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Public Affairs : Cadet Leadership Series Part IV

Cadet Leadership Series
Q&A Part IV 
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Dec. 5, 2013) — In the fourth installment of the Cadet Leadership Q&A Series, the Pointer View spoke with Class of 2014 Cadets Gabrielle Mangru, the brigade respect captain, and Clare Moser, the brigade honor captain.

Both positions are integral to maintaining accountability and oversight within the Corps of Cadets throughout the development of their professional military ethic. No easy task, to be sure, so the Pointer View wanted to get their perspective on these leadership positions.

Cadet Honor Code: “A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, or     
                                tolerate those who do.”                         
Respect Creed:  “Cadets will treat others and themselves       
                           with dignity and worth and expect the same 
                           from those around them.”                           

PV: Part of your job as honor captain is dealing with the less transparent issues facing the Corps of Cadets — honor violations. When I read the job description I wondered what cadet would want that sort of responsibility?

Moser: “The title does come with a certain amount of serious responsibility with what we are trying to project and the tradition as well of the honor code. I want to do this. Personally, I think when you hear about West Point you get the sense of academics and athletics, but not always about what makes this West Point. What makes us different is the honor.

"From the beginning, I thought this was amazing and wanted to be a part of it. I can do academics and participate in activities at any other school, but only here could I aspire to be in a position like the honor captain.”

PV: So then tell me what being honor captain is all about?

Moser: “It means talking with and meeting with a lot of people—I have my mentorship staff, education staff, PAO, secretary and executive officer—but a lot of the job is about command and control. I don’t have to micromanage anyone because it’s a great staff, and that goes all the way down to the company level.

“I have a lot of respect for the regimental representatives—their job is really difficult but I trust all of them with every single board we’ll go through. I also make sure that the honor committee reflects our vision of inspiring honorable living and building trust throughout the semester.”

PV: I really don’t know anything about an honor board or what degrees of violations there might be. What’s major, what’s minor?

Moser: “Well the honor code states that a cadet cannot lie, cheat or steal, and I don’t consider any of those to be minor. They all have specific definitions and they’re all pretty severe. Anyone thought to have violated the honor code is investigated by the company reps and then the investigation goes to the regimental reps who will review it and compile a packet that is sent to the investigations officer to decide if it goes before an honor board. That’s the general process without getting too specific.”

PV: How is honor taught as an educational program?

Moser: “There are company level and regimental level educational programs and briefings for cadets. It’s a great year for honor education because our education officer, Hope Mango, has really been working hard on the lessons we’ve chosen.

"We have become more developmental this year because our vision is about responding to the superintendent’s request to elevate honor into honorable living. How do you raise the standard of honor? We want the honor code to be the foundation and the minimum. A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal—that’s the minimum. We want to raise the bar and say just doing those three things doesn’t necessarily mean you are living honorably.

"That’s our vision this academic year. The education aspect reflects the spirit of the code more so than telling someone not to plagiarize. We’re instructing cadets to own the code, which is not a daily ‘checking off the block.’”

PV: That doesn’t sound like a vision you can get immediate results on.

Moser: “It’s definitely easier said than done and it’s not one of those things we can turn around with results the next day. We have several end-of-year surveys and it won’t be until then that will we be able to determine the progress we’ve made.”

PV: Similar to the respect committee, being part of the honor committee has to be a struggle of perception—you guys police up the bad cadets.

Moser: “Well, the honor system does a good job of showing what wrong looks like. We have our honor boards and XY cases. But, this year the honor committee wants to focus on and recognize what right looks like. 
Code photo1.jpg
The Cadet Honor Code is always visible in Central Area in what is known as Honor Plaza.

“The honor code is not out to get ‘bad cadets.’ The honor committee is here for a cadet’s development to make them better people and future officers.”

PV: How do you think being the honor captain this academic year will benefit you when you graduate as a junior officer?

Moser: “How can it not benefit me? Well I can answer that both personally and professionally. With the public speaking, presentations and working with the staff organization—that’s going to help me become a better officer because it’s what they do for a platoon, a company and all the way up the chain. It’s detail-oriented work.

“On a personal level, if I can accomplish what I want to it will be a personal victory because I’ll be raising my level of honor as we seek to raise it throughout the Corps. You have to first reflect on yourself before reflecting the vision onto others, so I think that personal development is going to help me later on in life.”

PV: Until now, what has been the most rewarding leadership experience you’ve had?

Moser: “I loved being a company honor rep, I really did. I was trained my sophomore year and then I was the honor rep NCO my cow year, as well as doing a couple honor details over the summer because I just happened to be here and they needed me to do it. Being able to dig into these investigations and find the truth of the matter was rewarding, I mean I’m not in any way a philosopher or lawyer but having that responsibility made me feel I was making a difference.”

PV: Ultimately, it’s not about you doing that job or even the person being investigated. It’s about upholding a code, right?

Moser: “It is not just mine but, every cadet’s responsibility to own and uphold the honor code. The honor code asks us to go beyond maintaining our own integrity, and demands that we ensure the integrity of those around us. Because at the end of the day the honor system is cadet-run.”

PV: So what does honor mean to you?

Moser: “Trust, integrity and competence. It really does. I’m kind of taking what the superintendent has said and honing in on his ideas. If you don’t have integrity and competence—if someone can’t trust you to do something and do it well then there’s no trust.”

PV: Does the honor code have the same meaning to you as when you first arrived here?

Moser: “I think my upbringing had a lot of influence. My dad was a grad and so I grew up with the stories about going to a school where if you lied you would get kicked out, and so with the little fibs I made as a child I’d always get that talk. So actually being here was surreal after being raised on those stories.

"With West Point, you have all this diversity and cadets coming from all over and having different life experiences. So West Point is like this great equalizer where we tell you what is right and what is wrong and why you should live honorably.

“But, being a part of the Honor Committee, especially as Honor Captain, there is not one day that I do not reflect about honor. This reflection is an ongoing process and after each reflection the honor code means more to me.

"When I first arrived at West Point, the honor code was just a set of rules that I abided by; but, now the honor code is a way of life.” 

Class of 2014 Cadet Gabrielle Moser speaks at a Women's History Month event at West Point. 
Photo by Anthony Battista/DPTMS

Class of 2014 Cadet Clare Moser, the brigade honor captain for the Corps of Cadets.
Class of 2014 Cadet Gabrielle Mangru, the respect captain for the Corps of Cadets. Photos by John Pellino/DPTMS

PV: How do you think being the respect captain this academic year will benefit you as a soon-to-be second lieutenant?

Mangru: “I think it will have an amazing effect because respect is such a big issue in the Army, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just such an important thing to have a handle on, especially as a junior officer. My brother and fiancée are both lieutenants right now—one is deployed and the other is in garrison and I’ve been told that there are things that will happen that you wouldn’t even imagine having to deal with respect.

“And it’s your job as a lieutenant to foster that culture of respect and provide a safe and healthy environment for people to be who they are, and be respected, regardless of their race, religion or background. As a lieutenant, you are the spearhead for that effort. If I have no respect for others, then my Soldiers will see that as acceptable behavior.

“And that definitely ruins the integrity of a unit. It corrupts the foundation—disrespect has a way of eroding units faster than anything else. I think at the end of the day if there is respect and everyone is able to work together as a team, you can get through anything.”

PV: What’s the biggest challenge facing the brigade respect committee?

Mangru: “It just isn’t something people care about—they see the brigade respect committee as the police, you know—‘oh, you’re going to take away all my fun and make sure I can’t say this or that.’”

PV: Doesn’t that type of perception apply to the honor committee as well—the people who enforce a code?

Mangru: “Yes, but the honor committee has a very well-established system in the Corps and Respect is just…”

PV:’s just one of the seven Army values that serves as the foundation for this branch of the armed forces, so that has to have some merit, no?

Mangru: “You would think that makes it important, but it just doesn’t always have that effect I guess.”

PV: Is that the big challenge then for the respect staff? Making this matter?

Mangru: “I would say so.”

PV: “So how do you take on this challenge?”

Mangru: “We have a staff that has come up with a lot of innovative ideas this year. We want to get rid of things that haven’t worked in the past.

“We want to get the international cadets here more involved so that people can appreciate the diversity we have here and get to know them. We want first lieutenants to come here, just back from deployment who can demonstrate how respect is important to a unit and how integrity can suffer from just one respect issue.”

PV: During cadet summer training, I heard a squad leader explain his behavior after they just completed a raid scenario. He sort of apologized for having cursed while instructing his squad, and I thought that was unusual that needed to be said. You know, fog of war, heat of the moment, you say what you have to say for effect. Still he offered up an explanation for the language used. Is this a respect issue?

Mangru: “I think it’s a step in the right direction. Personally, I don’t like when people recognize that they do something and then do it anyway. You’ll run into officers who will say right off the bat that they cuss and that it’s something they’re working on but you shouldn’t do it.

“It’s not right if you’re going to propagate something as a value, but then you can’t adhere to the same standard.

“It’s not enough to do something, apologize for doing it, and then hope those who follow you won’t do the same. It’s about leading by example.”

PV: So the respect program advocates cultural awareness, sexual harassment prevention and equal opportunity for the Corps of Cadets? What sort of issues is a concern for the respect committee?

Mangru: “I think there are some of the things we’ve been looking at that aren’t the typical gender discrimination or racial issues. Religion has become prominent in recent months—strikes between atheism and having benedictions—and people wouldn’t expect this to be a respect issue but you want to find a way so everyone is comfortable practicing what they believe. (Editor’s Note: Recently, a proposal to remove “God” from a sister service academy oath was challenged, then rejected.) Language is also an issue, and not just in terms of cursing, but when people use words that are offensive, like calling someone ‘retarded.’ That’s not OK to use. Sexual orientation is another issue that is becoming more prominent.”

PV: Explain how cadets receive respect education at the academy?

Mangru: “Honor and respect are taught jointly in what is called professional military ethic education, we know it as PME2, and it’s provided roughly once a month (through the Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic) in a classroom environment. Plebes, yearlings and cows are actually taught by upperclassmen on a specific honor or respect issue. This year, we want to expand that beyond the classroom, and have companies do more with those issues—encourage open dialogue in a different environment.”

PV: I often think that Soldiers and civilians in the Equal Opportunity offices have to sense that people behave differently when they’re around. Do you get that?

Mangru: “I’m perfectly comfortable with it. At first I wasn’t, in the sense that I don’t want people to think that I’m the police, and I don’t want people to change and then change right back after I leave. Our EO advisor actually helped me see the value. If we keep exponentially growing the number of people who someone has to watch what he or she is saying around others, there will come a point in time where those people will no longer have an audience. It will become natural for them to become always cognizant of what they are saying.”

PV: As the brigade respect captain, tell me about this year’s respect committee?

Mangru: “Just from the amount of training we held before the semester proves they know what they’re doing and that they care about the right things. I’m a pretty harsh critic so I would be honest with you if I didn’t think they were. I can’t speak for the past academic years, but I think this year we have cadets for the first time who have embraced this cadet-run program and will really maximize their ability to affect change.”

PV: Among the issues your committee handles is the responsible use of alcohol. How is it a respect issue?

Mangru: “I personally think that irresponsible use of alcohol has led to a lot of respect issues. When I briefed what I thought the top five problems are in the Corps, alcohol misuse is number one. I don’t think we would have the SHARP issues that we do if we didn’t have that overlying misuse of alcohol. I think we can get at that from a respect angle.”

PV: Until now what has been the most rewarding leadership experience you’ve had at the academy?

Mangru: “I think being a team leader (yearling year) was pretty rewarding because you have one person you are looking out for and you’re directly responsible for their well-being. You see the effects of your leadership immediately and you get to dedicate yourself completely to making somebody better, more so than being a squad leader. When I was on battalion staff, there were so many people I wanted to help individually, but you had to look at the group as a whole. Being a team leader allows you to dedicate yourself to really making a difference in someone’s life.”