Papp just wanted to be a sailor. He grew up in Norwich, Conn., right up the river from his future alma mater, the Coast Guard Academy, and was pulled in by the independence and self-reliance of life on the sea. He says he never planned on moving all the way up to commandant, but, after a certain point, "you run out of ships that you can serve in because you get too senior." Papp, 61, spent roughly the first two-thirds of his career on ships, including six Coast Guard cutters, four of which he commanded. He briefly considered retirement in 1999 before then-Commandant Adm. James Loy asked him to serve in Washington as the chief of congressional affairs. Papp went on to become the commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic Area before being elevated to commandant in May 2010; in that job, he quickly faced the massive challenge of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. After 9/11, Papp said, he decided he would stay on "until the Coast Guard didn't offer me any jobs anymore." Having attained its highest rank, he may have finally found the limit. "The end is in sight, I guess."