10 studies even though the war always beckoned and the deaths of those he knew continued to challenge him. “Somehow, I managed to stick it out. I met the expectations the academy and those I set for myself. One of the very first courses that I was thrown into as a freshman was called Discrete Dynamical Systems and I still have no clue what that is.” Graduating from the academy would seem like a joyous moment of major accomplishment where cadets throw their hats in the air and celebrate, but Mantz saw it as a box to check. A major step in the right direction, he willingly admits, but it was just a necessary step in getting downrange, and his internal clock was growing impatient. “My stepfather wrote me a letter and gave it to me at graduation. Sealed inside an envelope, he told me not to open until I got to Fort Benning for my year of infantry school. It was two pages, wonderfully written about leadership, what he took away from his time in the infantry, and his time on the police force. I came across that letter not very long ago, having almost forgotten about it. As I read it, it was amazing how his words came back to me and the leadership practices he wrote about. I believe that I naturally fell into those leadership principles because of his influence in my life.” Mantz was assigned to the 1st Calvary Division at Fort Hood Texas with the 1-8 Cav Battalion, Bravo Company. His company commander, Captain Jeff Morris, who Mantz says, “is one of the best officers I’ve evet met,” began sizing him up for a special platoon. around you. We were all quickly re- programmed with an understanding that life is not fair, and that the wrath of the big Army does not discriminate.” His class of 2005 was nicknamed the class of 9/11. Your first year at West Point is kind of a freebie. You know that you’re not fully committed to the five years of active duty service and eight years of reserve time that follows until your second year. During the second year, cadets must take what’s called the “Oath of Reaffirmation” where you raise your right hand and sign on the dotted line. Once you do, you’re committed. The class of 2004 was the first class to take that oath after 9/11 with the full knowledge of what was in store for them. “A new sense of seriousness set in over the Corps of Cadets. We knew as future leaders why we were here and we knew exactly where we’d be heading when we left there.” Mantz says that being at the Academy while so many he knew were heading off to war was very conflicting. “A profound sense of guilt came over me, being in an academic environment when this horrendous fight was going on in Afghanistan and Iraq. Every single day I was there, I wanted to do nothing more than drop out, enlist, and join the team downrange.” But it was Sergeant Major Doug Van Der Pool and his step-father Degg, his two biggest mentors in life, that talked him off the ledge and kept him focused. They helped him keep perspective and convinced him that he’d be more effective if he continued and finished the process. He kept up with his 11 JAY DOBYNS Mantz describes his days at the Academy as a “speeding train” - four years of non- stop activity.