USMA CDT Caleb Campbell chooses football over soldiers
I saw Cadet Campbell featured on a news show - I want to say 60 Minutes [Eric note: it was ESPN's E:60, not CBS' 60 Minutes]. It bothered me a lot and I felt sorry for Cadet Campbell that he's been placed in this position by Academy leadership. I know it's hard for USMA to recruit football players, even compared to the other service academies, but is building a winning football program at West Point so important that they need to set this double-standard? I can't believe that the institution that calls its sports teams "Army" and considers itself the cradle of Army leadership would downplay service within the very Army it represents. When I was at USMAPS, there was a parable posted on a wall explaining why officers receive relative benefits over enlisted soldiers. The answer boiled down to one simple reason, captured in the opening Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan: when everyone around him is frozen and frightened, as is to be expected in war, it's the officer's duty to rise up and call out 'follow me'. That's not to say only Army officers at the tip of the spear qualify as leaders. It is to say that officers, among other things, are the moral compass, spirit, intent and will around which soldiers coalesce and orient. As a former enlisted soldier, I can say that the officers who are responsible for and to the best men and women this nation has to offer have a higher responsibility of leadership.
I'm not against officers moving onto other things, like the NFL, after they've fulfilled their service commitment, but I would rather West Point lose to Annapolis by 30 points every year in the Army-Navy game, if that means USMA produces a football team full of good officers, than beat Navy and see West Point graduates exempted from their sacred duty.
Update: LT Campbell is returning to duty. Good for him.