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Erin Umberg was awarded the Star Wreath Award in 2002 for distinguished academics and leadership. Apart from the fact that a candidate must first secure a nomination from a member of Congress or the Department of the Army to even gain admission, freshman year in a service academy is unlike freshman year in a civilian university. Entering freshmen, or fourth class cadets, are referred to as “New Cadets,” and enter the academy on Reception Day or R-day, marking the start of cadet basic training, known colloquially as “Beast Barracks,” or simply “Beast.” Most cadets consider Beast to be their most difficult time at the academy because of the strenuous transition from civilian to military life.
Adding to this intense first "plebe" year at West Point for Erin Umberg, was the timing of the 9/11 attacks. The September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, and the armed action in Afghanistan, occurred during Ms. Umberg’s freshman year – the entire barracks was on lock-down while fear mounted that West Point could be another target.
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