US Army, November 24, 2014 - CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea by Sgt Jesse Smith – On a brisk autumn day, a Soldier walks into a classroom at Sookmyung Womens University in Seoul, South Korea.
She is in her dress blue uniform which is pressed and clean. Her black hair is pulled tight into a bun. She walks with her chest out and chin up directly to her seat. She waits to be introduced then gets up and moves to the center. She looks into a crowd of glowing, eager ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) students and begins to speak.
The soldier is 1st Lt. Sarah Jeon, a native of La Mirada, Calif., and a pilot with Company A, 4th Battalion (Attack), 2nd Aviation Regiment, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
“Don’t let anyone get in your head,” Jeon said. “Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do something.”
Jeon was asked to speak at the university to a soon-to-be graduating class of female students. The reason she was a good candidate for the speech is because she is Korean American and she is the first female, Korean AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot. Jeon said she wanted to inspire the group to feel they could do anything they wanted to do and to further strengthen the U.S. and Republic of Korea alliance.
When Jeon was 11 years old, she used to watch a show called “Surviving West Point” on the National Geographic channel with her dad. The show went into depth about the West Point Military Academy’s training program and schooling. She said that the academy seemed so cool, interesting and amazing from watching the show. Her dad told her that he had once dreamed of being able to go to West Point. These were some of the things that inspired Jeon to attend West Point and become an officer in the Army.
Jeon told the female ROTC students that when she arrived to West Point that she was weak and couldn’t always complete certain training events, but the academy trained her and she got stronger while she was there. She said she overcame many obstacles that were put in front of her while she was in school. She went on to say that there will always be female Soldiers that make excuses to not be able to do certain things, but the students need to be the ones that do things the right way.
Jeon said they can’t have negative attitudes, and they have to keep pushing themselves. If they study, stay in shape and work hard, then everything else will fall into place she said. Jeon said she is proud to be Korean American and to see female Koreans volunteer for the Republic of Korea army.
She wanted the female students to know that being in the Army is being part of something bigger than themselves and that they should be proud of that. She also wanted them to know that women are held to the same standard in the work place, so they need to stay on top of their game at all times. She said there will people that try to bring females down and that they need drive on and keep performing to the best of their abilities.
“Continue to do hard work and prove everybody wrong,” Jeon said.
The students were able to take pictures with Jeon after the speech. They seemed to have responded well to it and hopefully they will go on to strive in their military careers Jeon said.
Jeon said she has overcome many barriers in her career, but she doesn’t want to be known as the first female, Korean AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot. She just wants to be known as a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army.