Pep rally brings West Point spirit to Pentagon
December 13, 2013
By David Vergun
- Army.mil: North America News
- STAND-TO!: Army-Navy Game: America's Game
- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III
- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III on Facebook
- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III on Twitter
- U.S. Military Academy
- U.S. Military Academy on Facebook
- Army News Service
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 13, 2013) -- Cadets from the U.S. Military Academy marched around the rings and corridors of the Pentagon Friday in the surety of beating the Naval Academy's Midshipmen in the annual Army-Navy game.
Kickoff is set for 3:10 p.m., Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, and the game will be aired nationally on CBS.
The Black Knights are tagged the underdogs, but hope to bring the coveted "Commander in Chief's Trophy" home, to where they think it rightly belongs.
The cadets entered the Pentagon in the mall area where the Army Field Band was performing soft, melodic Christmas carols.
Once the cadets -- cheerleaders and members of the Spirit Band -- passed the band at a safe distance where their musical tranquility would not be shattered, the band kicked into high gear -- huge drums exploded, saxophones, tubas, piccolos and so on let loose, vibrating the walls and windows and bringing floods of viewers from their vault-like compartmentalized offices.
Black Jack, the mule mascot, gave everyone high fives and in return received hugs from a number of giggling ladies. The chivalrous talking mule gallantly said that he'd dual Billy the Goat, the Mids' mascot, on the playing field.
Meanwhile, the Black Knight himself was dressed in his Darth Vader-like costume, wielding a sword. Asked if he used it, he replied, "not yet."
And the cheerleaders -- who go by the name Rabble Rousers -- were out in front shouting "Go Army," as Pentagon personnel gazed in wonder and a mixture of bewilderment as they passed, bringing smiles to nearly everyone, except for a few Sailors with "Go Navy" signs. The Sailors were ignored and moved back against the walls so as not to be trampled by the stampede of fired-up cadets.
As luck would have it, the procession passed by an Army sergeant who was taking his oath of re-enlistment in a corridor alcove. The interruption will likely be something he never forgets.
Further down the hall, a spectator, Susan Hindman, held a portrait of her late husband, retired Lt. Col. Edward Roy Hindman Sr., who had been a graduate of the academy, class of '49 and then went on to fight in Korea and Vietnam. She shouted "go Army!" and "thank you Jesus."
She said every year since about 1998 when the cadets first started coming to the Pentagon, she's come out to show her support. She barely survived the 9/11 attack on the building, she said.
Cadet cheerleader Emily Artman, a junior, said her parents would be watching the game and that her dad, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, was especially proud of her as are her two older sisters, "who think it's just cool that I'm in the Army."
Artman said the prediction of snow in Philadelphia is a good omen because it is said (she didn't say who said it) that snow brings good tidings for the Black Knights. Artman is majoring in engineering psychology and hopes to work in the medical field.
The troop, with a train of gazers now in tow, then swung around past the office of Director of the Army Staff Lt. Gen. William T. Grisoli, who stepped into the hallway and told them to "kick some (tail) tomorrow."
The procession proceeded, encountering some low ceilings where Black Jack the mule had to duck down to avoid shearing off his big ears.
Even the tuba players had to lower their instruments. Greg Wiggins, a sophomore studying law, was one of the tuba players. He said it's his second year visiting the Pentagon and what impressed him most about the building is how huge and complex it is. Without help from the Army's Protocol Office, "I'd get lost here in a heartbeat," he said.
Unfortunately, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who served in Vietnam with the Army, was away, but Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox stepped out to encourage the cadets, though not so far as to tell them she hoped they'd win. "I favor everyone," she said, realizing she'd have to choose her words carefully as, after all, she was inside the Beltway.
By now the procession of followers flooded the corridors and the prohibition on taking photos was briefly lifted so onlookers could capture the moment.
Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, director of Command, Control, Communications and Computers or C4 / Cyber, chief information officer, Joint Staff J6, stepped out of his office to encourage them.
The cadets then entered the sixth corridor of the fourth floor, obvious enemy territory, where models of ships were on display along with large paintings of all the chiefs of naval operations. Some of the paintings moved a little bit due to the noise vibrations, and it almost seemed as if the CNOs were scowling as the procession passed.
Startled Sailors flooded out of their offices, looking as if they were fleeing a sinking ship.
Before Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus knew what hit him, two cheerleaders thrust a pair of Go Army sunglasses in his hands and posed around him for a photo op. Mabus quickly regained his composure and blurted out "Army, Navy -- one fight, one great team."
Asked if he thought the Army would win, he replied, "yes, but when they do, I'll be too old to be around."
The cadets then trooped past the office of Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh, who came out to wish them luck and pose for pictures with the cheerleaders and Black Jack the mule.
Finally, the procession went outside to the frigid courtyard, where a large throng of spectators were treated to music from the Spirit Band and gymnastics of the cheerleaders.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III spoke, reminding everyone that behind every officer is a great non-commissioned officer. "We win at everything we do," he added. So, "kick some Navy (tail)."
A number of Army officers added their encouragement, including Col. Gregory D. Gadson, garrison commander of Fort Belvoir, Va.
Gadson's greatest challenge came in Iraq, where an IED attack cost him both legs above the knees and normal use of his right arm and hand.
In 2007, Tom Coughlin, New York Giants head coach, asked Gadson to meet with the then-struggling team. Gadson talked to the players about service, teamwork, duty, perseverance and adversity and has mentored the Giants since then.
Gadson, a West Point graduate himself (class of 1989), led the cadets in "Go Army" chants and told them "the Army is behind you."
McHugh, arriving in a Humvee and wearing a Black Knights uniform, gave the cadets one final word of encouragement. "Since 1775, the Army has changed history.
"Tomorrow, you will change history," he said, amidst chants of "go Army."
"You know, there's the Christmas song 'Grandma Got Run Over by a Rainbow,'" he said, meaning "Reindeer." Chandler lost his military bearing at this point, doubling over in laughter.
Without missing a beat, the secretary continued, "and tomorrow, the Navy will be run over by the Black Knights. All 11 of them."
The cheers were deafening.
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