Fall 2023 Brigade Commander
POSTED ON: Tuesday, October 3, 2023 8:57 AM by MC2 Sarah Thielen
The U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) announced Midshipman 1st Class (senior) Chiara Rappa from Summerfield, Florida, as brigade commander for the fall semester academic year 2023.
Leading more than 4,000 midshipmen, the brigade commander is the highest leadership position within the brigade. The duties include ensuring mutual dignity and respect for all midshipmen, 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 knew I wanted to go up for a striper position because I really wanted to serve as many people as I possibly could,” said Rappa. “After the interview and the board, the deputy commandant read my name for brigade commander, and I was in shock. It wasn’t really my plan but it’s an honor.”
The brigade striper selection board receives records of the top ranked first class midshipmen across the brigade for consideration for the most senior midshipman leadership positions each semester. The board’s composition is made up of the deputy commandant of midshipmen, the six battalion officers, the brigade master chief, and the current brigade commander.
Rappa says she relies on her mentors whose support is a key contributor to her success at USNA. One of her most prominent mentors is U.S. Navy Capt. Dee Dee Smith, the USNA SAPR Program Manager and Information Warfare Lead.
Rappa and Smith met through the Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Education program last year while Rappa served as a peer educator.
“Midshipman Rappa embodies the type of leader we should all aspire to be,” said Smith. “She is energetic and empathetic and has humility in spades. To me, her humility is her strongest quality and what I think will allow her to be a superb brigade commander.”
While growing up in Florida, Rappa frequently saw veterans helping out within the community. She remembers being in middle school and telling people that when she grows up, she’s going to be in the Navy, on the water somewhere, helping people.
“I thought the Naval Academy would help me with two competing dreams I had,” said Rappa. “I really wanted to serve in the Navy, and that was my main goal, but as I got older I realized having a college degree is something that would be helpful.” Rappa will be the first in her family to graduate from college.
Though she doesn’t come from a long line of military veterans, her family supported her dedication to make her dreams come true.
“Knowing the responsibility I have now, I’m in the line of brigade commanders and have to uphold [the legacy] of those that already passed and those that are to come, and continue to set that standard,” said Rappa.
Rappa shared the pressure she feels within her new role. She takes the weight of representing the brigade seriously and hopes she can help others feel heard through her position.
“She is willing to listen, receive feedback, self-reflect, and provide decisive guidance once she has considered all options and potential outcomes,” said Smith. “She is a deliberate professional who does not waste time on entitlement, arrogance, or seeking time in the spotlight - a servant leader through and through.”
As Rappa begins her final year at the academy, she thinks back to applying and starting at the Naval Academy.
“A piece of advice I would give to anyone who wants to come here or maybe be in my shoes one day is to be unapologetically yourself,” said Rappa. “You don’t have to hide who you are and your personality. That’s what’s going to make you a better midshipman. That’s what’s going to make you a better officer.”
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.