By Brandon O'Connor, Pointer View Assistant EditorOctober 3, 2018
WEST POINT, N.Y. -- As the sound of the cannon echoes through Michie Stadium here, Rabble Rousers sprint from one sideline to the other with flags in hand.
The ritual is performed every time the Army West Point Football team puts another score on the board, touchdown or field goal. The cannon booms, the Rabble Rousers run and then they take their place in the pushup line to commemorate another successful drive by the football team.
The Rabble Rousers are made up of male and female cadets whose sole job on game day is to make sure the cadets are fully invested in the game and cheering on the Black Knights on the field. Whether that is leading cheers, doing high-flying stunts or taking part in the post-score festivities, from opening kickoff to the final whistle, the Rabble Rousers are always on and giving it their all.
"What we bring to the academy is atmosphere," Class of 2019 Cadet Joshua Pleake said. "If you go to the football games and when people start to get down because of a bad play, we are the ones picking everyone back up. We are the ones going out and doing events, talking to Old Grads and bringing the reputation of West Point out while making sure everyone who comes to West Point feels the environment we want them to feel."
The Rabble Rousers train nightly during the week before attending both home and away football games almost every weekend during the fall. They also cheer at volleyball matches, basketball games and attend spirit luncheons and other events as the face of West Point.
The time at West Point can be challenging for all cadets as rigorous academics and military training consume much of their time, but Rabble Rousers and their fellow athletes find the time to train, perform and meet all the demands asked of them by that commitment.
"That is our primary goal as Rabble Rousers. To be the face of West Point," Pleake said. "We go to all these different events. Whether we can stunt or not or do anything or not, we just want to be there and let people know what we and the academy are all about."
Although their main responsibility is to be an enthusiastic face of the academy, their time in the Rabble Rousers also enables the cadets to learn leadership skills and grow in ways that will help them in the Army.
During Branch Week at West Point, the Rabble Rousers received a visit from Maj. Gen. Mark Toy, commanding general for the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division. Toy was one of the first male Rabble Rousers in 1986, and now 31 years into his own military career, he said he is still reaping the benefits of his two years on the team.
"Little did I know that back in the days as a cadet, things I was doing trying to get the Corps to be enthusiastic about their team would be some of the things I would need to do as a leader in the Army," Toy said. "You are a constant cheerleader trying to encourage your Soldiers to do well, find their passion and execute the mission. It was a good hand-in-hand readiness training for Army life."
As they prepare to begin their own careers, the current Rabble Rousers said their time on the team has helped them grow in time management and more while also providing them with a family at West Point. Throughout all the stress at West Point, even with the demands of the team itself, the Rabble Rousers have become an escape for the cadets on the team.
"I cheered in high school and I danced in high school," Class of 2019 Cadet Taliah Naranjo said. "It was a comfort zone where I knew when I was struggling at West Point, I would turn to something like cheerleading to come back to and be my home ... I have been in the program for four years. It is my home. It is my inspiration and it is my family."