“Be The Catalyst For Someone Else’s Greatest Achievement”: A Member Of The Team At West Point And In The Army

Paul Roggenkamp


Paul Roggenkamp grew up in South Dakota with six siblings. He played football in high school and learned about West Point through reading history. A defining moment for him was his first boxing match as a Plebe, when landing a blow against an upperclassman instilled him with courage. He played 150 lbs Football (Sprint Football) during his Plebe year and had hopes of making the varsity team his Yearling year. In the off-season, he worked out in the gymnastics room, hoping to use exercises he learned in gymnastics class to strengthen his upper body to become a better linebacker. A member of the gymnastics team noticed his hard work and opened the door to joining the team. When Paul was cut from Sprint Football the fall of his Yearling year, he seized the opportunity to become a gymnast, driven by his passion to be a member of a team. He trained on the high bar and made that his focus, eventually competing in the National Championships. He commissioned into the Infantry, and after a year in Korea he volunteered for Vietnam following Special Forces and Pathfinder training. Assigned to MAC-V, he commanded a Long Range Reconnaissance Company comprised of several indigenous groups. Returning from Vietnam, he was assigned to an ROTC detachment at UCLA where, in addition to his ROTC duties, he coached gymnastics. He was then assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, where he commanded A Company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, and Headquarters Company in 2nd Brigade. Later, in 1985, he deployed to Liberia as part of the military mission in that country. In this interview, he reflects on his experiences as an Army gymnast, emphasizing how being a member of that team shaped his life. He shares his recollections of gymnastics team captain Howie Pontuck (USMA 66) who was killed in Vietnam on March 8, 1968. He describes his deployments to Vietnam and Liberia, and being assigned to the ROTC Detachment at UCLA. Finally, he describes what being an Army gymnast and West Point mean to him.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Army Athletics Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie West Point History Military Techniques
interviewer David Siry
date 15 January 2022


name Paul Roggenkamp
institution USMA
graduation year 1966
service Infantry / Special Forces
unit 1st BN, 23rd IN; MACV; A Co, 1st BN, 502nd IN; HHC, 2nd BDE, 101st Airborne Division;
specialty Army Gymnastics
service dates 1966 1988