Air Force Brawl Called A “Teachable Moment” By Academy

    November 1, 2012
    Amanda Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

A 27-man brawl between Air Force cadets last week is being treated as a “teachable moment” by the Academy, but because this isn’t the first time it’s happened, they are also taking it seriously.

The fight broke out during what cadets call “First Shirt/First Snow”, an annual ritual which involves freshmen throwing–or trying to throw–first sergeants (also called “first shirts”) into the snow. Unfortunately, it often ends up getting vicious as some take it more seriously than others, and has led to cadets seeking medical treatment for the past two years. This year, the injuries included a bite and several concussions; six cadets had to be taken to an off-campus hospital.

“What used to be (freshmen) throwing the first shirt into the snow has turned into a brawl between upperclassmen defending the first sergeant and the (freshmen) trying to capture the first sergeant. Obviously, this has gotten out of hand and cannot be repeated,” Brig. Gen. Dana Born said.

The Colorado Springs Academy is looking into the incident and officials say the ritual may be banned if the cadets can’t control themselves. For now, no disciplinary action is being taken.

  • Matt

    This is HAZING! Yet, another EMBARASMENT for the Air Force. The Commandant must be fired immediately.


    This is not hazing. I am an ’11 AFA grad and it is actually fun for both sides. Usually everyone understands the line, but this one group did not. Lets not over-react. The Comm does not need to be fired.


    What’s embarassing is yet another “yahoo” who can’t spell-makes it much easier to blow off your comment-what branch of the service did you serve in MATT?

  • Justen Fazekas

    First off let me state that I am a First Class Cadet at the Academy that partook in First Shirt First Snow and was mildly injured (bruised tailbone and elbow) by the tradition.
    Now to set some things straight

    To those that consider this hazing: Hazing is defined as “the practice of rituals involving harassment, abuse or humiliation enacted upon a person or group despite their lack of desire to participate.” I can personally tell you that there was not a single person involved in these events that did not wish to participate. Approx. 50% of the cadets at the Academy participate in 1st Shirt 1st Snow while the other 50% remain in their rooms, elsewhere on campus, or even off base. There is no distinction made between those that participate and those that do not, and often times those not wishing to participate stand in the hallways/outside and watch without being provoked in the slightest to join. The 1st Shirt, the center of the tradition, also knows that the event is coming and can set terms to the intensity of the event, or even in some cases ask that they not be dragged out into the snow. With that 50/50 split being made I’d like to also point out that approximately 95% of cadets would in fact vote in favor of the tradition given a blind, anonymous survey.

    To those that are worried about the injuries and risk of “death” in the future: I, like most of the people injured during this event, can personally attest for the fact that the injuries are accidents in all but the most extreme of cases. When I slipped and fell bruising my tailbone, the cadet that was wrestling with me actually attempted to catch me, and afterwards two freshmen and one of my peers helped me up and made sure I was okay. Some examples of events that occur at service academies that result in equal or greater numbers of injuries: Intramural sports, Combative Classes, Boxing, Wrestling, Rugby, amidst others. All of these events can be questioned in their effectiveness at producing a desired result among the participants and all carry some implied risk of accidental injury.

    To those that believe the Cadets to be immature and undeserving of military rank: I pity you the most because it seems you’ve lost sight of what the military is truly about. The mission of the Air Force is to “Fly, Fight, and Win.” The people that enter the military do so willingly knowing that they may engage in fights far more severe than “First Shirt, First Snow” at the Academy. The tradition is meant to inspire a Warrior Ethos as well as promote Squadron Morale and Bonding. Anyone who has studied or served in a position of leadership knows the importance of morale as well as the importance of bridging the gap between the lowest level of follower and the highest level of leader. I can assure you that at least 90% of the freshmen felt the gap between themselves and upperclassmen bridged significantly by participation in this event. Whether it was working together to take down an upperclassmen that is strict towards them, or getting helped up after being taken down, the brief moments in which upperclassmen and freshmen are equals on the field of strife builds lasting relationships for the years to come.

    To those that believe the Academies need higher standards: In what ways do you expect the acceptance standards to be risen? I personally got a 1420 on my SAT (760 math and 660 comprehensive/reading) and when placed within a pool of my peers I would be lucky to be deemed “above average”. I work out 2-2.5 hours a day 5-6 days a week and struggle to remain within the top 20% of my peers athletically. I keep a journal of leadership lessons learned whether they be meaningful quotes, discussions had with leaders around me, or something that my little brother taught me about humility or standing as a role model and yet I know countless peers and subordinates around me who have risen to higher levels of leadership than I have. If the acceptance standards are raised who do you think will get in?

    Lastly to those that consider this tradition a brawl amidst thugs: I am not sure when each of you were last involved in a brawl, but last I knew there was no calling “time out” in a brawl to stop the contest. During this tradition I can recall at least half a dozen times when this happened. The result being everyone stopping and making sure whoever called the time out is okay and then finding a civilized way to return to the “festivity”. At no point does anyone throw punches, elbows, kicks, or anything that is INTENDED TO HURT SOMEONE ELSE. The injuries that occur are ACCIDENTS and thus it is absurd for the lot of you that do not understand the tradition or the resulting benefits of such a tradition to sit here and persecute it.

    In the interest of time and with the knowledge that 90% of the people reading this are too uneducated or blind to reason to learn something from it, I will end on this note:

    America is so incredibly quick to judge things that they do not understand. Though I cannot blame many of you when you’re reading an article written with misinformed intent, I can point out the simple facts. These types of behaviors have existed in the military for centuries on end. The reason they are met with such persecution today is because people want the defense of the United States Armed Forces while they sit at home scrutinizing things that they do not understand. War is not a game of badminton, it takes a certain mentality to volunteer to defend this country and to do it effectively. Unless you’re willing to take the time to understand what it takes to spend 12 months on a deployment, stop expecting the people that are fighting overseas to act in YOUR image of the proper gentleman while they are under your judgmental eye. The wishes you all have for the proper way for a cadet to act and train would result in terrible wartime leaders and ultimately the death of more of your sons, daughters, and siblings. Pick from 5 notable military leaders and I guarantee you 4 of them have done something in their past to suggest they would understand and condone the actions of the Cadets at the Air Force Academy.

  • MaryGrace

    I grow weary of the comments from those who have not served, but sit in judgment of military traditions. As a woman Marine, traditions exist for a reason – they support teamwork and trust necessary in life-or-death situations. The military does not pick the wars; we just get to fight them. The constant attempt to make the military PC to civilian standards is not simply stupid, but deathly to those delegated to fight.

  • Jane

    To Matt, this is NOT hazing! To Justen Fazekas: excellent “article” explaining and defending the first snow/first shirt tradition. My son also participated and was irritated by the “big flap” over this. Don’t like to see cadets injured in this sort of thing, though I understand the importance team spirit being encouraged! Proud of all the cadets and their hard work and commitment to serving their country!

  • StevePearson

    Dear Ms. Crum (the author). You decided to ad lib which of course distorts the facts. They was not “fight”. It was a glorified “King on the Hill”. Fights contain punching, etc. None of that existed. There was no “biting”. A Cadet had their mouth open and imprinted their teeth on the other with a bruise.

    This makes you a “crummy” writer. If you simply “copy and paste” and then add a few spices to doctor it up like a picture of a AF hat, realize you are the farthest thing from a writer. You didn’t do your homework what-so-ever.