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Public Affairs : 2015CLS2

Cadet Leadership Series
Q&A with Nick Pappas 
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug. 20, 2014) — The second in the Cadet Leadership Series features Class of 2015 Cadet Nick Pappas, the brigade command sergeant major.

Pappas hails from Alpine, New Jersey, and is majoring in Mathematical Sciences, with an honors thesis, and Arabic. Prior to being accepted to West Point, Pappas studied Arabic at Tufts University. He is a four-year member of the West Point Hockey Club (formerly the Inline Hockey Club), having missed only one half of a season while studying a semester abroad in Jordan.

Pointer View: Describe the moment when you found out you were selected as the brigade command sergeant major?

Pappas: That’s a funny story actually. The number that West Point had on file was my mother’s, so they called her but wouldn’t tell her the news without first telling me. My mom thought I was in a lot of trouble. I was on vacation with my brother and when Command Sgt. Maj. (Robin) Duane finally got in touch with me, the first thing he said was for me to call my mother. I was thrilled to hear about the position, but more importantly, excited to work with such a strong team.

Pointer View: How would you describe the position of brigade command sergeant major?

Pappas: To put it simply, it’s my responsibility to have my finger on the pulse of the Corps and represent their interests to the best of my ability. Additionally, it’s my responsibility to uphold the standards and discipline while ensuring the well-being of the Corps. In conjunction with that, I advise the commander and provide that second set of eyes in the decision-making process.

Pointer View: What did you learn by serving as regimental CSM for Cadet Field Training?

Pappas: I think there’s a certain stigma assigned to senior enlisted positions in summer training because cadets see that as someone who gets in people’s faces to enforce the standard. But really it’s your job to advise and enable subordinate leaders, especially your first sergeants, to really uphold and maintain the standards.

I learned a lot about peer leadership because most of the seven first sergeants are friends I’ve known beforehand and now I’m put into the position where they’re my subordinates. Ultimately, it’s a team effort to accomplish the mission and the faster everyone reaches that conclusion, the easier the detail is.

Pointer View: You’ve worked with many of the key leaders during summer training, and when you all gathered that first time did it occur to you that this group might be capable of accomplishing a lot for the Corps this academic year?

Pappas: I think it’s going to be a great year. There is no doubt that we all have our hearts in the right places and we are all 100 percent ready to lead the Corps. 

Class of 2015 Cadet Nick Pappas (center), the Cadet Field Training regimental command sergeant major, observes training at Camp Buckner.
Pointer View: Until now, what has been the most rewarding leadership position you’ve had at West Point?

Pappas: I’d say my first leadership detail as a Cadet Basic Training I platoon sergeant, because you have that direct interaction with the new cadets, and yours is really the first person they see when they arrive. They’re completely malleable at that point so you can have tremendous positive impact in developing them as leaders.

Pointer View: Overall, how does having NCO positions in the Corps better prepare you for being an Army officer?

Pappas: Being a cadet NCO really shows you what each role in a platoon is all about, and having served all the way up to command sergeant major gives you an incredible understanding of each level of leadership. Additionally, you get a lot of mentorship from the senior enlisted to give you insight on how to fulfill your role.
Class of 2015 Cadet Nick Pappas, from Alpine, New Jersey, serves as the brigade command sergeant major. Photo by John Pellino/DPTMS VI 

Pointer View: One of the superintendent’s priorities is inspiring honorable living and I’d like to hear what that means to you?

Pappas: I think most of us do the right thing but it comes down to holding those accountable who don’t do the right thing. We have to prevent the honor code from becoming a regulation by making it more of an ethos—it’s going to be about externalizing our actions and that goes to holding people accountable and taking ownership of everything we do when we put on this uniform.

Pointer View: What advice would you give the Class of 2018 as they’re entering their first academic semester?

Pappas: I’ve told them three things during their introductory brief. Invest yourself in whatever you’re doing and take ownership and pride in it. The second is seek a mentor; learn everything you can from that person, whether it’s an instructor, a teammate or an upperclassman you look up to.

I would also recommend to always move forward. Attack the day, rather than glide through the day. You have to prove yourself every single day you are here.
Pointer View: If you had to pick one course to retake, what would it be and why?

Pappas: It would probably be Real Analysis. I had an excellent teacher, my mentor Dr. Kendall Williams from the Math Department. It was a challenging course that made you think of things that seemed simple in a different way—simple calculus theorems had to be rigorously proven. It was a tremendous challenge for me, and I worked very hard and ultimately succeeded.
Pointer View: If you had to name one instructor who has inspired or influenced you the most, who would that be?

Pappas: Besides my mentors, Dr. Williams and Dr. Rajaa Chouairi in the Arabic Department, it would be Maj. Thomas Anderson; he was my EN102 teacher during my second semester plebe year. Toward the end of the course, he promised he would tell us about himself. He showed us a photo of himself on the projector immediately following his deployment with the 173rd Airborne in Afghanistan. He had no serious casualties or KIAs.

But when he returned home, one Soldier from his unit killed himself in a DUI accident and another was going too fast on his motorcycle, was reckless, and lost his leg in the accident.

The picture showed Maj. Anderson with his arm around his Soldier who had lost his leg, because he flew out to Washington to see him following his recovery. I remember looking at this picture and thinking to myself that that’s the type of leader I want to be and that’s exactly why I came to West Point. 
The first installment of the Cadet Leadership Series featured Class of 2015 Cadet Austin Welch, the brigade commander. Read more...