Whittington named Corps of Cadets' first captain
By Brian Gunning
Army Athletic Communications
The Army football team will be well represented among the cadet leadership during the upcoming school year as senior defensive back Brandon Whittington has been named the first captain of the Corps of Cadets, the highest position in the West Point cadet chain of command, for the 2012-13 academic year.
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 is also referred to as the brigade commander, whose 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 academic 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 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 added. “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.”
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 on Reception Day. The same day he relinquished command of the regiment, Whittington was on a plane heading to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he would shadow an aviation officer during a Cadet Troop Leader Training, or CTLT, assignment.
“Our guys came here to be cadets,” Ellerson said. “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.”
Words of Wisdom
From a Former First Captain 1st Lt. Ben Amsler, former first captain of the Class of 2009, knows firsthand what it’s like to lead the Corps of Cadets and imparted some advice for the newly-selected brigade commander.
“Enjoy the first captain experience. It is going to be the busiest year of your life,” Amsler, an air operations officer stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., said. “Take the time to enjoy all the people you meet. Keep a journal if only to keep track of all the events you attend. Do not burn any bridges especially with your classmates.
“Though you are in charge for nine months, you will spend the rest of your career with your peers. Your reputation will follow you whether you want it to or not,” he added. “The most important thing I learned was how to manage multiple different parts of a large organization while maintaining a personal connection with everyone around you.”
Amsler’s advice for Whittington is to “work harder than everyone around you. Find the holes whereever they may be in an organization and work to fill them.”
He said that the training he received at West Point prepared him very well for his duty in Afghanistan.
“Though you attend the Basic Officer Leadership Course and other schools after graduation, you do not get a chance to develop your leadership style until after you leave school,” he said. “It is important to get as much as you can from the training offered at West Point.”
Brigade Chain of Command
The brigade chain of command includes Class of 2013 Cadets Ross Boston, Rachel Miller and Bill Owens, as the deputy brigade commander, executive officer and command sergeant major, respectively.
Class of 2013 Cadet Alexander Rubilar was selected as the brigade academic officer, with Adam Leemans serving as the brigade’s energy and environmental officer.
Class of 2013 Cadet Chris Boldt, the Black Knights’ punter, will serve as the commander of First Regiment, 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.
The 4th Regiment will be led by Class of 2013 Cadet Justen Anka, who served as the regimental commander during Cadet Field Training this summer.
In 2nd Regiment, Class of 2013 Cadet Brenna Heisterman was selected to lead as the commander. She served as the executive officer during the first detail of Cadet Basic Training.
Class of 2013 Cadet Thomas Ott, having just completed his duties as CBTII commander, will lead the 3rd Regiment.
“It has truly been an honor being the commander and leading new cadets, but it’s not about me being in charge,” Ott said. “It was about the success of the new cadets, and that’s a direct result of all the leadership involved in Task Force Steele, and from the first detail. They did an amazing job this summer and I couldn’t have been prouder.”
(Editor’s Note: Mike Brantley, USMA Public Affairs, and Mike Strasser, assistant editor, contributed to this report.)