West Point, Naval exchange students gear up for big game
by Kathy Eastwood
For years West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy have swapped their cadets and midshipmen for a semester-long exchange to foster closer interservice relations between the sister academies.
But every year things get interesting around Army-Navy Week and exchange students become, in a sense, “prisoners” to be released to friendlier territory right before kickoff of the Army-Navy Game.
Those cadets temporarily attending the Naval Academy cross the field and return to the warm embrace of the Corps of Cadets in the bleachers and those middies at West Point take their seats among the Brigade of Midshipmen.
As the 113th iteration of this classic confrontation approaches, cadets and midshipmen may feel the need to stay alert as they find clothes missing just before class or other unusual mishaps. After all, most have heard stories of the kidnapping of mascots and other pranks pulled all in the spirit of this friendly rivalry.
Today, things may have changed a little, but cadets and midshipmen still find differences and similarities between their academies and pranks are still the norm.
Class of 2014 Midshipman Benjamin Huggins, a current West Point exchange student, said he likes West Point because it is a beautiful school with excellent people.
“West Point has much nicer facilities,” Huggins said. “The cadets complain consistently about the barracks being rundown or in need of repair, but I would take their rundown barracks over Navy’s, if I could have a room as big as theirs. West Point also has an amazing gym. Navy has no such gym for NARPs (non-athletic regular people.)”
Huggins said the Naval Academy receives a lot more tourists and their formations are conducted without the type of vocal displays of enthusiasm associated with an Army formation. He also noticed how cadets have developed a pretty extensive lexicon to describe a midshipman.
“Cadets commonly refer to us through various names such as “Chief,” “Squid,” “Squidward,” and “Middie,” but we have come to consider them terms of endearment,” he said. “Once though, I was doing self-service laundry one night. I was returning to pull my laundry from the dryer when I found two cadets standing over my laundry. They pulled it out to use the dryer and noticed it was Navy apparel. They were consulting one another as to whether they should place the laundry in the trashcan when I arrived. I settled the debate for them. I took it with me.”
As far as who is going to win the most anticipated football game this year? “Army has a shot if they don’t fumble in the red zone,” he said. “Why dwell on childish dreams though, Navy will win.”
Class of 2014 Midshipman Colton Peterson also pointed out some differences from the Naval Academy.
“The first thing I noticed about West Point was they have an entirely different set of acronyms,” Peterson said. “My first month or so was spent trying to get caught up on lingo, but I think I’ve been doing OK. Fortunately, I have not been subject to any pranks, just some good-natured ribbing. Don’t worry, I give it right back. I think the cadets are jealous of my uniforms, not to brag, but apparently the gray is not very popular in the Corps,” he said.
“On the whole, I’ve had a great time, met a lot of great people and learned a lot about the Army.”
Peterson’s thoughts on the game are, well, typical for a middie. “I’m going to have to go with America’s number one triple option, the Navy Midshipmen.”
Class of 2014 Cadet Robert Mayville said he enjoyed his time at Annapolis and has gained a different perspective during his time away from West Point. “Although I may be in a different uniform, my company embraced me like family and I feel like I’ve known them since I was a plebe,” he said. “Naturally there are times where everyone likes to joke around about our differences with each other, but it’s all in good fun and I’ve enjoyed celebrating the rivalry. I honestly could not have asked for more from my experience here this semester.”
(Editor’s Note: All cadets and midshipmen in the exchange program were contacted for this story.)
It is customary for a cadet honor guard to march the “prisoners” across the field and release them to the Brigade of Midshipmen during the pre-game ceremonies of the Army-Navy Game. Likewise, cadets attending a semester at the U.S. Naval Academy cross over to join the Corps of Cadets in the bleachers to cheer on the Black Knights. The 113th iteration of this interservice rivalry happens 3 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Photo by Eric S. Bartelt/PV