By Lt. Col. Chi Nguyen, United States Military AcademyNovember 21, 2017
WEST POINT, N.Y. - On 8 Nov. 2017, the United States Military Academy hosted Brig. Gen. James E. Bonner, a native of Anna, Illinois and commander, 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Command. Bonner's visit included engagements with cadets and faculty, and office calls with USMA and Nuclear Science and Engineering Research Center (NSERC) leadership.
The highlight of the visit was the time spent with cadets and discussing professional opportunities as future chemical corps and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officers.
"I was energized by the cadets and excited for them as they embark on their professional journey as officers," said Bonner. He emphasized the need for them to learn about the different career fields and to make an educated decision that is right for them.
During lunch, Bonner and the 20th CBRNE Command team engaged with senior class cadets who indicated interest in serving as chemical corps and EOD officers, while during the evening lecture period, he spoke with the cohort of approximately 900 junior class cadets.
His message was very well received by the cadets.
At the conclusion of the evening lecture, Cadet Kathryn Silecchia of Pembroke Pines, Fla. said the presentation "was really informative.
"It was really great that Brig. Gen. Bonner shared his experience," added Silecchia. "Brig. Gen. Bonner did a great job in opening cadets' eyes to opportunities they would not have otherwise considered."
Bonner discussed his diverse professional experiences in Army, joint, and interagency assignments; and communicated to the cadets the breadth and depth of professional opportunities available to chemical corps and EOD officers.
"I have never been exposed to anything about the chemical corps," said Cadet Caleb Rinderer of Martinez, Ga. "Brig. Gen. Bonner definitely opened my eyes to the possibility."
Another cadet is considering EOD as a career field after listening to Bonner speak.
Cadet Jafr Kazmi from Great Falls, Va. stated he "had never been exposed to the opportunities available as an EOD officer from lieutenants on up" and felt more informed about the CBRN and EOD career paths.
Bonner also met with leadership in the department of physics and nuclear engineering, the department of chemistry and life science, and NSERC to discuss collaborative opportunities for cadets and faculty, as well as officer assignment opportunities with the 20th CBRNE Command.
During Bonner's meeting with chemical corps, EOD, and functional area 52 (nuclear and counter proliferation) officers serving at USMA, he shared professional insights from his almost 30 years of service, communicated professional opportunities available within the 20th CBRNE Command, and addressed 20th CBRNE Command's capabilities.
Major Emily Spencer from Henderson N.C., executive officer to the dean, and an EOD officer, attended both the professional development meeting with officers and the evening lecture with cadets and came away impressed.
"The presentation [to the cadets] was very motivating," said Spencer. "It is great that Brig. Gen. Bonner is taking the time to mentor and advise on the organization [20th CBRNE Command], not only for cadets, but also faculty."
The visit to the military academy allowed the 20th CBRNE Commander to share his expertise on CBRN and EOD functions, talk to future leaders, and strengthen the relationship between USMA and the 20th CBRNE Command.
"Brig. Gen. Bonner's visit to West Point was a great opportunity for an operational commander to engage the junior class of future leaders on branch opportunities in CBRN and EOD, and to provide mentorship and insights on career progression," shared Ms. Pam Silcox, a native of Tuftonboro, N.H. and director of the commander's initiative group, 20th CBRNE Command. "The visit also afforded Brig. Gen. Bonner the opportunity to engage with department heads to continue the 20th CBRNE partnership with West Point."