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Public Affairs : 2013 Engineers Dinner

Engineering majors welcomed into Army family

Story and photos by Kathy Eastwood
Staff Writer

WEST POINT, N.Y. (April 11, 2013) — The Society of American Military Engineers and the Army Engineer Association honored 127 engineering majors from the Class of 2013 into the Army Engineer Regiment March 28 at Eisenhower Hall. Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the 53rd U.S. Army chief of engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, spoke at the ceremony of his years at West Point.

“I get nervous every time I come back to West Point,” Bostick, a Class of 1978 graduate, said. “I never thought I should be here. I applied to West Point, but I received a letter from my congressman that said I wasn’t accepted.”

Bostick said he also wrote to his other congressman and senator to no avail. He was about to settle for community college when someone spoke to him about another way of entering West Point.

“He said that since my dad is a noncommissioned officer, there are presidential nominations,” Bostick said. “I got in that way. I felt really lucky. I loved West Point; I love the sports and the camaraderie. Although I remember coming to West Point when there used to be a sign that said ‘to West Point’ and another one that said, ‘no turning back.’”

Jack O’Neill, executive director of the Army Engineer Association, spoke about the meaning of the Army Engineer Regiment and how it embraces engineers of all ranks and the civilian corps.

“Your engineer branch is one of the cornerstones of the Army right after the infantry,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill said the American Engineer Association fraternity is the nucleus of the engineer branch and each cadet in the engineering branch is a member of the AEA fraternity. The annual banquet featured the presentation of the David M. Fraser Award and the Sapper Spirit Award to two outstanding engineering cadets.

Col. Stephen Ressler, professor and head of the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, spoke about the Class of 2004 graduate whom the award for engineering excellence and leadership is named after. Fraser’s parents, Helen and Richard, flew from Houston to attend the dinner and award ceremony.

“David Fraser was among the very best of our civil engineering majors of the Class of 2004, a superb scholar, cross-country athlete and a natural leader,” Ressler said. “David and his classmate Seth Chappel designed and built the pedestrian bridge at the West Point Youth Center. The bridge was David’s personal creative vision. He conceived it, he sold the idea to project sponsors and took on most of the design and personally assembled a ragtag group of volunteers.”

Ressler said the bridge had a design flaw which Fraser couldn’t ignore.

“I watched as David was in deep conversation with his cross-country teammate Seth Chappel,” Ressler said. “Chappel argued to leave the wall as it was, it was functional. There was a long pause. Then David said the words I will always remember to this day, nine years later, “It will only take three or four hours to move the wall, the bridge will be here forever.”

Two years later, in 2006, Fraser was killed by an improvised explosive device on his final day of his tour of duty in Iraq. “David was worried that the commander of the incoming unit hadn’t had enough time to familiarize himself with this new area of responsibility and he volunteered to take the commander out on one last drive to be sure he would be set up for success,” Ressler said. “The tragedy of that day is that David didn’t have to be on that patrol, but in a way he did. That was who David was.”
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Robert Wolf (left), executive director of the Society of American Military Engineers, and Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, chief of engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, present Class of 2013 Cadet Ryan Leets with the David M. Fraser Award for Engineering Excellence and Leadership at the annual Engineer Dinner March 28 at Eisenhower Hall.

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U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick presents Class of 2013 Cadet Adam Leemans with the Sapper Spirit Award for the top ranking cadet majoring in engineering at the annual Engineer Dinner March 28 at Eisenhower Hall. Leemans serves as the Corps of Cadets’ brigade energy and environmental officer and was recently named among the 2013 New Faces of Engineering College Edition.

Ressler presented the Fraser award to Class of 2013 Cadet Ryan Leets, a member of the Army hockey team who was named the Atlantic Hockey Association athlete of the year and maintained a 4.0 grade point average.

“Receiving the David M. Fraser Award was extremely humbling for many reasons,” Leets said. “I think it goes without saying that Col. Ressler’s introduction spoke volumes of the leadership and character qualities Capt. Fraser possessed. To receive an award after hearing his words was awe-inspiring and something I will surely never forget. Not only is this award special for whom it represents, but also because it was my classmates who determined its recipient. To know I made an impact on them as they have made an impact on me is rewarding in and of itself.”

The Sapper Spirit Award was presented to Class of 2013 Cadet Adam Leemans, a student member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

The Sapper Spirit Award recognizes the top ranking cadet, majoring in engineering, branching to the Corps of Engineers, and recognized for excellence by the West Point faculty. Leemans, the Corps of Cadets’ brigade energy and environmental officer, was recently selected among 15 students to the 2013 New Faces of Engineering College Edition.

Ressler was presented the Silver Order Francois de Fleury Medal. The Silver Medal may only be awarded to an individual who has rendered outstanding and significant support or service to the Engineer Regiment. The award is named after the French engineer in the American Continental Army who received a congressional medal for his service at Stony Point.