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?