“Somebody Has To Be The Bulldog”: Firm, Fair, Trusting Leadership… And Rugby

Samantha Sullivan


Sam Sullivan grew up an Army Brat. Her father is a Special Forces Officer, and her mother is a Math Teacher. A family friend, Terry Buzzard, recommended that Sam consider the Military Academy. She did, and her twin brother Jackson arrived at a similar decision at about the same time. She remembers visibly shaking when she and Jackson said goodbye to their parents on R-Day, and believes that Beast Barracks was tough for her because she took it seriously. She felt she did well academically, but was just average militarily, noting that walking over 100 hours did not help, and she enjoyed the physical challenges of the Academy. She played rugby, and did well enough to be invited into the Army’s World Class Athlete program. During her First Class year, she served as the Brigade Trust Captain, responsible for overseeing the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment prevention program as well as promoting other issues pertaining to trust. In this role, she was able to interact with her peers and leaders from the other Service Academies, and brief the Board of Visitors. She has noticed a significant change in attitudes within the Corps regarding Sexual Assault and Harassment prevention, and she feels that West Point is on the right track. During the 2019 “Honorable Living Stand-Down Day,” she shared her personal story of being raped as a sophomore in high school, encouraging others to share their stories and make positive changes. After graduation, she will complete the Engineer Basic Officer Leaders Course and enter the World Class Athlete Program for rugby. In this interview, she talks about her childhood and her West Point experiences. She describes the bond she has with her twin, Jackson, and the support she felt going through the Military Academy with him. She discusses playing rugby, explaining how her attitude on the team evolved year to year. She also examines the culture of her company, the rugby team, and the Academy in general, and asks some challenging questions about “misplaced loyalty.” She explores her role as Trust Captain, highlighting issues related to Sexual Assault and Harassment and changes she has seen in the Corps. In addition, she notes how the COVID-19 pandemic shaped her Firstie year. Finally, she reflects on what West Point means to her.


topics Leadership Courage Army Athletics Sexual Harassment / Assault West Point History Women in Service Teamwork
interviewer David Siry
date 08 June 2020


name Samantha Sullivan
institution USMA
graduation year 2020
service Engineer
specialty Trust Captain
service dates 2020