By Michelle Eberhart (USMA West Point, Public Affairs)May 26, 2016
WEST POINT, N.Y. (May 27, 2016) -- First Captain and Class President are two of the most challenging Cadet jobs the United States Military Academy at West Point has to offer. Emmanuel J. (EJ) Coleman III conquered both of them, a feat done by only seven cadets previously, including Gen. John J. Pershing and Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins, and he was the first African-American to hold both positions.
After balancing his roles as a cadet leader, EJ talks about his time at West Point throughout his four years, as well as his future as an Army officer.
Pointer View: How was your time at West Point?
EJ: "Well my time here has been, obviously good, and then bad times, West Point is supposed to be a challenge. But overall, I've enjoyed it for the most part."
"Even showing up on R-Day, I was the guy who did all my research on West Point, and memorized like half the knowledge book before I got here."
PV: Why West Point?
EJ: "I did JROTC in high school and through that experience I learned that the military was something I really wanted to do, I liked the idea of it, I wanted to serve and I wanted to be an officer. (Many) of my family (members) had served, for the most part, in the Army and I lived near Fort Belvoir, which is Army, and the Army seems kind of like the right fit for me, personally."
"In doing some research, and different commission programs, obviously ROTC being the main one, I found out about West Point, then I started talking to West Point grads, and I did the Summer Leader Seminar here, which is now the Summer Leader Experience."
"But after that, I fell in love with the place."
PV: What was your biggest challenge?
EJ: "I'd definitely say the most challenging has been my summer details, so I did Buckner Cadet Field Training (CFT) as a Platoon Sergeant for my leadership detail, and it was my last choice as a position."
"It was a challenge because I wasn't too eager to go, but also I kind of had to lead the rising Yearlings and try to maintain a professional atmosphere."
"That was a good personal leadership challenge."
PV: Best memory?
EJ: "Well, I obviously love being First Captain, that's a pretty cool job, but outside of that, the last summer, working Beast 2, CBT2 as the commander, that has to be one of the best experiences I've had at the Academy."
"It was the first time I was actually put in a leadership position that had an official structure and I had a lot of responsibility and a lot of expectations and I could see a direct result of what we did as far as the staff and leadership."
"It was one of the first real experiences where I saw what being a leader in the Army was like and putting all the principles and techniques that we'd learned as far as Mission Command. Then putting it into practice and seeing it all pan out in real time, it was probably one of the best experiences I've had here."
PV: What's the relationship between you and the Superintendent like?
EJ: "He's a General Officer, so as a cadet you look up to him, kind of an example of what to be, especially this year and being able to work a little closer with him, the Commandant and the Dean, attending events and official functions and being able to see them in official capacity in front of the Corps of Cadets and then offline, too."
"Being able to have a personal conversation with them, it's really inspiring. I think to be able to see the professionalism, in who they are as people, and it goes with the Superintendent as well, he is one of the best leaders I've ever had the opportunity to work for in my very short life."
PV: How will your experiences as Class President and First Captain help your Soldiers?
EJ: "I think it will help in terms of perspective. One, I think the skills I'm able to apply as Class President, where I'm able to be a lot more personable, I mean skills should apply in the same realm, in both jobs, but just in different ways. I guess Class President is a lot more personal level, and I don't have to be as strict and rigid, and I think that's very helpful, just when I talk to people and get to know people."
"Then as First Captain, seeing the importance of all the little details … seeing it at a more macro level, I can see the importance of doing it that way and making sure that everything's right and double checking it, the attention to detail and the level of rigor and work ethic I'm willing to put in to make sure that everything is perfect is something I will definitely be able to apply, help to make me a better leader for Soldiers down the road."
PV: Do you want to be President of the United States?
EJ: "I don't know about that, First Captain is difficult enough!"
PV: What do you think the most important Army value is, for you?
EJ: "I would say the most important Army value to me is selfless service. I feel like it helps encompass a lot of it, as far as, we don't do what we do for ourselves, and we should never do it for ourselves, or even for just our direct unit, but for the Army and the nation as a whole."
"When you're serving something more important than yourself, then you're more likely to do it with honor, do it with integrity, to have courage and understand that what you're doing has a magnificent effect on the lives of others indirectly and directly."
PV: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
EJ: "Honestly, I've thought about both paths, staying in the Army or getting out of the Army, but really I think it comes down to seeing what the Army has in store for me, once I actually get there. I'd love to be able to lead as a platoon leader."
PV: What's next?
EJ: "I'm actually going to grad school, I got a rotary global grant scholarship. I'm a double major--economics and management and I will be going into a Dual Master's program. I'll get a master's in international business and a master's in finance."
Four things you may not know about EJ Coleman:
• My favorite flavor of ice cream is Milk and Cookies, Ben and Jerrys, which they rarely have at Grant Hall, and I tell everybody, you got to get that!
• I had my pilot's license before my driver's license. It's not current because I haven't flown in four years!
• I really like superheroes, not really comic books, but movies, like the Avengers and stuff like that, I actually do research on it, so I know what to expect
• I do amateur bodybuilding, I mean, I haven't done too well being here, so I've done two shows in the physique category for OCB. I did one last year in February and then I did one this past year, the weekend before spring break with another cadet. I did better this year than last year, and I think I'm going to do another one.