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NEWS | Dec. 13, 2012

Enlisted Airman receives scholarship to Harvard

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

They say nothing in life worth having comes easy. For some, it's getting promoted to staff sergeant and for others; it's getting a full scholarship to one of the most prestigious Ivy League schools in the world.

According to one Joint Base Charleston Airman, they both were pretty tough.
Staff Sgt. Katherine Lamb, knowledge operations manager at the Naval Consolidated Brig at JB Charleston - Weapons Station, will be pursuing a doctorate in chemistry from Harvard in the fall of 2013 after completing a successful six-year enlistment in the U.S. Air Force.

Harvard University is the oldest institution for higher learning in the United States and eight U.S. presidents, 75 Noble Prize winners and more than 60 living billionaires all hold degrees from the private Ivy League school.

Even though she is revered throughout the Brig for her intelligence, she remains modest. Insisting on not bringing attention to herself, she spends most of her time learning about others, while encouraging and helping them pursue their education.

"Sergeant Lamb's vibrant and friendly personality can light up an entire room," said Master Sgt. Edward Phillips, Naval Consolidated Brig - Charleston Air Force superintendent. "She is just a very positive and outgoing person."

It all started from her humble beginnings in Puerto Rico, where Lamb was taught the importance of education. Her parents are an example of the American dream. Born into poverty, they moved to America seeking a better life when Lamb was nine. Her mother went on to become a college professor, while her father works for NASA.

"My parents used to tell me, it doesn't matter if you have money," said Lamb. "You could lose money; you can never lose an education."

It was a message she took to heart.

Lamb is already familiar with the New England area. Years ago, she took her parents advice and received her master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. 

After graduating from M.I.T., she felt a sense of pride and patriotism toward the country that offered her so many opportunities. She surprised her friends and family by enlisting into the U.S. Air Force, not as an officer, but as an enlisted Airman.

"Everyone wonders, 'why didn't you become an officer?" said Lamb. "Well, life isn't about money. I was aware of officer programs, but for me, serving my country was enough reason to join. That's why I did, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. The enlisted men and women I've served with continue to do amazing things every day. "

For Lamb, being able to serve her country and build relationships in the Air Force has been as beneficial as any college classroom.

"The Air Force is one team," said Lamb. "College lifestyle (especially an Ivy League caliber institution), is very competitive - people are constantly thinking about what's best for themselves. It's just the nature of how challenging those programs can be. But in the Air Force, although still challenging, I've learned how valuable teamwork is and I'll always carry those lessons with me."

Lamb gives back to the military every day by tutoring, mentoring and educating people throughout her squadron.

"She's constantly making sure I'm taking college classes," said Marine Chief Warrant Officer John Nolan, Naval Consolidated Brig - Charleston security officer. "She inspires everyone to better themselves."

According to Lamb, it doesn't matter if she is testing for staff sergeant or applying to Harvard, hard work is the key to success. Every test she successfully passed, although to others seemed easy for her, came from hours of studying.

"Enlisted Airmen are vital to the success of the Air Force mission," said Lamb. "Education is an essential tool for that success. So, when I see so many people bettering themselves by going to school, I think their stories are as compelling as mine. I'm just lucky to have such amazing and supportive people in my life."