In 2011 on December 10th, the 112th Army Navy game was played near our nation's capital in Washington DC at the home of the Washington Redskins, Fed Ex Field in front of 80,789 fans split in loyalties between the two teams.
The event displayed all of the traditions and pageantry you would expect of a day when America's oldest service academies present themselves to the public. The day starts with the Corps of Cadets and the Brigade of Midshipmen "Marching on to the Field". The Army cadets wear very distinguishing grey capes tied at the neck, if you see the movie "Lincoln", the civil war era soldiers are wearing similar capes.
Then groups of students present game balls they have run taking turns to the stadium from the two academies. Then there is the "Return of Exchange Students" a ceremony in which the ten or so exchange students studying for the semester at the rival Academy are paraded across the field under guard and exchanged for each so that they can watch the game with their classmates. Then are the fly overs by military planes and helicopters and the senior leadership of the military standing on the sideline.
In 2011 the game witnessed the attendance of the President and Vice President of the United States. President Obama sat with on the Navy side in the first half then moved to the Army side at half time, walking through lines of cadets and midshipmen across the field. Vice President Joe Biden was seen visiting with fans of the two schools.
The seniors ran out onto the field knowing this would in all likelihood be their last football game with their future being commissions and service in the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps that could put them into roles leading units into harm's way.
The intensity of the competition is as high as can found anywhere, with the outcome a life time memory for all involved especially the seniors on both teams.
Army (3-8) went in desperate to break a nine game winning streak and Navy (4-7) just as anxious to not be the team that lost the streak and win its tenth in a row over Army.
West Point is organized into companies of about 150 students, each with a mixture from each class. The seniors are responsible for managing all of the cadets in their companies and training the freshman who are known as "plebes."
The first year at West Point is especially challenging, as the plebes are drilled daily on Academy regimentation, military duties, as well as a grueling academic schedule.
Marching in company formation is part of daily life at West Point. As you see, the cadets march from their buses and staging area, approaching the stadium and their chance to march on to the field.
The cadets march onto the field in their all-grey uniforms, caps, overcoats, distinctive caps and black gloves. Their appearance is meticulous, and the seniors in each company are responsible to make sure of that.
The maneuver of marching onto and off the field is well-rehearsed before leaving for Washington. You will notice that every company has a cadet commander who walks in front and is introduced by name and hometown to the crowd and proud family in the stands.
A cadet stationed in the upper leads the cadets in cheers.
You have to run up to the very top of the upper deck of the stadium to take this photo in which all 36 companies representing four regiments can be seen at one time. The entire formation is led onto the field by the First Captain who gives commands in a booming voice and then tries to avoid looking back to mack sure everything is in order.
While in formation, the Corps of Cadets will offer a few cheers including "the Rocket" and an enthusiastic,"Go Army, Beat Navy."
Just a very impressive sight, worth arriving early to see. For the first time in 2011, the CBS Sports Network broadcast the march-ons live nationally.
If you go to the game or plan to watch this year, plan to tune in at 12:16 p.m. to see the Brigade of Midshipmen, and at 12:46 p.m. the Corps of Cadets conduct this memorable part of the Army-Navy game tradition.
Not to be outdone by their rivals from West Point, the Brigade of Midshipmen marched into the stadium wearing their white officers' hats and long blue coats.
The "Mids", as they are known, enter the stadium in a similar way in their companies, led by their leadership members.
This is a very proud moment for all the parents of all the students involved, as well as alumni who remember the cold December days they marched onto the field for the Army-Navy game.
For the most part, the formation stands facing its own sideline, but for a moment they face the rival sideline to go over a choice version of "Go Navy, Beat Army". Very impressive to hear that yelled in unison by nearly 4,000 voices.
This seems to be a Navy tradition.
Members of the Navy team that took turns running a football from Annapolis to the stadium in Landover, Maryland.
This is to show you that the Midshipmen and the Cadets do get along and work on a number of joint projects at the Army-Navy game. This group might have been assembled as an honor guard for the many dignitaries in attendance.
An opportunity to see distinctive capes worn by the cadets over their grey over coats and the stylish blue coats of the Midshipmen.
A few years ago I received a lecture when I referred to Army cheerleaders, they are called "Rabel Roussers" at West Point. Last year the day before the game they performed in the Army halls at the Pentagon. During the week, they wear combat boots and camouflage uniforms like everyone else.
Where does the Army go that it does not take some of their artillery?
Originally the Army Song" used the word caissons referring to the wagons which carried the heavy field artillery pieces, then was changed to reflect the broader scope of the Army as a whole.
Verse: First to fight for the right,
And to build the Nation’s might,
And The Army Goes Rolling Along
Proud of all we have done,
Fighting till the battle’s won,
And the Army Goes Rolling Along.
With "Brave Old Army Team", "The Army Goes Rolling Along" and "Army Strong" Army wins on inspirational music.
Before and during the game, the big video boards presented messages from deployed Army units, Navy ships and Marine units. A few of the more tasteful and clever spirit videos made by the cadets and midshipmen may also be presented during the day.
This cadet is helping take care of the Army mascots, which are a pair of pony-sized mules. Note the grey cap and distinctive cape the cadet is wearing. My uncle who went to West Point in the late 1930s had a grey dress cap exactly the same.
Many dignitaries at the game, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin E. Dempsey, a 1974 graduate of West Point, are listening to a point made by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos.
We see the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Raymond T. Odierno quite often at practices and games. The General is very supportive of the team and the players and coaches say he is understanding of the challenges of the players face in trying to excel at football, academics, and military duties at West Point.
General Odierno hosted a seminar with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on identifying and treating concussion injuries both in football and in the military. Did not realize the risk of concussions from bomb blasts that soldiers are exposed to.
When the audience of over 100 cadets most of whom were athletes and soldiers back from deployments where asked how many thought they had received concussions, almost every hand went up. When the group was asked how many were treated for concussions, only 15 percent of the hands went up.
The General and the Commissioner made the point that all who have concussions need to receive treatment.
West Point's Superintendent, Lt. Gen. David H Huntoon Jr. is a big football fan, and he tries to get out to as many of the West Point games as he can.
The Army-Navy Game is a big day for everyone associated with West Point and Annapolis. The football programs attract considerable attention from alumni, the active military and government officials. It is also a way to help attract students to consider applying to the academy or other areas of the armed services.
Cadets and Midshipmen salute the national colors, while Superintendent Huntoon, Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno stand at attention on the Army bench area.
The Chaplain of the Naval Academy provided an invocation remembering those serving overseas.
The National Anthem was performed by the USNA Glee Club. The Army leadership stood at attention on the 50-yard line.
F18s flyover prior to start of the Army-Navy Game
The Navy goat annually attends the Army-Navy game. The mascots have historically been at risk of unscheduled trips to the rival Academy in the weeks leading up to the game.
The practice is highly frowned upon by military leadership, but past capers are a subject of much lore among among alumni.
Navy runs onto field
Army helicopters fly high over Fed Ex Field.
Army Jack would never miss an Army-Navy game, he is always out supporting his team.
Army Jack's predecessor "Mules" served their soldiers by carrying supplies through tough terrain and up mountains. Army Jack will never let his soldiers down.
Kingsley Ehie began his Army football career as a starting running back. He switched to defense for his junior year backing up Steve Anderson at the middle linebacker position.
Since his graduation in December days after the game the commissioned Second Lieutenant has pursued the Ranger qualification program, a grueling test that football is excellent preparation.
Army captains Steve Erzinger, Max Jenkins and Andrew Rodriguez head to midfield to join their counterparts and a special guest for the coin toss.
The players will tell their grandchildren one day about the President of the United States coming out to greet them and toss the coin.
We talked this week with a West Point football player from the early 1970s and he remembered President Gerald Ford, a former Michigan football player, coming into their locker-room before an Army-Navy game.
Andrew Rodriguez came back from back surgery to play a solid role as a senior linebacker on the defense. Meanwhile he maintained a 4.0 grade point average and received the Campbell Trophy days before the game from the National Football Foundation as the national Scholar Player of the Year.
Later Rodriquez would receive the Sullivan Award as the country's top amateur athlete of the year.
He choose Infantry as his Army branch.
The Army cheerleaders lead the Corps of Cadets in anticipation of kick off.
Geoffrey Bacon has had a great first season for the Black Knights at strong safety.
Finally, Navy kicks to start the game.
Army offensive line came together well during the season and led way for Army runners.
Pictured are freshman center #52 Ryan Powis, #78 Senior tackle Brad Kelly, #8 junior quarterback Trent Steelman, and #26 freshman fullback Larry Dixon
Steelman starts first drive for Army, but it is forced to punt. Army thought it had a big break by recovering a fumble at its own 26 but fumbled, setting up a second Navy score on a 10-yard run by Alexander Teich.
With 7:05 left in the half, Navy led 14-0.
Navy QB Kriss Proctor came into the season taking over for the extraordinary Ricky Dobbs.
Quarterback Kriss Proctor scores for Navy on a four-yard run, which completed a 26-yard drive after recovering an Army fumble.
Chris Proctor runs around the left side against Army.
An Army fumble at the Navy 45 with 10:20 left in the second quarter allowed the Midshipmen to take over possession.
Navy went 55 yards to its second score on a 10-yard run by Alexander Teich.
Navy drives 55 yards for its second score on a 10-yard run by Alexander Teich.
With 7:05 left in the half, Navy leads 14-0.
Navy has a 14-0 lead, looks like another long day for Army.
The Army offensive line drives to push back Navy on opening possession.
Steelman sees a hole open up to his right and accelerates into the open field.
Trent Steelman scores on a 34-yard run to get Army back in the game, trailing 14-7.
Malcolm Brown scores on a five-yard run to tie the score at 14-14 with 49 seconds left in the first half.
Army goes to the locker room feeling good about its chances.
At halftime honor guards of Cadets and Midshipmen form lines, crossing the field for the president to walk through so he can move to the Army side of the field for the second half.
President Obama is escorted by West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. David Huntoon, as he waves to Army fans in the stands.
Cadets are excited as the second half of a time game starts.
No. 39 Alexander Teich, who signed up for Navy Seal training, is asked to run back the second-half kick and took the ball across midfield into Army territory. This gave Navy new life to start the second half.
After the Alexander Teich run back, QB Kriss Proctor scores on a two-yard run to give Navy a 21-14 lead early in the second half.
The game was really getting exciting as Army ran off a quick six-play 74-yard drive, capped off on a 25-yard pass by Trent Steelman to Malcolm Brown for the touchdown.
The Cadet Spirit Band competes all day with the Navy band to help keep the momentum behind its team.
Payam Saadat is one of the two Army co defensive coordinators along with Chris Smeland. Coach Saadat works with the players on the sideline while coach Smeland works from the press box.
Since the 2010 Bowl winning season when a core of top players graduated, the defensive coaching has cultivated a group of young players who have often had to learn by playing.
Against Navy in 2011 the Army defense came up big especially in the second half when Navy threatened to score twice late in the game.
Army defense makes stop and forces a Navy field goal.
Navy has 1st-and-goal at the Army two-yard line, and the Army defense holds helped by an offside call on third down. Jon Teague kicks a 23-yard field goal to give Navy a 24-21 lead.
Another stop by the Army defense, forcing a field goal by Navy.
After the classic goal-line stand by the Army defense resulting in just a field goal by Navy, it looked like Army might have momentum to drive on offense for a score.
The Navy kickoff was taken by Scott Williams who had the ball stripped by Noah Campbell and recovered for the Mids by Jordan Drake at the Army 23.
The Army defense rushes back out onto the field and stops Navy without a first down. Jon Teague hits a 44-yard field goal, and Navy leads 27-21 with 10:26 left in the game
A touchdown and an extra point would give Army the lead and quite possibly a win over Navy. Army takes the Navy kickoff and starts at its own 23. Trent Steelman moves the ball across midfield and to the Navy 28 for a first down. Plenty of time left.
Three plays for Army result in a five-yard loss on a sack of Steelman and three net yards. Crucial moment for Army with fourth down at the Navy 25-yard line and 4:39 left in the game. Army probably will not get the ball back if it loses possession here.
Absolute crunch time in the biggest rivalry in sports.
Steelman looks for a hole but cannot find any running room. In this photo it appears No. 23 Malcolm Brown was looking for a pitch out from his quarterback Steelman, who got trapped and tackled for a loss.
Loss of possession on the Navy 26-yard line after moving the ball 51 yards in 12 plays.
After the playing of the Army Alma Mater, the Black Knights manage one last "Beat Navy" cheer before crossing the field and stands behind the Midshipmen, who "Sing Second" as their band performs "Navy Blue and Gold".
A disappointing end to an exciting game that went down to the very end. The clock for Army starts all over again, as a plebe the next morning before breakfast will be asked how many days left until "Army Beats Navy".
A bit of revenge as Army defeats Navy in men's basketball before a standing-room-only crowd at West Point in February.
Army players stand in front of their classmates in the Corp of Cadets, while the West Point "Alma Mater" is performed first. The entire Navy team stands behind them.
Navy won its 10th Army-Navy Game in a row, a happy day for them. The game will be remembered whenever the Navy seniors meet on ships or on deployment in the Marines. The former players will say they beat Army all four years while at the Academy.
Memories of the sport of football draws people together later in life, and the players from both sides will smile and describe the atmosphere at FedEx field that day, the bands, the excitement, the competition that forced players on both teams to make extraordinary plays.
The former Army and Navy players will also tell each other stories of service in the years following the game. The times serving together far from home in harms way, depending on each other for safety and the ability to complete the mission of defending the country.
Ken Kraetzer covers Army football for WVOX in New Rochelle, NY and Sons of the American Legion Radio. Twitter address @SAL50NYRadio