West Point ends annual pillow fight after cadets injured

Posted on: December 1st, 2015 by Will Rodriguez 9 Comments

After a much publicized pillow brawl (video here) left 30 of about 10000 cadets (3%) injured, the Academy officially banned the non-sanctioned event that has been going on since 2001.  Contrary to published reports the Academy says there were no hard objects placed inside the pillow cadets hit each other with.  The Academy attributes the injuries to elbows and falls rather than blunt force trauma from a pillow.

Some may be skeptical that pillows could do this kind of damage.  I would agree if we were talking about commercial pillows but Army issue pillows are actually filled with real water fowl feathers.  When bunched into the bottom of the pillow case they condense and form a pretty substantial mass.  Swung at full force by a young man they have the potential to do damage especially if hit unexpectedly from behind.

The event itself is akin to many other sophomoric behaviors seen on college campuses and is relatively new in the Academy’s 213 year history.  The supposed reasoning behind it is as a bonding event after cadet basic training organized by the first year cadets (plebes).  I can’t see how beating on another classmate after intense training promotes cohesion.  Maybe beating on others outside one’s class but not classmates.

These types of events were largely unheard if during my time at the Academy as a cadet in the early ‘80’s or later as a cadre member in the mid 90’s.  Then again, the training was much more intense but still less demanding than the regular academic year where freshmen become outnumbered three to one vs. the four/five to one ratio of upper-class to plebes during Cadet Basic Training.  Plebes then lived a very regimented lifestyle for much of the academic year.

Getting past the silly/stupid angle to this whole affair, I’m heartened to see cadets wanting to do something physical and in a sense combative considering the profession they are evaluating making a commitment to.  Political correctness has made its way deep into all the services and their Academies. Choosing to fight one’s own classmates though doesn’t seem to create cohesion in a group.  One doesn’t pit a group against itself to create bonds.  One overcomes outside challenges to do that.   Maybe cadets wouldn’t create crucibles to participate in if they were undergoing organized and sanctioned challenges to achieve cohesion?

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • YankeePapa

    .
    ……As to the “pillow fight” thing…   If you are the head of a Service Academy, you have to justify to Congress and the taxpayers the fact that you have cadets in a football program.  Over the years, a number blow out their knees, or otherwise become disabled to where they are no longer fit to serve as officers… which is what the taxpayer is paying for in the first place.  
    .
    …You and the heads of other Service Academies make speeches and otherwise issue statements to the effect that this is good for the “character of cadets” and the “morale of the Corps of Cadets…”  This may in fact be true, but the fight would be too much of an uphill struggle except for the fact that much of Congress, and a vast number of taxpayers are football fans… and willing to shrug off “losses…” 
    .
    …On the other hand, the potential for having cadets rendered unfit for duty… possibly to where they are no longer eligible for a commission… because of a “pillow fight…” is one hell of a lot harder sell…   Trying to justify “pillow-fight” losses is a bit too much… No major support in Congress, or among the taxpayers. 
    .
    …As it is… this might not have been a problem if the cadets had “adult leadership” present at the event… Were Tac-Officers present to make sure that “over-enthusiastic” weapons/tactics not used that might bring heat down on the Academy brass?  Either they were not… or were, but confused their role with that of Profession Wrestling referees…  
    .
    …I’m all for “close contact impact events…”   Now if it had been pugil-stick fighting with proper gear… that would not only be a far easier sell… but would have vastly more dignity.  
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa 
    All very valid points.
    My concern/focus is a bit different.  Why would the Corps ever develop such a tradition?  I’ve been part of a lot of military organizations.  I’m also pretty familiar with the phenomena of military organizations creating “rites of passage” but I’ve never heard of one where the new members of a unit (especially a group of 1000) are sent out to beat on each other.  
    When I was there both as a cadet and later TAC cadet companies pranked each other.  The pranks were directed at other companies or when within a company, one class pranking another.  (Never the plebes for fear ofit looking like hazing.)  The institution took great care to foster class loyalty and then unit loyalty (IMO sometimes too much when it comes to the toleration clause).  I can say from personal experience decision makers were well aware of this since it started.  Sanctioning (even unofficially) an interclass pillow fight fest for over a decade seems to contradict a lot of conscious inculcated culture.  Why? 
    I have my suspicions…

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa .
    …These days, I fear the worst:
    .
    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/apr/21/army-rotc-program-allegedly-pushed-men-wear-high-h/

    .
    -Yankee Papa-

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa …Re this story:  Well, at least take it over high heels any day of the week…
    .
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/sikh-soldier-allowed-to-keep-beard-in-rare-army-exception/ar-BBnw2lq?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=U348DHP

    .
    -Yankee Papa-

  • YankeePapa
  • YankeePapa 
    I addressed this on facebook. I’ll reconstruct it here because I have a absolutely horrendous internet connection (been working on this response for about an hour). 

    Congrats to her.
    I hope she stops the practice of requiring 1/3 of all key leadership positions be filled with a minority/athlete or female cadet.  Next time at a parade look at the Company Commanders in a Battlion, Battalion Commenders in a Reg’t etc.  As a Tac back in the 90’s cadets were submitted byu the Tacs based on their academic, leadership and physical scores for these positions.  before the slate was finalized it was checked for the requisite proportion and if not present, adjusted.
    I did not follow the practice and when asked by my superior I said as a minority officer I don’t feel it’s right to recommened a lower performing protected class cadet over other cadets that have outperformed them. I specifically avoided that when I submitted my application to the Academy.
    He said if I wouldn’t do it he would.  “Sir that is your perogative.”
    From the looks of things it doesn’t seem much has changed.

    BTW, they didn’t call it a quota.  It was “diversity” and the requirement was for “qualified” cadet nominees not “best qualified” that way they could slide the quota reality under the door.

    I wonder if “protected groups” will ever “arrive”.

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa .
    …In Marine Corps boot camp in 1968 the D.I.’s had to pick recruit squad leaders from day one.  Back in WW2, they would start with the older, more mature men.  In 1968, that class essentially did not exist.  So on day one they picked guys that looked like they had played serious football… or maybe been tough members of a street gang.  No goals, no affirmative action, no quotas.  
    .
    …Recruit “authority” positions are notoriously fragile… especially early in the training cycle.  Only one of the original “squad leaders” made it to the end.  (Tough member of a Detroit street gang, but smart enough to quickly adjust to D.I.’s requirements… happened to be my squad leader…)  
    .
    …One of the initial squad leaders was an impressively built guy who looked like a hard-ass fullback… only lasted in his position for 24 hours.  Some other time I may tell all of you the saga of this lad.  Didn’t last long in the platoon either… Wanted to talk about the Bible, or his mother, or about how his dog was a virgin… 
    .
    …I was lucky… too baby-faced to be picked as squad leader… too tall to be assigned as “House Mouse…”  In danger of being “platoon secretary…” but they asked who had any college at that point and picked fool who raised his hand.  
    .
    …At ITR there was an entirely different dynamic.  Out of 75 graduates from each platoon at boot camp,, only six would be promoted to PFC at graduation… so ITR got their platoon guides, squad leaders and fire team leaders from that list.  Instructors assigned to head each company got to pick their leaders based on their seniority… in reverse. 
    .
    …So junior NCO (4th Platoon) got first pick.  Fourth Platoon bad juju… always at the rear of the formation three out of four days… not wonderful going up and down steep hills… Naturally he picked me as his platoon leader.  
    .
    …Got to shake my head at your info re West Point.  Seems that the Marine Corps wasn’t the only lash-up to get General Amos type commanders.
    .
    -Yankee Papa-

  • YankeePapa majrod 
    Oh this is much more insidious.
    It’s command policy by people who should know better to ingratiate themselves with politically driven affirmative action to achieve the unicorn “advantage” that “diversity” entails.  (My theory is this all stems from either guilt at being successful or an actual belief that certain groups are inferior and need government help.) 

    Every cadet is impacted by it over the cadet’s four year experience.  It becomes especially acute for the junior and senior classes that high visibility leaders are selected from.
    It has the impact of any achievements by athlete, minority or woman cadets are questioned as being due to affirmative action.  The minorities take that questioning as based on discrimination of their abilities because of being minorities.
    In effect it’s a vicious circle perpetuating prejudice.

  • Allwet

    Damn it.Damn it. Damn it.

    Should’ve known. P Nation wins again.Sad news indeed.