PHILADELPHIA - It was a beautiful, unseasonably warm Friday morning in the heart of one of America's oldest cities. The Army-Navy weekend began Dec. 11 at 8 a.m. on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the same steps Sylvester Stallone climbed in the Academy Award-winning movie, "Rocky."U.S. Military Academy Cadets and U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen (Mids) gathered at the bottom of the 72 stone steps looking up at the museum, excited to begin the first event of Patriot Games.The Patriot Games is a series of five events, the first four take place Friday with the final event happening on Saturday-the day of the Army-Navy Football Game.Representing the cadets is the West Point Obstacle Course Relay Team, a team sponsored by the United States Military Academy's Directorate of Cadet Activities that is accustomed to challenges like those presented in the Patriot Games.Though the team trains to meet a plethora of challenges, the Officer in Charge of the team, Maj. Jeffery Marshburn, explains they must always be flexible to meet any new scenarios the games may bring."As an officer, I am used to being able to plan against a known enemy," explained Marshburn. "Not knowing how to guide the team was difficult from a leader's perspective."The teams from both academies bounced and stretched in anticipation as a Rocky impersonator went over the rules of the first event, the "Rocky Relay," by explaining the standards of the push ups, jump roping and dummy-carry they would have to adhere to as they raced to the top of the stairs.With a five-second countdown from the crowd and the blow of an official's whistle, the cadets and their rivals pushed their way to the top as the Rocky theme song provided motivation through the loud speakers.The relay was close, but the cadets were edged out by their Naval counterparts and the score quickly took a 25-0 lead.Assistant Cadet-in-Charge, Class of 2017 Cadet Kayla Carpenter, explained losing the first event was the most difficult part of the games."We were more than capable of dominating that event," Carpenter said. "It was challenging to overlook (that) to accept the loss."Going into the second event, the Leadership Reaction Course, the crew had to take on a different strategy. A series of mini events would determine who won this event. The cadets were just seconds shy in the final event however and lost to the mids again making the score 50-0 in favor of Navy."The most challenging part of the competition was maintaining a positive attitude after losing the first two events," said Class of 2016 Cadet Daniel Camacho, the team's Cadet-in-Charge. But as the team leader, Camacho was confident that his team was better than its arch rival."Victory is born out of the seed of preparation," Camacho continued. "We knew that we came into the Patriot Games in superior physical condition to our competitors."With that attitude and renewed focus, the team came to next event ready to continue their fight. This time in a pull-up competition.They stepped into the Shops at Liberty Place, a mall in downtown Philadelphia, to a jam-packed crowd that filled both floors as people looked over the banisters to see the action from the Army versus Navy Pep Rally below."The atmosphere at the pull-ups was amazing," Marshburn said. "Walking into the mall and hearing both bands and seeing both sets of cheerleaders, with the amazing crowd was just intoxicating."After an introduction from a local news station which televised the events, the cadets and mids lined up next to two pull-up bars ready to jump up and start pulling.As one of the officials blew his whistle, each team tried to do as many collective pull-ups as they could before the buzzer sounded. Conflicting chants of "Let's Go Army!" and "Let's Go Navy!" erupted throughout as the competitors continually rotated to ensure a fresh teammate was on the bar at all times.As the five minute countdown came to an end, cheers subsided as the crowd listened for the announcement of the winner. Army scored its first win and the score was now 50-25 in favor of Navy.Maj. Marshburn was very confident that his team now had a distinct advantage in the remainder of the events. "I joked that we are Army strong," he said.As the Tug of War is a regular event in the Patriot Games, Marshburn incorporated a special training plan to bolster his team's likelihood of winning."I asked the Men's Army West Point Rugby Team to help train against our Patriot Games team for the Tug of War competition. That was extremely helpful and just a lot of fun putting those two teams together, especially when Rugby was so eager to help us out."Once officials lined the teams up on the dock in front of the USS New Jersey Battleship and signaled the start of the Tug Of War, the Army's training plan immediately paid dividends as they conquered Navy by winning all three pulls in a matter of seconds."The most fun part of the competition was dominating the Tug of War competition," Camacho said. "We were confident in our strength, technique and ability to work as a team. It was also nice that we did it in Navy's backyard in the shadow of the USS New Jersey."As Friday came to an end, the score was tied 50-50.
Camacho and the Midshipman-in-Charge traveled to Lincoln Financial Field that night to design an obstacle course they would compete in the next day just before the Army-Navy Game."That night we were able to get in a couple run-throughs of the course and decided to have (Kayla) Carpenter, Josh Bassette and Eric Zenger run it the next day.""With the incredible support the Corps was showing us and the excitement of the event, adrenaline was going," Carpenter said.A stadium of people watched as the cadets and mids dodged through barriers and negotiated obstacles in a race to win the final event which would decide who would take home the crown.In the end, the cadets beat the midshipmen and became the 2015 Patriot Games Champions."We had won the games. That moment was exhilarating," Carpenter said. "Our celebration after the relay got a little out of hand; I actually chipped Eric's tooth in a celebratory team mob when we collided after he had finished. I still feel horrible but he jokes about it now as the 'price of victory.'""I had the utmost confidence in my teammates," Camacho said. "(I) knew that with the Corps at our backs we would perform and do what the Army does-accomplish the mission."