A Covert Coup for Cadets: Steal the Mascot
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY — The mules are locked down. The goats are in an undisclosed location. With the Army-Navy football game coming up This kind of Saturday, West Point as well as Annapolis are at Threat Level Red — for their mascots.
A sometimes comical, sometimes violent mascot-snatching war has been raging for generations among the Army, Navy as well as Air Force academies, with cadets scheming to kidnap their rivals’ animals by subterfuge or brute force as well as then parade them in taunting triumph before big games.
through the years, tighter security for the mascots has only made the raiders bolder, as well as the missions more elaborate, with months of preparation, choreographed assault teams, as well as sometimes even military aircraft.
Military leaders nearly always condemn the pranks, nevertheless in which hasn’t put a stop to them. Just last month, Aurora, a glacier-white gyrfalcon as well as mascot of the Air Force Academy, was abducted from the middle of the night, as well as nearly met a tragic end.
The Army cadets who stole Aurora seem not to have known in which the regal falcon can be almost never caged. Even on commercial airline flights, she travels perched on a handler’s glove from the coach cabin. When the kidnappers stuffed her into a dog crate, Aurora panicked, as well as beat her wings frantically until they were bloody.
West Point said in a statement in which mascot thefts do not “reflect the Army or U.S.M.A. core values of dignity as well as respect.”
Even so, cadets as well as midshipmen have been at This kind of kind of thing since 1953, when Army pranksters chloroformed the Navy’s mascot, Bill the Goat, as well as plopped him from the back of a convertible. as well as senior commanders have often quietly — as well as sometimes loudly — encouraged the shenanigans as a boost for school spirit.
Last year, West Point produced an elaborate mascot-stealing spoof video, with the role of the airborne commando played by none some other than the officer in charge of discouraging such behavior, the West Point commandant, Brig. Gen. Steven Gilland.
“We need to massacre midshipman morale,” General Gilland can be seen telling his boss, Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, the academy superintendent at the time.
“You know, if anything goes wrong, I’m denying any knowledge of This kind of mission,” General Caslen responds.
West Point declined to make leaders available to discuss the video or the episode with the Air Force falcon. In a written statement, the academy said, “We have had isolated incidents involving spirit missions as well as we have addressed those with appropriate actions in which fall in line with Army values as well as what we expect of how future officers should conduct themselves.” Were the falcon raiders disciplined? West Point might not say.
The academies signed a formal agreement in 1992 banning mascot heists. nevertheless while the military demands obedience to authority, the idea also prizes a certain reckless audacity. So punishments for mascot raiding are often light, as well as imposed that has a wink.
“The commandant told me I had violated nearly all of the cadet regulations, I had risked the lives of others, I had taken on the government as well as won — as well as then he said, ‘Well done,’” said Tom Carhart, 74, a military historian who crept past armed Marines to get the Navy’s goat in 1965.
In 1991, Navy midshipmen bent on stealing West Point’s mules cut phone lines, bound as well as gagged Army staff, as well as were pursued by police. Facing possible felony charges, they were instead awarded “the Order of the Mule,” as well as the Naval Academy commandant said their actions were “from the highest traditions of the naval service.”
“We went through criminals to heroes in a matter of minutes” said Bill Wiseman, 48, a senior on the raiding team who later became a member of the Navy SEALs. “Looking back, we went so far overboard, tying guys up. You might never get away with in which today. I’m frankly amazed we didn’t get in a lot of trouble.”
Both former raiders said they doubted the war might ever end.
“Motivated young men as well as women on the cusp of adulthood want a challenge,” Mr. Carhart said. “Stealing the mascot can be the summum bonum. If you can capture in which, there are no boundaries in life.”
Mascot abduction did not start with the service academies. Harvard nabbed Yale’s bulldog back in 1934, as well as before in which, Fordham’s rams were repeatedly kidnapped by rivals. The tradition has largely died out at civilian colleges, nevertheless the idea still resonates at the service academies, where students prepare for careers in covert strikes as well as plausibly deniable mayhem.
“the idea was no mere prank, the idea was a classic little-unit military operation” Gen. Wesley Clark, a classmate of Mr. Carhart, wrote in a foreword to Mr. Carhart’s book about the 1965 raid.
Many of the pranksters have gone on to successful military careers. Two of the Navy mule raiders are today top leaders from the SEALs.
The raids have not been without casualties, human as well as animal. When Army cadets in uniform tried unsuccessfully to grab the Navy’s goat in a parking lot in 2015, the violent scrum in which ensued put the goat in a veterinary clinic for a week.
Handlers for Aurora the falcon initially thought she might have to be euthanized after her traumatic abduction in November. nevertheless she has since made a full recovery, as well as during a recent visit, she plucked vigorously at a dinner of raw quail, flecking her talons with its blood.
“Fortunately the injuries were not as bad as we thought,” said Lt. Col. Don Rhymer, who oversees the Air Force falcon program. He said he hoped the some other service academies might not try to steal her again: “These aren’t barnyard animals. We’re dealing with protected birds of prey.”
Of the three academies’ mascots, the Navy goat has been abducted the most often — usually by West Point, though Air Force cadets spirited the goat away from the belly of a bomber in 1960 as well as again in 1966. The Navy began keeping the goat at a high-security naval base between appearances, nevertheless in which precaution did not hinder Mr. Carhart’s 1965 raid.
Dressed in black with faces darkened by burned cork, he as well as 5 some other Army cadets made the idea through two fences topped with barbed wire. Then, with the goat in sight, they froze as a Ford station wagon pulled up near the Marines guarding its pen. Two college-age women got out of the automobile.
“We had planned the idea all with our girlfriends,” Mr. Carhart said. “They told the Marines a story about how they were lost, as well as they’d been stood up on a blind date. I think one of them cried. We sneaked in to the goat pen, only 25 feet behind them all, nevertheless the guards never turned around. They were looking at the girls.”
Army cadets announced another successful heist in 1972 in an ad from the brand-new York Times in which read, “Hey Navy, do you know where your ‘kid’ can be today? The Corps does.”
Media accounts as well as a YouTube communiqué show in which the Navy mascot was nabbed again in 1990, 1995, 2002, 2007 as well as 2012, when Bill the Goat was found tied to a tree near the Pentagon.
Wanting payback, the Navy launched Operation Missing Mascot, the daring 1991 plan to snatch four Army mules through the center of the West Point campus in broad daylight. Dressed as military police, 17 midshipmen, including Mr. Wiseman, as well as two active-duty SEAL “advisers” drove into West Point carrying bolt cutters as well as mule feed spiked with molasses. Each midshipman had a job: door breacher, phone line cutter, mule handler. Some were chosen, according to a Navy account, for their “aggressive desire to place an enemy in submission.”
The team zip-tied six Army employees to chairs. “Some were putting up quite a struggle, so we used some duct tape to shut them up,” Mr. Wiseman said.
As the raiders got away, the Army scrambled helicopters as well as notified law enforcement, nevertheless the midshipmen stuck to back roads as well as were not stopped by the police until they were pulling in to the Naval Academy campus.
Before the raiders could be arrested, Navy leadership intervened as well as had them escorted to a waiting pep rally, where they marched the four mules through a cheering sea of midshipmen.
In hindsight, Mr. Wiseman said he has come to believe in which the top brass at the academy had probably known about as well as approved the raid through the outset. “They wanted a little street cred of their own,” he said.