USNA Welcomes New Brigade Commander '20
POSTED ON: Wednesday, September 9, 2020 10:46 AM by MC3 Thomas Bonaparte Jr.
The United States Naval Academy welcomes Midshipman 1st Class (senior) Ryan Chapman, 17th Company, as the brigade commander for the fall semester academic year 2021.
Peer leading more than 4,500 midshipmen, the brigade commander is the highest leadership position within the brigade. The duties of a brigade commander include ensuring the execution of policy, maintaining brigade efficiency, reporting deficiencies to the commandant of midshipmen, being accountable for brigade conduct, and when needed, recommending corrective action as defined by instruction.
“I am so grateful for this opportunity,” said Chapman. “This is a testament of all those that have believed and invested in me. From my parents and sister, Karrisa Bjornsta, and so many others, I’ve definitely had a great support system.”
Each semester a selection board, consisting of battalion officers and the deputy commandant of midshipmen, interviews first class midshipmen for various brigade leadership positions. There were more than 30 applicants for the brigade commander position.
“A rigorous and comprehensive selection process was used, including video conferencing interviews, to determine who best to be the next brigade commander from an extremely talented and capable group of 1st Class midshipmen,” said Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen Capt. Rob Mathewson. “Midshipman Chapman was the clear choice among his peers.“
Chapman was the Plebe Summer regimental commander for Class of 2024, leading 1,185 plebes (freshmen) and 300 detailers. He was staff leader for the midshipmen group study program for economics, and presented research on propaganda during his time as a panelist on the Joint Service Academy Mass Atrocity Prevention Symposium. He also participated in two Boston Marathons, the JFK 50 Mile Memorial, and a member of the Midshipmen Diversity Team.
Chapman credits his mentors as having a distinct effect on his leadership development by their positive influence and inspiration.
“I understand the seriousness of being someone’s mentor because my mentors have done so much for me,” said Chapman. “I am very humbled for the opportunities I’ve been given. I looked up to so many of my upperclassmen, so having the ability to set the example for my fellow midshipmen inspires me as much as it did when I was a plebe.”
Amid his demanding academic schedule and new responsibilities as brigade commander, Chapman continues to mentor underclassmen.
“I’ve known Ryan for two years now,” said Midshipman 2nd Class (junior) Ethan Thompson, training sergeant for 18th Company. “My first real encounter with Ryan was in the Lejeune pool during noon meal swim. He noticed I was struggling with my combat sidestroke technique. The second he noticed, he stopped doing his workout and dedicated the rest of his time that day helping me fix my technique. The fact that Ryan stopped doing his own workout to help someone else speaks volumes to his desire to put others first.”
According to Thompson, Chapman strives to help his classmates develop a more positive mindset.
“Ryan has helped solidify the fact that even though life throws curve balls every now and then, you are never out of the fight,” said Thompson. “Ryan’s ability to balance his role as brigade commander, and vice president of the USNA Special Operations Team, along with his goal of service selecting the Naval Special Warfare community is inspiring to me. Ryan is proof that if you genuinely want to do something, that you should do it wholeheartedly.”
Every midshipman’s path is different and Chapman’s path is proof that perseverance is often key.
“I didn’t get accepted into the Naval Academy the first time I applied,” said Chapman. “I applied for the Naval Academy in 2016 and was denied.”
After being denied, Chapman enlisted in the Army National Guard and completed a year at Marquette University studying Biomedical Engineering. He then applied to all of the service academies and received offers for the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S Air Force Academy, and USNA.
“I decided to be in the world’s Finest Navy,” said Chapman.
Noting the current operating environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chapman expressed his vision to create more efficient connections within the Brigade.
"Chapman clearly articulated his vision for the Brigade of Midshipmen, bringing passion for the job and Academy, all with humble confidence that blew us away," said 5th Battalion Officer Cmdr. Kelly Laing. "When he left the interview, we all knew individually that he was the next brigade commander. Once scores were compiled, there was no question."
The resulting requirements set forth by Navy and USNA leadership to mitigate the likelihood of infection present Chapman with a unique challenge. Social distancing now affects pretty much all aspects of midshipman life: periods of restriction of movement for incoming midshipmen; elevated levels of protection, including personal protective equipment; isolation from peers while quarantined at individual and company levels; and contactless communication— all present challenges not faced by previous brigade commanders.
“Operating in the midst of a global pandemic takes even more accountability,” said Chapman. “It requires more effort with guidance, loyalty, and principles. The environment continues to change rapidly, but the goal remains the same. I see this as a tremendous opportunity for all midshipmen to develop as Sailors, and to lead their peers in such a time of uncertainty.”
As the undergraduate college of our country's naval service, the Naval Academy prepares young men and women to become professional officers of competence, character, and compassion in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.