Men’s Lacrosse Profile: Former Naval Academy Lacrosse Defenseman Eric Kapitulik Has Dedicated His Life To Honoring Fallen Comrades In Helicopter Crash; Founded “The Program” To Provide Leadership Development For Athletic Organizations

erickapituliklacrossenavyKapitulik was a four-year letterman at Navy, playing close defense for three teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament. He was named Navy’s Most Outstanding Defenseman and selected to the North-South All-Star team as a senior in 1995.

“In terms of sheer physical and mental toughness, I’d say Eric ranks in the top one percent of players I’ve coached,” Meade said. “Eric is the essence of a leader and it was good for our current players to simply spend time with him and hear what he had to say.”


Eric Kapitulik underwent a life-altering experience 10 years ago.
On Dec. 9, 1999, the former Naval Academy lacrosse player was commanding a group of 10 Marines during a training exercise off the coast of Southern California.
Major Kapitulik was the leader of a Force Reconnaissance unit that was involved with special operations in the Middle East. Their area of expertise was boarding vessels for the purpose of conducting search and seizure.

On this day, a routine training mission went awry as the pilot of a helicopter came in too low on the ship being used for practice. Instead of maintaining a 50-foot hover, the helicopter descended too quickly and became entangled in superstructure protruding from the deck of the ship.

In an instant, the chopper plunged into the ocean, striking the hull of the craft on the way down. Kapitulik, who had been knocked unconscious by the impact, awoke approximately 60 feet below the water. Encumbered by a pack filled with seventy pounds of equipment and suffering from a fractured leg, the former Navy defenseman managed to free himself from the sinking wreckage and swim to the surface.

“I was very, very lucky to survive that accident. Sadly, six of my men were not nearly as fortunate,” Kapitulik said.

Since that fateful day, Kapitulik has dedicated his life to honoring those fallen comrades. He established the Force Recon Scholarship Fund to raise money for the families of those seven Marines who died in the training incident. He began competing in extreme sports events such as triathlons and other ultra endurance races.

Kapitulik has completed seven of the infamous Ironman triathlons, finishing 64th out of 2,000 competitors at the United States championships. He completed a grueling crossing of the Kalahari Desert in Africa, which involved biking, running, rock-climbing and kayaking. He got into mountain climbing and has scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount McKinley in Alaska and Mount Aconcagua in Argentina. That leaves four of the world’s major summits to still conquer.

Kapitulik’s efforts have thus far raised nearly $150,000 for the Force Recon Scholarship Fund, which will help send the children of his former soldiers to college. “This has become my life’s mission. It was the best way I could think of to honor those men,” he said.

Kapitulik has since founded a company known as The Program, provides leadership development for athletic organizations. The Navy, Loyola and Harvard lacrosse teams are among many that have gone through his two-day training regimen that involves a combination of motivational speaking and challenge exercises.

“Our basic ethos involves being good teammates, being good team leaders. In order to accomplish that goal, you need to follow the three core principles, which means being physically and mentally tough, not making excuses and working hard,” said Kapitulik, who will serve as guest speaker for the 55th annual Touchdown Club of Annapolis football awards banquet on Thursday.

Kapitulik was a four-year letterman at Navy, playing close defense for three teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament. He was named Navy’s Most Outstanding Defenseman and selected to the North-South All-Star team as a senior in 1995.

The Connecticut native served as both an Infantry Officer and Special Operations Officer with the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company and 1st Marine Division. As a Force Reconnaissance Platoon Commander, he led 20 covert operations divisions in special forces-related missions, including long-range reconnaissance patrols, hostage rescue, high altitude jump exercises, ship takeovers, and gas-oil platform takedowns.

Kapitulik left active duty in 2003 after teaching Leadership courses and serving as a Regional Director of Admissions at the Naval Academy. He has found a way to incorporate all that training and experience into a business enterprise through The Program, which has proven to be extremely effective at team building and bonding.

Kapitulik has conducted his “Corporate Boot Camp” for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to the St. Mary’s High lacrosse team. Participants undergo a wide range of activities designed to test physical and mental toughness.

“We put athletes through a definitive test known as Judgment Day, which gives them a chance to commit to the basic ethos and core principles that we espouse,” Kapitulik said. “There is no better way for a coach to evaluate his players than by seeing how they handle adversity in non-sports specific activities.”

Naval Academy men’s lacrosse coach Richie Meade hired Kapitulik to conduct The Program for his team. Meade has nothing but praise for his former player, calling him “as fine a young American as I have ever known.”

“On a military level, Eric’s service was very distinguished. As an officer, he displayed the leadership and courage you would hope to see from a Naval Academy graduate,” Meade said. “That training accident had a profound affect on Eric and he really brought home the principle that the people you lead are more important than yourself. He is very sincere and earnest about taking care of the families of those men who died under his command.”

Meade said Kapitulik’s two-day training regimen pushed the players hard, but said the greatest benefit involved simply being exposed to a distinguished officer and top-notch individual.





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