I Had The Choice Of Copy Or Fail, And I Didn’t Choose To Fail”: Honor, The Army Mentorship Program, And Redemption

Jesse Campanella


Born in 1996, Jesse Campanella was raised in China and in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His father is a doctor and his mother is a psychiatrist, and both were missionaries in China when Jesse and his two brothers were younger. He grew up enjoying wrestling and track, and he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He became interested in attending West Point after reading Civil War histories as a boy and participating in the Summer Leader Experience. Jesse’s R-Day was June 29, 2015, and he recalls the culture shock and adjustment period after becoming a New Cadet. He felt driven to succeed, and was a “Star Man” (academic honors) in the Thayer Honors Program, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. During his first year at the Academy, he was the #1 Plebe in his squad and was selected to be a Company Commander during Plebe Parent Weekend. Athletically, he tabbed the IOCT (scored very high on the Indoor Obstacle Course Test) and was on the Sandhurst Team. Frequently, he traveled as part of the Cadet Chapel Choir, singing at venues around the country. He was accepted into the Academy exchange program, in which juniors spend their first semester at one of the other Academies. He was picked to go to Annapolis, and during the second semester of his Yearling (sophomore) year, he had to validate a course (Computer Coding) that was not offered at Navy. In that course, he did not have enough time to finish his course work, and he copied from notes he had received from another Cadet. His instructor approached him for clarification, which resulted in an honor investigation during the first semester of his Cow (junior) year, costing him his opportunity for a semester at the Naval Academy. Next, he experienced the honor board process and his case went to a Cadet Advisory Board (CAB). The Cadets on the board recommended he complete the Army Mentorship Program (AMP), and both the Commandant and Superintendent agreed (although the Supe initially favored a year Turnback). Jesse selected infantry at Ft. Bragg for his assignment and then was placed on leave for 6 months while the Secretary of the Army approved his AMP before reporting to Basic Training and AIT. He felt that he learned more about peer leadership in Basic than in Beast, and it was more physically intense. After Advanced Individual Training, he reported to the 2nd Battalion of the 508th Infantry and LTC Terry Hildebrand. While in that unit, he continued to correspond with his West Point faculty mentor to complete his SLDP-H (Special Leader Development Program for Honor) packet. Before leaving the unit, his former Sandhurst Squad Leader from West Point became Jesse’s new Platoon Leader. When it was time for Jesse to return to West Point in January 2020 (after 2 years away from the Academy), he had to reapply because readmission was not a given. He also had to submit an essay detailing what he had learned and how he had grown through the AMP process. He arrived back at the Academy just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic to strike. Jesse had visited his brother at Penn State and traveled to Pittsburgh when he learned that West Point was extending spring break, and Cadets were told to quarantine. He returned to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and was able to spend time with his brother. Fortunately, he had brought his computer home and was able to keep up with his schoolwork in what became mostly asynchronous classes. He felt that the Academy kept Cadets informed, and his Tactical Officer (TAC) called everyone. Jesse branched Adjutant General because he wants to help people meet their goals, and he plans to go Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri following graduation. He considers West Point the culmination of everything he wanted to achieve.


topics Honor Leadership Teamwork West Point History
interviewer David Siry
date 10 May 2021


name Jesse Campanella
institution USMA
graduation year 2021
service Adjutant General
specialty Honor Mentorship Program / Army Mentorship Program
service dates 2018