Helping people and working hard are two things at which EWU ROTC cadet and nursing student Kylie Crooks excels. So, when it was time to award the very first ever Major General Barbara R. Holcomb Army Nurse Cadet Excellence Award, Crooks was an obvious fit.

Holcomb award nominees were drawn from outstanding nursing cadets serving in the 8th ROTC Brigade, which covers 30 western ROTC programs including major universities like UCLA, the University of Oregon and the University of Washington. Winning the inaugural prize makes Crooks the top nursing cadet on the West Coast.

“This award validates how hard I have worked to get where I am today,” says Crooks, a Spokane native and Lakeside High School graduate. “I’m constantly pushing myself to work hard, think critically and develop relationships. I am really honored to be the first recipient of this award from such a prestigious Army nursing officer.”

Maj. Gen. Barbara Holcomb graduated from the Seattle University’s ROTC program in 1987 and served as Chief of the Army Nurse Corps. She retired from active duty last year and established the award to recognize nursing excellence in the 8th Brigade.

Crooks was nominated by Lt. Col. Jonathan Stafford, professor of military science and the EWU Army ROTC program chair. Because of her hard work in the program, Crooks met the long list of requirements for the award: a cumulative GPA above 3.5, a military science GPA above 3.7, top tier scores in each category of the Army Physical Fitness Test, a high rating at the Advanced Camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and at least 20 hours of volunteer experience.

But, the list of requirements highlights only a fraction of Crooks’ drive and dedication.

“My first quarter of ROTC was fall quarter of 2018,” she says. “I was able to take 22 credits, work a part-time job, max my physical fitness text, move into a new house, build new friendships and attend my monthly reserve unit training.”

Crooks also serves in the U.S. Army Reserve, where she works as an engineer on a tugboat. As if that is not enough, Crooks also trained to compete for the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge at EWU. That quarter she went on to pass the assessment test and to receive the highest gold badge, all the while earning a 3.86 GPA and gaining acceptance into nursing school.

“It was one of the most challenging quarters of my life, but through true grit and an unwavering work ethic I was successful,” Crooks says. “This award helps me see that all my hard work has paid off and the challenges that I have overcome have been fruitful.”

Crooks is scheduled to graduate with honors from EWU and the WSU College of Nursing in December 2020, when she will also be commissioned as an officer into the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. She plans to attend basic officer leadership training, and hopes to be stationed as an intensive care unit nurse.

Crooks also intends to eventually pursue an advanced degree through the Army. She credits ROTC with opening a world of educational opportunity that will span beyond an undergraduate degree—and encourages other students to explore the lifelong benefits of the program.

“I knew that ROTC would transform me into a better leader,” she adds. “The leadership competencies and attributes that I have learned through ROTC have reshaped how I think and improved my relationships for the better.”