell our 18 million girls about,” said Laura Brounstein, special projects editor for the magazine. “When this project came up, we thought this is exactly where we should be celebrating Erin and her accomplishments, because what’s more American than the valedictorian at West Point?”
Mauldin spoke with Army Times on Tuesday about the magazine honor, her take on being a “trailblazer” and how she believes her time spent abroad — she’ll return for Basic Officer Leadership Course in late 2016, likely with two master’s degrees under her belt — will make her a better soldier.

Erin and Pres
President Obama presents Class of 2014 valedictorian Erin Mauldin with her diploma during U.S. Military Academy graduation ceremonies in May.(Photo: U.S. Military Academy via Twitter)
Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q. You’ve had a lot of accomplishments since your time at West Point and while you were there, but in terms of things that you might not have expected to have happen, where does seeing your photo in Cosmo rank in that list?
A. That was definitely a pretty big shock for this year. Being at Oxford has been even bigger — I keep pinching myself every couple of days, going, “Am I really here? Is this really happening?” So I’d say that one is a little bit higher up on the list, followed by graduation. Cosmo definitely ranks somewhere. It’s not something I was expecting whatsoever.
Q. How was that process? Cosmo editors say you’d kind of been on their radar since the May graduation.
A. They reached out to me a couple of days before graduation, which was a pretty hectic time, and we did an initial interview. I was a little bit concerned, just because I only knew Cosmo through what I had seen of it on stands before … but the lady who interviewed me was absolutely awesome. And I think the nature of the article changed based on between that first interview and later on that summer; I could see that it went from something where they thought they would focus on me to me being a part of this group of women, which I was much happier with.
Q. You’re looking to do some things in the Army that traditionally women either haven’t done or not a lot of women have done. When did these goals come into your head? Is it something that’s been with you since you were a kid? Something you grew into at West Point?

Mauldin copy  (Fairly certain this is Erin Mauldin)

A. I was fortunate enough to grow up with a lot of strong woman role models, particularly climbers. I spent a lot of time at the Climbers’ Ranch in the Grand Tetons, and so I never saw being a woman as being a limitation there. Also, I think my parents and my siblings [two sisters and brother Ian, now a West Point cadet] did a very good job of fostering a sense that you can do whatever you work hard for. …
I didn’t consider going into the Army until the end of my junior year in high school, and so that had never been something in the back of my head until then, but I guess being a woman had never been something in the back of my head as a limitation. In choosing what to pursue at West Point and the Army, I have tried to do what I find meaningful and what I can make a useful contribution to.
When I first went to West Point, there were some aspects of the summer training that were a bit frustrating. … One, the lack of woman role models — there just weren’t a whole lot of women represented in both the lower and higher levels of leadership. The second thing came from the fact that we did a lot of basic infantry skills as well as a lot of basic soldier skills and the perception that I always had was, “OK, we’re teaching you this because we have to, but really, you, the women, are not going to be doing this later on.” That was especially frustrating to me, since I really enjoyed that training.
At West Point, I continued to do things that challenged me, which happened to include things that involved infantry-type skills, but also general soldering skills that I think are valuable for everybody to have. I had wanted to try out for French Commando School since I had heard of it my first year at West Point. I thought that it would be challenging, forcing me to use French in a military setting and to work on small-unit leadership and allowing me to do things I really liked, such as climbing and obstacle courses.


Overall, I thought it would help my development as a whole person, and I think it did. Never was being a woman an issue at French Commando School — I worked to be competent at what was expected of us and to contribute to every one of our missions. As a result, I was seen as just another member of the team.

Then-cadet Erin Mauldin trains on the Anzio Obstacle Course at West Point’s Camp Buckner.(Photo: Courtesy of Erin Mauldin)

Q. Have you spoken to anyone about Ranger school? Obviously you have a few other things on your plate …
A. I am in contact with my friends who are training for it, and my fingers are crossed for their success. I definitely want to be a part of it when the time comes. I want to go to Ranger school because of the valuable skills to learn there. I did some of the Ranger preparation at West Point that they were doing for some of the men who were going before BOLC and was excited by the small-unit leadership that is at the core of training. The missions we did at French Commando School hinted at the tight teamwork necessary to execute missions on a squad level or a platoon level, but due to language barriers or a different focus of the course, we never could quite accomplish that.
At Ranger school, I see the opportunity to hone those skills in terms of small-unit leadership, as well as developing the confidence in very sucky situations to be able to know as a team that you can either lead or be a part of a team that accomplishes what needs to be done. Yes, I want to go to Ranger school — for the skill sets and for learning the confidence for those situations.
Q. When you are looked at as a “trailblazer,” as a “glass-ceiling breaker,” is that a label you care for? That you don’t care for?
A. I would resist any characterization of what I do as for the sake of “trailblazing.” I think it’s important that the first groups of women who go through are doing it for the reasons that line up with their personal interests of what they want to contribute to the Army … so that they’re driven by, “I want to do this because this is what I want to do,” rather than, “Oh, it would be really cool to be part of the first group of women to go through and do it.” …
I acknowledge that there is going to be a need for trailblazing, but those doing the trailblazing need to find within themselves legitimate reasons that will carry them through. For me, it’s because I think I can contribute to the infantry based on my skills, and I want to be a part of that mission. Perhaps there is an aspect of trailblazing to that, but I won’t say I’m doing it to be a trailblazer.

Editors Note

The training received at the Academy ensures Women Graduates will succeed in Ranger School.  The concern is Branch of Service.  Does this Officer have what it takes to walk the line in the middle of the cold night as Chesty Puller did at the Chosin Reservoir as he checked the men of his Marine Regiment – – Probably.

It is the worst of what an Infantry man must face and do face that should exclude the vast majority of women from Infantry Units.  It is not worth it to allow a few women into Infantry Units just because it is Politically Correct.

This is what they might face – Korea World War II Vietnam War on Terror

In the middle of the night, two marines stood on the high ground, one loading 8 round clips, the other doing the shooting as an M-1 was handed to him. Up and down the road similar examples of Marine Lore was established. When the last bugle sounded and the last was dead on the wire, the loader looked at the shooter and said “You don’t have your boots on”. It was 40 below, wind blowing. (One near breakthrough collapsed under the BAR and rifle fire of Pvt. Hector A. Cafferata and Pfc. Kenneth R. Benson, a pair of young men from New Jersey who had enlisted together. As Cafferata blazed away, his blinded partner, Benson, loaded weapons. Caught with his wet boots off, Cafferata fought five hours crippled by frostbite. Before the battle ended, he’d lost one arm to a grenade and the use of his other arm to a bullet. Taken from “The Last Stand of Fox Company) These two wore the patch of the 1st Marine, a 1 arched by Guadalcanal where Marines with their uniforms rotting off, surviving on captured Japanese rice, with diseased ridden bodies, gave America our 1st Victory. A machine gunner who was at Guadalcanal, like a few others, developed an inability to wake up in the middle of the night to relieve himself (nocturnal enuresis – stress). The doctors told him there was no cure as long as he was on the front line, it was just another complication of combat and he was sent back into the line. Carrying a Thompson as he fought his way north, finally worn out on Saipan and sent home to recover.

In the Bulge a paratrooper went to relieve himself, when his buddy “Yelled get back in here” (meaning do it in our foxhole) he went ahead, dropped his trou and was immediately shot at by a German sniper. Hitching his pants up without cleaning himself he jumped back into their foxhole. The smell did not bother any other members of his Rifle Company, as they all smelled the same. Some who were never able to get their trousers down in time, did smell worst than the others.

Ranger Class December ’62 – February ’63. Normal rain in North Georgia Mountains, crossed a river, then the winds and freezing temperatures hit – 40 some cases of frost bite.

As the main body, 6,900 of the Japanese 51st Division steamed toward Lea, Lieutenant General Kenny ordered in waves of bombers sinking all 8 transports and 4 of 8 destroyers leaving men in life boats, on make shift rafts and swimmers in the water who began to head toward shore. General Kenny ordered the air crews to strafe the defenseless men. The air crews did not meet the eyes of the dying soldiers and sailors, but the crew of PT Boat 121 made repeated sweeps through the mass of men, killing with rifle fire individuals, machine gunning and dropping depth charges among larger groups of Japanese were forced to look them in the eye. General Kenny was correct, but far from Politically Correct in his order, as Japanese survivors would have picked up weapons on shore. Today such orders and subsequent action would result in Court Martial, yet one wonders, would the young women training with todays version of the Navy’s PT Boat been able to respond as the men of PT 120 responded? Lieutenant (j.g.) Edward T Hamilton U.S.N.R. after completion of the task “As long as we saw a Jap alive, we kept up our relentless hunt. Not until the job was done, did we turn for home, while behind us those black dots still bobbed through the waves – but now they were corpses floated still by unpunctured life belts, carrying them toward the shore they had set out to conquer. We were a sad lot coming home. We hardly dared look one another in the eye or speak. We felt more like executioners than fighters.” It had to be done.

Can even the most ruthless of today’s young female warriors approach such brutality. August 18, 1976 North Korean soldiers (probably preplanned by the N Korean Government) wielding axes, hacked to death Captain Bonifas and 1Lt Mark Barrett during a required tree trimming in the Joint Security Area, Panmunjom. America’s Politically Correct response several days later was a show of force to backup trimming the tree. Kim Jong-il in addressing the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations asked that a resolution condemning the grave US provocation, demanding withdraw of American forces from Korea and dissolution of the UN Command. It passed.

Black Hawk Down, now some 20 years ago may be a more reasonable example for women to consider. When Administrations changed, the mission changed from humanitarian assistance to regime change. There was then an immediate request for a small American mechanized force which was denied by Sec Def. When a chopper went down while supporting ground troops, 2 snipers dropped in to protect the pilot. The two were ultimately killed, their naked dead bodies dragged through the streets to the joy of the cheering mob. The pilot was captured, exchanged, the US left, SecDef resigned and Somalia remains as it was before our humanitarian entry.

Knowing we cut and ran in Somalia did the Politically Correct, Politically Appointed Bureaucrat consider what some future President would face when the body of an American female was dragged through the streets to the cheers of the mob. Did he consider what some future President would face when a captured female soldier was paraded through the streets with several ropes around her neck – perhaps her sniper rifle over her shoulder.

As mentioned women are better snipers than the average male as their ability to control breathing is superior. Should female soldiers train with real life like targets – a known terrorist face as the target. Perhaps a known women terrorist holding a baby. Let them look into the eyes of a known foe.

In the MATA Coarse at Bragg in the mid 60’s Vietnamese instructors told of interrogation techniques used on the enemy. One was to take several prisoners up, tell them what you were going to do and if the first one refused to talk, he was tossed out. Normally the others talked. There was a very repulsive technique used to interrogate women prisoners. It will not be listed, but if you must know, send an email to and an answer will be provided on an individual basis.

VA report of injuries from 80 pound loads carried by today’s male soldiers A signature injury of America’s latest wars has been musculoskeletal, cases of which exceed the number of wounds from firefights and improvised explosive devices. One study found that between 2004 and 2007, about a third of medical evacuations from the Iraq and Afghan theaters were due to musculoskeletal, connective tissue and spinal injuries. There is no data for Women as yet.

Rifle Company Command Vietnam –Two to four weeks in Jungle was very routine – no showers or enough water for good hygiene –when rains came, put security out and strip naked and use rain as shower, then re-dress with wet jungle fatigues and walk them dry –carry 3 days of C-rations (cans could be heavy) – hot meal every 2 to 4 days –double basic load of M-16 ammo (240 rounds – twelve 20 round mags) –two hand grenades per man; claymore – one per man; help machine gunner with ammo cans –sometimes (very seldom) help mortar platoon hump 81mm mortars and ammo for short relocation – mostly this was done by help –two water canteens per man (we got helo resupply most, but not all, days) –steel pot –shovel – every second man –bayonet –many times we moved all day and stopped at night and dug hasty defensive positions –most carried ponchos and liners (we never pitched tents) –some carried air mattresses –carried one or two extra pair of socks – no extra jungle fatigues –we would change fatigues and shower when we returned to base camp – we spent an average of 1 1/2 days per month in our base camp –even during Christmas cease fire we were pulled out at 2 AM Christmas day to rescue an SF camp near the Cambodian border that was in trouble –of course the radios were heavy – and still the radio man had to carry most of the same gear as everyone else –pee on the move –poop at night or in the AM – no privacy for this, just dig a 6″ hole and squat away –during combat helo assaults (we did many) carry everything with you because you never knew if or when you would return to your previous location –on occasion set up defensive positions – a series of two man foxholes with overhead cover and connecting trenches – stay there 7 to 10 days and patrol from there – we did this on road clearing exercises or near Cambodian border to interdict infiltration routes.

Other units, other situations – In 1st Cav – went light with the expectation of resupply and hot meal every day, bath in bomb crater or stream, moved every day.

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