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Cadet Follows Father's Path to West Point

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2006 – Growing up "green" with a pair of Army parents and moving around the world influenced a West Point cadet's decision to give military life a whirl.

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Cadet Sgt. Philip S. Bucci, a second-generation West Pointer, said his military parents influenced his decision to attend the academy. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"Dad graduated from West Point in 1977, and Mom was an Army nurse," recalled Cadet Sgt. Philip S. Bucci, who has just completed his second year at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. "I've always been interested in the Army," Bucci said, because of his parents' military service.

He said he remembers being 5 years old and watching an Army-Navy football game with his father, Steven, now a retired colonel. He and the elder Bucci were very vocal in their support for the Army team.

"I was screaming for the Army team to win," Bucci, now 20, recalled.

Bucci was born in Columbia, S.C., near Fort Jackson. His mother left the Army right before he was born in 1985. Afterward, the Bucci family set up housekeeping in several stateside and overseas abodes, including in Greece and Albania. Bucci said his father joined Army Special Forces in the early 1980s. The senior Bucci would go on to become the military assistant to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Growing up in a military family provided unique challenges, such as frequent moves, but also brought benefits, Bucci said.

"I've seen other parts of the world and experienced other cultures," Bucci said, noting some of his civilian counterparts have never left the state they live in.

Bucci remembers a loving, caring father who spent as much time as possible with him and his two-year-older brother, Peter. Bucci recalled times when he and his father would amuse themselves with G.I. Joe action figures.

"We'd play war games with the G.I. Joes in our backyard," Bucci recalled.

Bucci, who's slated to graduate in 2008, is no longer playing soldier; he's learning to lead soldiers at West Point. Since he hopes to be commissioned in the infantry, he said it's likely that he'll be deployed to Iraq.

He said today's global war against terrorism is a different type of conflict that requires special training and tactics. For example, Bucci said, he has received various classes on combating improvised explosive devices.

He said many West Point professors have pulled duty in Iraq and they've told cadets that it's important to obtain local assistance when hunting for IEDs because local Iraqis often know where they've been placed. The cadets have also been taught that IEDs are often disguised.

"Some of them are ingenious - they'll take soda cans and fill them with explosives or use animal carcasses to hide bombs," Bucci said.

He could have attended a traditional college or university, but Bucci said that wasn't for him. West Point, he said, is like nothing else in the world.

"It's pretty unique. After talking to students attending civilian colleges, it's pretty apparent that West Point has its own culture," he said.

The academy teaches the ABCs of military leadership while driving home the importance of personal character, he said.

"The goal is to produce effective and ethical military leaders who accomplish required missions," Bucci said. Leaders who actively care about their soldiers' welfare, he said, will realize better results.

West Point teaches its cadets that leadership "is serving your soldiers," Bucci said, including their families.

Cadets are also taught the importance of teamwork, Bucci said, noting the Army isn't an organization run by and for individuals. "You can't accomplish anything all by yourself," he said. Accordingly, cadets are taught to help one another during their first weeks at the academy.

"Cooperate and graduate, that's what they've always told us," Bucci said. "You always help your buddy out."

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