Janesville native picked to be general
JANESVILLE Army Col. Andrew Poppas, a 1984 Craig High School graduate, has been promoted to brigadier general.
President Barack Obama nominated Poppas, 46, to the rank of brigadier general. The Senate must confirm the nomination, which is considered a formality.
For the past seven months, Poppas has been the 101st Airborne Division's deputy commander for operations at Fort Campbell, Ky., a duty ordinarily filled by a brigadier general. He is scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan in February. He served a tour of duty in Afghanistan from May 2010 to May 2011.
"Naturally I'm honored and proud to be nominated for this promotion," Poppas said. "But, I don't look at this as an individual accomplishment. There were so many people in my life who made this possible."
An early inspiration for Poppas was then-Maj. Goode Dorman.
"I was a captain and ended my service obligation out of West Point," Poppas said. "I was seriously considering getting out."
Dorman asked him to consider what the military could offer, Poppas said.
"He talked about how working hard could leave room for a balanced life—a good life in a leadership environment," Poppas said. "He emphasized the mission of the institution of the military. He convinced me to make the military a career."
Poppas has combined education, combat and command experience into a path to military leadership at the highest level.
After graduating from West Point in 1988 with a bachelor's degree, Poppas earned a master's degree from Kansas State. He is a graduate of the Defense Language Institute, the Hellenic War College and earned a National Security Fellowship at Harvard University where he studied in 2011.
Poppas' command assignments included several airborne infantry units including the 573rd, the 5th Squadron 73rd Calvary Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq.
"At one point we had 30 percent killed or wounded," Poppas said. "That's when you realize what commitment really is. Every man and woman was not only committed to our mission, but also to each other. They are as much responsible for this promotion than anything I have accomplished."
Poppas returned from Iraq in November 2007, was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and deployed to Afghanistan from May 2010 to May 2011.
"These deployments were really the litmus test for me," poppas said. "You see what leadership can provide when combined with the commitment of all through the losses and the hard work. It provided me with a new outlook on where I wanted to be."
Poppas said he looks forward to returning to Afghanistan.
"I will return there with confidence in our troops and with additional knowledge I've learned not only about Afghanistan but Pakistan as well," he said. "We know we are being sent there to advise and assist, eventually in a transition role. My time at Harvard will assist in that phase of the mission."
Poppas said he has no idea where he will serve after his second tour of Afghanistan.
"The Army will determine that," he said. "Right now we are focus on our Afghanistan deployment."
Poppas' military awards include the Legion of Merit, Combat Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Ranger Tab, Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor. When asked about what he saw as his most significant accomplishment leading to his recent promotion, Poppas deferred to the men and women of the 573rd in Iraq.
"This is not about individual accomplishments," he said. "My proudest moment to date was the fact that the 573rd earned the Presidential Unit Citation, the highest accomplishment a unit can receive. This collection of soldiers, during very difficult times, earned this award. I'm proud to have been a part of that."