LTC Ben Wallen grew up in Europe in an Army Family. For 10 years of his childhood, he and his two brothers lived in Frankfort, Germany and Brussels, Belgium. His mother was a school teacher and his father was an Army officer, and both parents were leaders in the Jewish community. While in Europe, a family visit to a concentration camp formed an especially sobering memory. Ben was already considering West Point when his older brother Adam, his childhood best friend, began attending the Academy, so it was only natural for Ben to follow suit a year later. In high school, he managed the women’s basketball team, and prior to entering West Point, he reached out to the coach and offered to manage the Academy women’s basketball team. While at West Point, Women’s Basketball and the Jewish Chapel and Chapel Choir served as his bedrock foundation and the family he kept coming back to. He commissioned into the Engineers, and started out in a variety of Combat Engineer jobs. Later in his career, he was assigned to a Construction Engineer Battalion, and he greatly enjoyed all aspects of serving as an Army Engineer. He deployed to Iraq three times as a Company Commander, a Deputy Team Chief of a Stability Transition Team, and as the Construction Program Manager in the Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq (OSC-I). He also earned two Masters’ Degrees, a Doctorate, and taught Environmental Engineering at West Point twice, reconnecting with the Women’s Basketball Team and the Jewish Chapel each time. Throughout his career, he served as a lay leader for different Jewish congregations and, while deployed, had members of the congregation call in from remote outposts (including calling in from Afghanistan and America).
In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his family’s faith foundation, and getting accepted to West Point. He describes his experiences at the Academy, highlighting his work as a basketball manager, and with the Jewish Chapel, recalling specific games and trip sections. He discusses his Army career and deployments, and recounts Iraqi reactions upon learning that he was Jewish. Finally, he talks about being a lay leader, and what the Jewish Chapel and West Point mean to him.