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Womack new leader of West Point academy board

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Photographs by Frank E. Lockwood

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack

WASHINGTON -- Five years after joining the U.S. Military Academy's board of visitors, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack has received a major promotion.

The Republican from Rogers was elected board chairman at a meeting earlier this month.

Womack, who was appointed to the board by then-House Speaker John Boehner, had previously been the board's vice chairman.

In an interview Friday, Womack called West Point "the premier leadership development institution in the world."

The Arkansan serves on the board with other U.S. representatives, senators and a handful of presidential appointees.

His brother, Jim, is a 1977 West Point graduate.

The lawmaker said he appreciated his colleagues' "faith and confidence."

"I'm just honored beyond words to be able to preside over such a prestigious board doing such important work for our country," he said.

The academy, which was founded during the Jefferson administration, is 50 miles north of New York City, and its graduates include Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower, two wartime generals who eventually became peacetime presidents.

Little Rock native Gen. Douglas MacArthur was also a cadet and later served as the school's superintendent.

Under federal law, the board monitors "the morale and discipline, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and other matters" affecting the academy.

Its members work closely with the school's superintendent -- the institution's commanding officer.

"The board of visitors' purpose is to provide advice to the military academy, and also to provide advice and updates to the president of the United States about the status of the military academy," said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, the school's 59th superintendent.

In an interview, he praised Womack's contributions to West Point.

"He's taken a very keen interest in what's going on, and his advice and wisdom is just really, really good," Caslen said. "I think his leadership is going to be outstanding."

West Point has 4,400 cadets from across the country.

Upon graduation, they are commissioned as second lieutenants and must serve five years on active duty.

Womack is a member of the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittees overseeing spending on defense, military construction and veterans affairs.

A former executive director of the University of Arkansas' Army ROTC Program, Womack served 30 years in the Arkansas Army National Guard, retiring as a colonel in 2009.

Womack said the experience he gained in Fayetteville and elsewhere is useful.

"I've been around this business for a long time so I have a unique perspective into what it takes to lead men and women in the military," he said.

The chance to serve as chairman "is really off the charts for me," he added.

Metro on 03/20/2017

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