By Brandon OConnorNovember 4, 2019
COLORADO SPRING, Colo. -- The U.S. Military Academy's weekend at the U.S. Air Force Academy started with a celebration and ended with heartbreak.
On the morning of Nov. 1, the leadership of West Point and USAFA gathered along with the top leadership of the Air Force to honor a trailblazer who touched both institutions, Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. who graduated from West Point in 1936 with dreams of flying.
He got his chance in 1942 when he joined the Army Air Corps, the predecessor of the Air Force, as a Tuskegee Airman and started a lengthy career in the Air Force. His contributions to the Air Force and the nation as a whole was honored permanently during the ceremony with the renaming of the Air Force Academy's airfield as Davis Airfield.
"This airfield and the story of Gen. Davis will inspire future leaders to turn their dreams into flight," Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein said. "He took on the barriers of race and discrimination for our military, and he opened doors of opportunity for many of our nation's and our Air Force's greatest leaders. We're naming this airfield after a true hero, a man of impeccable character and extraordinary competence."
After taking time to celebrate, the rest of the weekend was spent competing. Cadets from West Point and USAFA faced off against each other in the boxing ring, on the rugby pitch and more before ending the weekend with the annual Army-Air Force football game.
After graduation, cadets from the two academies will work together with the armed forces, but there was no love lost between the rivals during Friday's competitions.
Most of the fields on Air Force's campus in Colorado were covered in snow from a storm earlier in the week, but with the pitch cleared not even near freezing temperatures could keep the service academy rival rugby teams from their annual clash.
The Black Knights dominated the game winning 39-0 for their third consecutive victory, but it would kickoff a back and forth weekend between the two service academies.
The hard hits from the rugby game carried over into the boxing ring where cadets went toe-to-toe in three-round bouts. Cadets also battled each other in judo, handball, water polo and functional fitness.
"You definitely feel the pressure a little bit more. In the past, it hasn't been this competitive, but this year they really gave us a run for our money, so it was a good time," Class of 2020 Cadet Monica Schmelzenbach, a member of the judo team, said of competing against Air Force. "We met up with the team the night before so it was nice to actually know the people and not just have the combat mentality. It was good to have a solid understanding that we're both on the same team here, but we come here to fight as well."
Other than rugby, all the other teams that competed for the two academies Friday are club teams giving them a chance to shine and perform for larger crowds than normal thanks to the large delegations traveling for the football game the next day.
"The club teams get their chance to show their school spirit and support the Army brand as well," Schmelzenbach said of the day's competitions. "It just brings a lot of different aspects of the school together, not just football. I think a lot of people can get behind that and we had a lot of supporters come out today and watch our fight. It was really awesome to be here."
After the competitions, cadets, the Rabble Rousers, the cadet spirit band and Army fans congregated at nearby Fort Carson for a Beat Air Force pep rally that included the burning of a falcon effigy atop a roaring bonfire.
The back and forth nature of many of the weekend's competitions carried over to Saturday, where despite being two score underdogs the Black Knights battled throughout the game against the host Falcons in the annual Army-Air Force football game.
The teams traded scores throughout the game before Air Force took the lead 17-13 early in the fourth quarter. With the clock winding down, Army drove to the Air Force five-yard line with help from a 31-yard pass from quarterback Jabari Laws, who started in place of the injured Kelvin Hopkins Jr.
But with four chances to punch the ball into the endzone and capture the "Star," Army couldn't covert falling to Air Force for the first time since 2016.
"Proud of the effort, thought they played hard," Army head coach Jeff Monken said after the game. "There's just not really any words to say. (Its) disappointing, but we're not going to quit and we are going to keep fighting."