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West Point classmates remember fallen Fort Drum officer

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FORT DRUM — A pair of West Point classmates of Maj. Jaimie E. Leonard, a soldier from post killed Saturday in a possible insider attack, described her as a hardworking student, a fierce competitor on the school’s crew team and a caring friend.

“Her presence made everybody rise to the occasion,” said Susan W. Alden, a crew teammate. “She certainly raised the bar with her enthusiasm.”

Maj. Leonard, 39, of Warwick, was one of three people killed by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform. Also killed were Lt. Col. Todd J. Clark and contractor Joseph Morabito. In its announcement about the deaths, the Department of Defense listed the cause of the two soldiers’ death as small-arms fire.

Maj. Leonard is the fifth female soldier from post to die during an overseas deployment since 9/11. Her death came as she was about to be promoted to lieutenant colonel. Army public affairs on Wednesday afternoon confirmed her promotion, saying it would be made official later.

At the time Maj. Leonard graduated from U.S. Military Academy in 1997, Mrs. Alden estimated about 80 of the approximately 1,000-cadet graduating class were women, creating a strong common bond among the female cadets.

“There’s one thing about the long gray line,” she said. “You share such colorful experiences with each other, you know exactly what they went through all those years.”

On the crew team, Maj. Leonard competed in a number of different events. Mrs. Alden said in talking with fellow teammates the last few days, Maj. Leonard’s spirit was a common theme.

“She wanted us to be resilient,” she said.

Mrs. Alden said the club sport improved in status and facilities during the time she and Maj. Leonard were at the academy because of the team’s competitiveness.

“I’d personally say Jaimie’s dedication to crew while we were there was a part of that huge shift,” she said.

Plans are underway to dedicate a boat in her honor for use by future teams, Mrs. Alden said.

JoAnna L. Reynolds, who roomed with Maj. Leonard for two years in Eisenhower Hall, said she was in shock when she learned of the death over the weekend.

“It feels very surreal,” she said.

Ms. Reynolds described her roommate as constantly working on papers and reading books and magazines about international relations, which she was studying.

“One of the most professional, driven women I’ve ever met in the Army,” she said. “She wasn’t going to let anything get in her way.

Maj. Leonard also was not afraid to speak her mind, Ms. Reynolds said.

“She was not afraid to let her opinion be known, and usually it was very well researched,” she said.

Despite her focus on her studies and crew, Ms. Reynolds said, her roommate was also a fan of taking midday naps, falling asleep to music like the soundtrack of the movie “The Last of the Mohicans.” She said they both reveled in the purchase of electronic blankets for the cold winters on campus.

Ms. Reynolds said the last time she remembered seeing Maj. Leonard was in 2009 at a conference, about the same time she was getting out of the Army.

“I knew she’d stay in for the career,” she said.

Maj. Leonard, who served in the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, had been in the Army for 16 years. Among the honors she earned during her career were two Bronze Stars, two Meritorious Service Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal and three Army Commendation Medals.

Attempts to contact the family of Maj. Leonard on Tuesday and Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Maj. Leonard is survived by five siblings, identified in an obituary in the Warwick Advertiser as Elizabeth Anne Harman, Hannah J. Rudy, Allyson Basha, Samantha Leonard and Robert Leonard, along with her stepmother, Sally Asbury Leonard, and other extended family. Both her mother, Patricia Ann Oberst, and father, Robert Fulton Leonard Jr., died before her.

A service at the academy for Maj. Leonard is scheduled for June 20.

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