Courtesy of Miguel Sapp

Rights Minded

Miguel Sapp admits it sounds corny, “but I remember as a kid listening to JFK saying: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ Basically that’s the way I’ve always conducted myself.” Now in his early 40s, Sapp leads a dual existence in public service. He’s a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and battalion commander of the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne). In civilian life, he’s a senior trial attorney (civil rights) for the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). “At times it’s been a tough balancing act,” says Sapp, a member of the SU Alumni Association Board of Directors Executive Committee. His military obligations included back-to-back tours of duty during the Bosnian and Haitian operations, forcing him to give up his civilian job. But his two lives are often complementary. Given his experience with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, he was tapped by the Army to serve on a task force on racism, extremism, and sexism in the reserves.
      In all aspects of his career, Sapp operates by one guiding principle: “Civil rights, human rights, are right.” As senior trial attorney for the EEOC, he prosecutes complex civil rights cases. Sapp—who studied political science and speech communication as an undergraduate before earning a J.D. degree from the College of Law and an M.P.A. degree from the Maxwell School—seeks to balance duty, compassion, and a sense of what is right. “I look at my own life, and I look at the needs of the military, because they’re paramount,” he says. “As an attorney, your first duty is always to your client, and my client is the United States.”

—Rose DeNeve

Courtesy of Tom Rancich 

Battling Terrorism

A friend once told Lieutenant Commander Tom Rancich: “It took five different characters to make one of you.” This observation is right on the mark—Rancich is a Navy SEAL, the operations officer for Naval Special Warfare Group II, an antiterrorism expert, an award-winning writer, and an M.B.A. candidate at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. “I enjoy experiencing new things and crossing new frontiers,” Rancich says. “I like pushing my personal envelope.”
      Rancich decided to embark on a military career when he realized he could put his strong swimming skills to good use in the Navy. “A Navy recruiter talked to me about diving and explosive ordnance disposal,” recalls Rancich, who majored in English in the College of Arts and Sciences. “That sounded interesting to me.”
      After serving as a Navy diver and explosive ordnance disposal technician for six years, Rancich was accepted into the elite Navy SEAL program and was later appointed expeditionary antiterrorism force protection officer for the commander-in-chief of the Atlantic Fleet. For two years he researched and developed antiterrorism measures for the Navy. As a result of this experience, he wrote an article published last year in the U.S. Naval Institute’s magazine,Proceedings ( In the article, Rancich offered a blunt synopsis of what he believed the Navy could do to better prepare itself against terrorism. “My intent was to change the way we look at terrorist attacks and accept them as psychological warfare events,” he says. “If we take a more proactive approach, we can combat terrorists in the short term and defeat their strategy in the long run.”
      Last October, while the article was being edited, terrorists attacked the USS Cole in Yemen, claiming the lives of 17 sailors. “The hardest thing about that for me was that I mentioned in the article a situation where a small craft was coming up along a Naval ship,” Rancich says. “Then it actually happened.”
      The article became must-read material within the Navy and earned Rancich the Naval Surface Literary Award from the Naval Surface Warfare Association and the U.S. Naval Institute. “What the United States does from now on will determine whether the terrorists have a successful attack or an unsuccessful attack,” he says. “We need to be proactive to deflect a developing threat.”
      In addition to his military career, Rancich founded Wounded Bear Strategies, a consulting firm that applies SEAL Team strategies to the challenges of the business world. “I find it interesting how totally different experiences have so much in common—like the goals of unconventional warfare and the tactics of business strategies,” he says. “I enjoy finding new pieces to improve the old puzzle.”

—Tammy DiDomenico

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