By Master Sgt. Dean Welch, West Point Dir. of Public Affairs & CommunicationsSeptember 10, 2009
An Academic Individual Advanced Development trip is designed to introduce cadets to the world, to give them insight into potential majors or hands-on experience with chosen career paths.
Rarely, if ever, does it afford a cadet the opportunity for face time with the senior person in the organization. However, for Yearling Sam Lough, his path to his summer AIAD with the U.S. Secret Service started at the top with the director, Mark Sullivan, and led to some one-on-one time with President Obama.
A competitive swimmer, Lough swam on a summer team in his hometown of Chevy Chase, Md., that included Sullivan's daughter. Lough would occasionally mention to Sullivan that he would like to do an internship with the department.
His opportunity came in May when he spent three weeks in Washington with the Secret Service in its forensic sciences and criminal investigative divisions.
"It was very interesting with the sciences used and the investigative techniques," Lough said of his time there.
But his chance meeting with the commander in chief was just about being in the right place at the right time, and being in the right uniform, which he credits with getting him noticed by a White House staffer.
"I was in white over gray, so I assume he (White House Trip Director Marvin Nicholson) knew I was a cadet," Lough said.
On this day, Lough, who hopes for another AIAD this coming summer, possibly with NASA, was spending it with the Secret Service detail charged with guarding the President as he headed to FEMA headquarters.
While the President was inside discussing hurricane preparedness, Lough waited outside. Nicholson approached him and asked if he had met the President. When the 19-year-old Lough said 'no,' Nicholson told him to wait there and he would meet him when he returned to the motorcade.
The meeting never materialized as the agents he was shadowing said it was best to wait in the car and be ready to move. It was an opportunity lost, or so it seemed.
Back at the White House, specifically "the south lawn with the big looped driveway," he waited until the "important people were out of the cars" and then saw a target of opportunity.
"I noticed Nicholson, so I may have kind of stuck my foot out a little bit and he saw me and came over," Lough smirked.
Lough, who earned Patriot League Academic Honor Roll status last season, accompanied Nicholson into the basement of the White House where the President was taping his weekly address. This time he waited and before the President went in, he came over to shake hands and spoke with Lough.
"We had a brief 2-3 minute conversation," Lough said. "It was a good conversation."
Lough accompanied President Obama into the taping room and "stood 10 feet to the side while he (the President) gave his update on Judge Sotomayor."
As luck would have it, NBC was at the White House taping its own special, "Inside The Obama White House," and Lough's chance meeting was recorded and aired several days later.
"They (parents) couldn't believe it," Lough said of his parent's reaction to him meeting the President. "I came home and knew the special was going to be on, so I said watch it. They said 'you're probably not going to make it,' but 10 minutes into (the show there was) a five-second clip of me, which is really cool!"
Although meeting the President was clearly the highlight, there were other exceptional opportunities during his AIAD.
"I spent a day with counterfeit investigators," the West Point swimmer said. "I got to see upward of millions of dollars of the supernote, which is a very difficult counterfeit bill to track and detect."
He also witnessed a polygraph test and gained a further understanding of the results. Lough volunteered to take a test but was told 'it might be best to hold off on that.' In addition, he saw how the department tracks and combats credit card fraud.
Lough, whose grandfather, Frederick, graduated from West Point in 1938, said the infantry lifestyle is fairly appealing to him but he remains uncertain of his major. He narrowed his choices down to computer science, physics and, possibly, civil/mechanical engineering.
Lough, a member of the academy Plebe record-setting 200-meter medley relay team, said the academy is the only school he wanted to go to. And considering his Family history here, it is easy to see why.
Besides his grandfather, who served as the Director of the Law Dept., he lists his father, Frederick, Jr. (Class of 1970), an uncle, Charles Thebaud (Class of 1974) and brother, Frederick, III, (Class of 2008) as members of the Long Gray Line. Waiting in the wings to join them are his sister, Margaret (Class of 2011); his twin brother, James; and a cousin, Chrissy Thebaud, who entered this year.
While he said he will hold his meeting with the President over James', who interned with the State Dept., head for a while, he thinks Fred and Margaret's opportunity to lead through Cadet Troop Leadership Training is just as noteworthy.
"I think they got really good experiences, some of the best experiences that you'll get as a cadet," the unassuming cadet said.
(Editor's Note: Lough can be seen in the program on the worldwide web at http:www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30892505/#31073943. Lough appears in Part 3: Anatomy of a Talking Point, about 3:30 into it.)