First female Combat Engineer in SD prepares for career with degree from BHSU

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, November 13, 2018/Categories: Students, Students in the News, Awards, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Faculty, Veterans Affairs, 2018

Black Hills State University recognizes student Eryn Schlotte, the first female Combat Engineer in the state of South Dakota, who recently received the Distinctive Woman of Service Award from the Girl Scouts Dakota Horizons. Schlotte is a human services and sociology major from Wolsey, S.D., who attends BHSU.

The Distinctive Woman of Service Award winner must currently be serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and is a woman of courage, confidence and character who has made a contribution of time or support to the community.

Lieutenant Colonel Elvis Coronado, professor of military science at BHSU, says Eryn is “one of the Mount Rushmore Battalion’s top Cadets” in physical and academic ability, as well as by displaying honorable and ethical decision-making.

Eryn knew she wanted to join the U.S. Army after witnessing firsthand the National Guard’s response to the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. In 8th grade at the time, Eryn was visiting Boston with the Capitol Children’s Choir based out of Pierre.

“I remember watching the National Guard do security checks on the buildings in Boston. We were in the same area where they caught the shooter,” says Eryn.

Soon after returning to South Dakota, Eryn’s cousin, who was in the National Guard, invited her to a training day to see the different roles of the Guard units.

“I remember watching the combat engineer do demolitions and I knew that’s how I wanted to serve our country,” she says.

As a combat engineer, Eryn is trained to oversee demolitions, breach buildings, and clear rooms while looking for explosive devices. When Eryn became a combat engineer, there were less than 15 females with the title in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The road to becoming South Dakota’s first female combat engineer was not easy. The role was just being opened up to females when Eryn enlisted. Eryn completed military basic training in 2016 between her junior and senior year of high school and returned a year later for more extensive training.

Eryn chose to attend BHSU because the University offered the major she desired and, after growing up on a ranch in central South Dakota, she says she likes living in the Hills. Eryn boards her horse in the Spearfish area.

As a member of the National Guard while also earning her degree, Eryn works hard to manage her responsibilities – from coursework, to preparing for drills and missions. Eryn says her commander is very supportive of education.

Eryn also works in the Veterans’ Services Office at BHSU supporting other service members as they earn their degrees.

“I’ve had so many opportunities because of BHSU,” says Eryn. “I can see many connections in my classes, like sociology for example, about how people in society respond to situations that my
soldiers may respond to in the same way. I’ve also enjoyed my ROTC leadership classes at BHSU.”

After earning her degree from BHSU, Eryn will continue serving in the National Guard while building her career in protection and justice. She hopes to become a local police officer and then go into the Department of Criminals Investigations or U.S. Marshalls.

“I want to help people and protect people,” she says.

Eryn’s superiors note her exceptional contribution to missions and leadership, noting that she is often the first to volunteer for missions.

Her service to her community is exemplified by an incident that happened in June when Eryn witnessed a motorcycle run off the road and into a barb-wire fence. She immediately ran to give emergency aid and assistance to the individual. Her supervisor said Eryn was able to calmly assess the situation to prioritize immediate medical needs while keeping aware of the multiple hazards of the accident.

Eryn received The Army Achievement Medal for her representation of the National Guard during this   emergency event.

Although she insists she’s just “doing her job” and would prefer to be known as another key part the team, as the first female in her role in the state, Eryn knows she has the opportunity to inspire other females and will confront challenges and obstacles in her role.  

“If you put your mind to it and you’re motivated - you can do absolutely anything,” says Eryn. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and you might have to work a little harder, but if you really want it, you can achieve whatever they want to achieve.”

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