Dec. 3, 2013
by Tracy Nelson
Ask Peter Carey about his days at West Point and he's quick to tell you he was a back-up quarterback for four years and barely saw the field. Ask others who know Peter Carey and they will tell you he was and remains a consummate leader and teammate.
Carey spent his formative years growing up in Simsbury, Conn., and playing pick-up football with the neighborhood kids. He always knew he could put some zip on the ball and eventually ended up being Simsbury High School's starting signal caller in each of his final two seasons. Carey doubled as a team captain during his senior year, just scratching the surface of a life of leadership that would follow.
For Carey, whose grandfather served in World War II, the military had always been something intriguing sitting in the back of his mind.
"Some boys want to grow up to be a policeman or fireman," he says. "I guess I grew up wanting to be a soldier. Once I started getting a bit older, my curiosity got me researching more about leadership and the importance of the military. I was really attracted to the idea of becoming an officer."
Midway through his senior year at Simsbury, Carey was accepted to and planned to attend the Virginia Military Institute. With his bags half-packed for Lexington, Va., he was offered an appointment to the United States Military Academy Prep School (USMAPS) and 18-year-old Carey had a huge decision to make. He chose to forgo his plans to attend VMI in favor of a prep year with the aspiration of gaining admission to the United States Military Academy.
Carey "walked on" to the football team at USMAPS and used the year to grow and mature both mentally and physically. On a trip to the Academy, he recalls thinking, "It is one heck of a stretch for me to play here."
The following fall, Carey earned a roster spot at West Point under head coach Jim Young and continued to hold down that position over the next four years.
"I was a perennial back-up who kicked, scratched and clawed my way up to third string," Carey recalls with the utmost humility cutting through his voice. "By the time I was a junior, I had a pretty good arm. But I knew the wishbone was not an offense that I was going to excel in.
"Of course the goal was to play, but as you get older, you realize being part of a team helps you in so many ways later in life," Carey says. "I learned more about leadership at Michie Stadium than anywhere else. It's all about getting people to work together towards a common goal and fighting through adversity. Being a cadet, that `never-quit' attitude becomes a part of who you are."
Carey's four-year teammate, starting offensive lineman, Steve Chalout (USMA '92), says "Pete didn't see the field much, but he never lost focus on how important his role on our team was. His job was to get me and the rest of the starters prepared to go against a passing quarterback. He did it with great success week-in and week-out."
Commissioned as second lieutenants, Carey, Chalout and the rest of their teammates tossed their hats to the Michie Stadium sky in May 1992.
Carey, who branched Infantry, soon attended Airborne School, Officer Basic Course and Ranger School before eventually joining the 1st Cavalry Division, 2nd Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas. As a mechanized platoon leader and executive officer, his infantry company was deployed to Kuwait as part of a rapid deployment force in 1995.
With his first taste of a short deployment under way, Carey made the decision to extend the minimum five-year active duty commitment all cadets must make. He returned to Fort Benning, Ga., for additional training and was promoted to captain. Carey spent the better part of the next two years
Carey was selected to serve in the Joint Security Area of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. He was an assistant operations officer of the most forward deployed American unit on the peninsula, with responsibility for maintaining the integrity of Pammunjom. He then became a company commander of an air assault light infantry company in the 2nd Infantry Division.
Carey returned stateside with the idea that he would soon turn the page on his military career and begin the civilian chapter of his life. He spent the ensuing year working with the 42nd Infantry Division, a New York National Guard unit.
After working for a high-tech services company in Northern California for about a year, Carey began his first year of business school at the University of Southern California (USC). A summer internship at Bear Stearns in New York City eventually led to a job after his completion of a Master of Business Administration from USC.
With a bright future in the financial sector, Carey's sense of duty never wavered. He was a student at USC when the events of Sept. 11, 2001, silenced the nation.
"One of my former classmates was in charge of Infantry personnel. I remember calling him at 11 o'clock on September 12," he recalls. "I said, `If you need me to come back in, I'm healthy and ready to go.'"
Carey's was one of about 200 similar phone calls the personnel officer said he
had already received that morning.
"I hung up the phone and thought to myself, `Wow. That kind of commitment to
the nation, especially in time of peril, says
a great deal about West Point and the individuals that graduate from there," he says.
Carey's professional career, meanwhile, was going well. He was enjoying success as a bond salesman with Bear Stearns in the early stages of a very successful career in the fast-paced New York financial world.
"The war kept ticking on in Iraq and it wasn't going as well as people wanted it to go," Carey says. "As I talked to more and more guys, it became obvious to me that they needed people. The burden of responsibility was falling on fewer and fewer soldiers. Units were just turning around and going back."
When the New York National Guard began to mobilize, Carey made a "cold call" and left a voice message to say he had worked with the National Guard five years prior and simply wanted to talk about a couple of things. The following day, he received a phone call back from Maj. Henry Pettit, head officer for recruitment in the state of New York, and who ironically had served with Carey five years prior.
The two met for lunch at Smith and Wollensky in midtown Manhattan where Carey made his intentions clear.
"It wasn't like I thought I alone was going to make a difference," he says. "I just felt I had something to contribute."
"I didn't tell anyone about this until it was a `done-deal' because I wanted it to be my decision," says Carey, who was still single at the time. "Once I did, a lot of people thought I was crazy. I hit my family with a ton of bricks. I put them through a lot, but at the end of the day, I think they understood. "
Chalout says, "Pete's red, white and blue blood runs very deep. While his decision didn't shock me, I was honored to know a guy who would take that type of stance."
In addition to Chalout, Carey called another close friend and former classmate, Scott Belveal (USMA '92), to tell him about the decision. The two had been friends for nearly two decades at that point, having met while both playing football at USMAPS.
"Pete always held the idea of service to this nation in a very high regard," Belveal says. "The circumstances had become such that he thought he could help out and make a difference. That's who Pete is."
Carey hadn't put on a military uniform in five years, but within a matter of a few months he left Bear Stearns, raised his hand in a New York City armory and had orders to report to Fort Drum, N.Y., for a month-long training on July 5, 2005.
By August 3, Carey touched down in Kuwait and three days later he arrived in Iraq.
"I felt every bit of my age and break in service when I got there," Carey jokes.
Stationed in one of the most war-ravaged regions of Iraq, Carey spent the majority of a nearly year-long deployment in Samarra, heading up the advisory team that worked hand-in-hand with an Iraqi Army battalion.
"That's where the rubber met the road, Carey recalls. "You're on the ground in a tough part of the country in a very demanding counter-insurgency fight. There were a lot of guys who served in Samarra over the years to include a lot of West Pointers, and every one of them knows
what I am talking about.
"The guys I served with on the advisory team were simply outstanding," he continues. "Some of them were on their second and third tours. Yet mission after mission, day after day, I asked them to go deeper into their well of courage and they always responded. It was an honor to serve with them."
Carey touched back on U.S. soil and returned to Bear Stearns to resume his financial career. He then received a career opportunity to restructure the New York Common Retirement Fund's $5 billion hedge fund portfolio. Like everything else in his life, he did so successfully amidst great adversity with the organization in the middle of a corruption scandal and the market crisis of 2008. For his efforts, he and his team were recognized by Institutional Investor as "Best Public Plan Hedge Fund Program Of 2010."
That resounding achievement helped propel Cary into his current position as a principal with Archview Investment Group. He also got married. He and his wife, Abby, now reside in Manhattan and are expecting their first child in August 2013.
Carey also continues his service as a board member on the Investment Committee for the West Point Endowment.
While the casual Army football fan may not remember Peter Carey for gaudy statistics or wins over Navy, they should take notice of his name now. After experiencing a call to duty and having the fortitude to act upon it, he is the epitome of what West Point's mission is all about. The Academy should be proud to call Peter Carey one of its own.
Tune in tomorrow for DICK EDELL: Big Man On Campus.