Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pillow Talk

Every year, the new students at the United States Military Academy, "cadets," as they are known, take the opportunity to blow off a little steam at the end of their first summer of training to become America's military leaders by participating in a giant pillow fight.  I mean by that, a pillow fight involving over a thousand young men and women, battering each other with pillows, which is supposed to build camaraderie and certain character traits that surely will come in handy later in classrooms and battlefields the world over.

This year's headrest mêlée took place on August 20, or 20Aug in military terms, but what happened was not reported until this past weekend.  Clearly, the USMA was not in a rush to let the world know about it, but the New York Times broke the story about how the heretofore innocent feathered frolic turned bloody this year when cadets swung pillowcases packed with hard objects. 30 cadets were injured, 24 with concussions.

West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, Jr. said that besides concussions, other injuries sustained by cadets included a broken nose and dislocated shoulder.

“While these spirit events do occur, we never condone any activity that results in intentional harm to a teammate,” Caslen said. “Although the vast majority of the class appears to have maintained the spirit of the event; it is apparent that a few did not.”

Upperclassmen overseeing the fight ordered cadets to wear helmets, but video shows many did not. And because today's young people have been taught by yesterday's young people to question every order and look for loopholes in everything, it appears that some cadets took the order to use helmets to mean they should put their headgear in their pillowcases and beat the hell out of their classmates.

And then, because even people with a broken neck will break their necks to brag about their foolish behavior online, there was this Tweet from an Army freshman:

"4 concussions, 1 broken leg, 2 broken arms, 1 dislocated shoulder, and several broken ribs. That’s one hell of a pillow fight. #USMA19."
And this brilliant observation from an upperclassman on Yik Yak:
“My plebe was knocked unconscious and immediately began fighting when he came to. I was so proud I could cry.”
Caslen said that a military police investigation which began the night of the incident is “ongoing.”  I don't think it will take Columbo to figure out what's wrong here.

It's not unlike 18-year-olds to
become rowdy and act in inappropriate manners.  In fact, it's almost expected of them, which is why we don't allow them to hold either alcoholic drinks or elective office at that callow age.  Put any group of young people, all testosterony and estrogeny, in a physical situation with nonlethal weapons, and you're going to have some interesting results.

The problem I see is that the upperclassmen, supposedly in charge of this waste of tax money, rather than making sure the pillow contained nothing harder than duck down, ducked down themselves and let the fracas fly.

And now the military brass whom we pay to train the next generation of Army officers is now harrumphing and saluting and referring to rules and investigations and issuing statements steeped in the same kind of public relations hoo-hoo that car companies use when their sedans are shown ricocheting off each other on highways because they have no brakes and the accelerators get stuck:
“West Point applauds the cadets’ desire to build esprit and regrets the injuries to our cadets,” Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker said. “We are conducting appropriate investigations into the causes of the injuries.”
Aren't these people supposed to be studying or something? More to the point, is breaking some kid's nose the best way to build esprit?

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