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Sierra Alwine (’23): U.S. Army Second Lieutenant and Intelligence Analyst (CON) for the DOJ

Sierra Alwine (’23) discovered her interest in intelligence during her first Army deployment in 2017. She went to Park Point University after she left the Army, where she studied intelligence and national security. Her professors at Park Point, which is a partner school to IWP, encouraged her to explore her interest in intelligence at the Institute. After she started classes at IWP, Sierra made the decision to join Georgetown’s ROTC program and commissioned in May as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Reserve. Meanwhile, Sierra serves as an all-source analyst (contractor) for the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Sierra Alwine HeadshotBorn and raised in Johnstown, PA, Sierra remembers when Flight 93 went down on 9/11/2001 in Somerset County, just south of where she grew up. “It hit very close to home, so I knew at a young age that I wanted to serve my country.” As she got older, Sierra realized she wanted to go into a career field that would be of service to the United States.

Sierra enlisted in the Army after high school. From 2017-2018, she deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

It was during her deployment to Iraq that Sierra was first exposed to the discipline of intelligence. “It wasn’t really until I went on deployment that I really knew what intelligence was.” It was the first time she was able to see the impact of intelligence in real time.

Sierra’s exposure to intelligence while deployed led her to Point Park University, which was one of the few schools at the time that had an undergraduate program in intelligence. After graduation, she accepted a position with a DOD contractor and moved to Virginia.

Sierra with Dr. James Robbins and another IWP ROTC cadet.
Sierra with Dr. James Robbins and another IWP ROTC cadet.

Studying intelligence at IWP

Sierra learned about IWP from her professors at Point Park University, which is a partner school of IWP’s. She came to IWP for a tour during her junior year of college and met with several faculty and staff members.

Sierra was drawn to IWP’s scholar-practitioner model. IWP professors come from all manner of professions, and they have first-hand, practical knowledge that really puts things in perspective. “You’re not only learning from individuals who did these things—you’re learning from the top individuals,” said Sierra.

Sierra talked about how IWP helped her broaden her perspective and change how she looks at international affairs and national security issues. She especially credits Prof. Albert Santoli’s class on cultural engagement for truly changing how she thinks about the world around her. “His full spectrum approach to things helped me realize how much is out there,” Sierra said. She also said that IWP’s general curriculum helped in this respect, too. She described how learning about other cultures helps counter bias, which is a persistent problem in intelligence.

Sierra also discussed how Prof. Christopher Harmon’s counterterrorism class exposed her to counter-WMD topics, which is something that greatly interests her. The course turned into a directed study, which meant Sierra had the opportunity to write an extensive research paper. “That gave me an opportunity to really dive into a topic I wanted to learn more about.”

When it comes to telling prospective students and others about IWP, Sierra said she wants to emphasize the knowledge gained and the networking capabilities. “The connections and resources that IWP gives you are worth every cent that you will spend at that school,” she said.

Sierra mentioned the value in IWP’s diverse student body, as well. IWP students come from all kinds of backgrounds and professions, from recent college graduates to mid- or senior-level employees. IWP does not require its students to have a degree on a certain topic, so its students can have backgrounds in everything from intelligence to film to medicine. Sierra said, “I think the students that go to IWP and graduate from IWP are very well-rounded within whatever career field they go into.”

Sierra at the 2023 Commencement ceremony
Sierra at the 2023 Commencement ceremony

From enlisted to cadet to officer

After enrolling in IWP, Sierra made the decision to join Georgetown University Army ROTC. IWP students enrolled in a master’s program and who fulfill all academic and military requirements are able to join Georgetown’s ROTC program, which is comprised of students from five institutions, including IWP.

ROTC cadets are typically individuals who have not yet served in the military, but Sierra joined after she had already served. When explaining why she joined ROTC after serving, Sierra said she wanted to make an impact on the Army as an organization from a different perspective. “As an NCO or enlisted member, you can make change or influence individuals. As an officer, when you’re a commander or platoon leader, you’re influencing a company as a whole,” she said.

While there are usually only one or two IWP cadets per year, Sierra said the ROTC program welcomes them with open arms. The ROTC program also allowed Sierra to share about her time at IWP with the other cadets. She was able to tell them about the school and its unique mission.

While managing IWP classes and her ROTC commitments was definitely a challenge, Sierra found that her overall experience was very positive. “As far as being in the program while at IWP, it’s really just a lot of balancing and time management,” she said. Sierra added that her professors and other students were positive about her service and ROTC commitments. The IWP community includes a lot of veterans, reservists, and active-duty members who are all eager to support one another.

Sierra was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant on May 18th, a few days after she received her Master’s degree in Strategic Intelligence Studies from IWP.

Sierra with ROTC certificate

Intelligence analyst for the Department of Justice

Sierra currently works as an intelligence analyst for the DOJ doing all-source analysis. She described getting to see first-hand the impact of her work, stating “That was just really cool because I got to see in real life how things play out, which you don’t always get to see in intelligence,” said Sierra.

Sierra accepted a position with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), which starts at the end of June. The DTRA is both a defense agency and a combat support agency within the United States Department of Defense for countering weapons of mass destruction and supporting the nuclear enterprise.

News from IWP Students and Alumni

Master of Arts in Strategic Intelligence Studies

Sierra Alwine climbing a wall

Please note: These are Sierra’s personal views and do not constitute endorsement by the U.S. Department of Defense or U.S. Army. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) or Military-themed visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.