Best of the Best




Oct. 15, 2012

By Tracy Nelson, Army Athletic Communications

At an institution that has produced some of the most highly regarded military and industry leaders, to stand out in a crowd is something to be celebrated. That is exactly the case for 10 cadet-athletes this academic year, who have been selected to serve in varying capacities within the Brigade Chain of Command.

Chief among that group is football senior Brandon Whittington, who is serving as the First Captain of the United States Corps of Cadets, the highest position in the West Point cadet chain of command. As First Captain, Whittington is responsible for the overall performance of the approximately 4,400 member Corps of Cadets. He follows in the footsteps of other notable First Captains such as John J. Pershing, Douglas MacArthur and Pete Dawkins.

The First Captain, a senior who is also called the Brigade Commander, is similar to a student body president. His duties include implementing a class agenda and acting as a liaison between the Corps and the administration. In addition, Whittington is the top of a pyramid of cadet commanders who make up the chain of command for the Corps of Cadets at West Point.

"I think it says that our football program is going in the right direction," Whittington said. "Our main goal here is to become Army officers. Yes, we are Army football players, and we are committed to everything that it means to be an Army football player, but there is a bigger purpose for all of us. All the good things the football team is doing shows that we're committed to the overall goal, and that's becoming an Army officer."

Whittington is the first football player to serve as First Captain since Hans Pung during the 1994- 95 school year. He is the 26th football player to serve in the position. It is also the third straight year that an Army corps squad athlete has served in one of the top two leadership positions. Basketball player Nathan Hedgecock and football's Max Jenkins served as Deputy Brigade Commander in 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively.

"Brandon is special in a lot of ways," head football coach Rich Ellerson said. "He has an unbelievable presence. There are a lot of guys who can be organized and be conscientious, but it's another level of competence where you have that situational presence and awareness of what people are looking for and need to hear. He does that intuitively. Brandon knows what the group needs to hear and see, and he steps forward. Most guys could figure it out if you gave them an hour, but he can do it in the blink of an eye. That has always set him apart. He's a good player. He has been a routine contributor, and he'll continue to contribute, but where he stands apart is in that situational presence. If you draw yourself a cadet, what you hope these guys are, and you'll get something very close to Brandon.

"Our guys came here to be cadets," Ellerson continued. "Yes, they're going to play the game of football, but they're going to engage in everything we do here, and they're going to excel in everything they do. I think you'll routinely see football players distinguishing themselves in the leadership."

Prior to the start of football season, the El Paso, Texas, native served as the Cadet Basic Training Commander, leading the regiment through the first three weeks of CBT that began with the inprocessing of the Class of 2016 at Reception Day.

Serving under Whittington are nine other corps squad athletes (see previous page). Each and every one of them carry out a multitude of duties within the Corps of Cadets, in addition to their commitment to Army athletics. Given those two demanding roles, time management is essential to meeting success in both arenas.

"It is all about time management," said Ayman Andrews, a senior swimmer and the Honor Board Vice Chair for Investigations. "By planning my day in detail, I am able to efficiently complete the majority of my work during the day. Rest is also essential to both performing well in the classroom, pool, and, most importantly, my position on the Cadet Honor Committee.

"From my perspective, holding the Cadet Honor Code in this positive light allows us to continue to apply the Spirit of the Code in everyday life with purposeful confidence in what West Point stands for," Andrews continued. "I am most proud of this privilege and do not take it for granted."

Senior sprint football player Kiandre Chamers echoes Andrews' sentiments with regards to the importance of cultivating astute time management skills. Chambers serves as the Brigade Respect Executive Officer, which means he ensures that all tasks cadets are required to do are properly done to standard.

"To balance the time dedication necessary to play sprint football and perform as the Corps Respect XO, I plan my days out in the mornings and prioritize," Chambers said. "I am also pushing to graduate with honors so I have ensure my grades stay up as well. It becomes a balancing act, but I think the experience will serve me well."

While it's natural for every cadet to become a leader in some capacity, there are those that just simply standout. That may have prompted a Tactical Officer to nominate a cadet for a particular position, or the cadet him or herself to seek out the appointment themselves.

In the case of Conor Love, a junior on the Army baseball team, he has his TAC to thank for recommending him to serve as the Brigade Assistant S-3 operations officer. As an assistant to the Brigade S-3, Love works to handle all operations for the Corps of Cadets, which includes running conferences, events, parades, football games and many additional duties.

Senior volleyball player Ariana Mankus, however, had her sights on becoming the Brigade Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Officer since her first year at the Academy. As the SAAC officer, Mankus oversees all Corps Squad team captains.

"I've had my eye on this position since my plebe year," Mankus said. "Getting a chance to work with the athletes doing community outreach, service projects and other amazing things is a tremendous opportunity."

The Corps of Cadets is broken up into four regiments, all of which have a commander in place. For senior punter Chis Boldt, the First Regimental Commander, that means being responsible for leading

approximately 1,100 cadets in one of the Corps' four regiments. Boldt is the second Army football player in the last three years to lead a regiment. Carson Homme served in a similar role with the Third Regiment in 2010-11.

"I'm really excited and hope to bring a great bind from the football team down the to Corps," said Boldt, who along with Whittington received a raucous reception in Randall Hall Auditorium when the announcement was formally made to the football team. "I wasn't really expecting that kind of reception, but it was great. This program is all about brotherhood, and I hope to bring that mentality down to the Corps as well."

Fostering a team environment within the Corps of Cadets, one in which each individual is held accountable and all are working towards a common cause, is at the very heart of West Point's mission. With the aforementioned cadet-athletes under Whittington's thoughtful guidance will only help accomplish that task with great success.

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