By Eric Dehm
A new chapter has been added to the continuing saga of Army 2nd Lt. Spenser Rapone. When his social media posts grabbed the public’s attention, it was assumed that this was the first the military knew about their soldier breaking the rules, and even violating the UCMJ. As it turns out, Rapone’s social media and personal conduct at West Point appear to have been known and documented.
As first reported by The Daily Caller, Rapone was written up in 2015, his final year at the academy. The sworn statement is signed by Lt. Col. Rob Heffington, a history professor at the school.
“I cannot reconcile the image of a first class cadet at West Point with the things he has posted online for the world to see,” Heffington wrote in the statement. “To me, these are red flags that cannot be ignored, and I fail to see how this individual can possibly graduate and become a commissioned officer in six months.”
Those “red flags” were not enough to keep Rapone from graduating from the Army’s elite school. According to Heffington’s statement, Rapone used social media to express “hatred” of the military and West Point, blamed the US for terrorist attacks and even “implicitly justifies the actions of ISIS”
Along with those public posts, Heffington notes several personal interactions where Rapone’s behavior could be described as disrespectful at best. This includes an instance where he says Rapone was lying down in a hallway while waiting for a West Point professor with his legs stretched across the hallway, forcing civilians walking by to have to change course to get by him. Heffington says when he asked Rapone to stand up, the response he received was in a demeanor of “utter contempt” for the senior officer.
It also appears, based on the statement, that the Che Guevara t-shirt and “Communism Will Win” message inside of his cadet cover at graduation may not have been the first uniform violations for Rapone. Heffington notes that during his first interaction with Rapone, wherein the then-cadet was arguing with another cadet loudly and then refusing to admit it, Rapone was wearing civilian clothes in an academic building, which is not allowed on campus.
So if all of this is true, how would Rapone have made it through the rigorous and heavily controlled life of a West Point student, even graduating and being sent to an infantry officer position at 10th Mountain? Heffington posits his theory on that very subject.
“I firmly believe that CDT Rapone depends on his prior enlisted service in a Ranger battalion to ‘get him by’ here at West Point,” he writes. “In fact, that may be exactly what has happened for three years. People see the Ranger scroll on his right shoulder and they probably automatically assume that he is a good cadet and even a role model for other cadets. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.”
As first reported by ConnectingVets, Rapone was “Released For Standards” from the 1st Ranger Battalion and never completed Ranger school though West Point was likely unaware of that fact. He was authorized to wear the scroll as he had deployed with them to Afghanistan but had failed to live up to the standard it represents. If you believe the sworn, signed statement from Lt. Col. Heffington, that wasn’t the last time this would happen in Rapone’s Army career.
UPDATE: The U.S. Military Academy Public Affairs Office responded to our inquiry on the document by providing the following statement: “The U.S. Military Academy is conducting an investigation into this matter. In order to safeguard the investigative process, we are unable to provide further comment at this time.”