Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Army-Navy 101: The Basics

Army Football is on a bye for the next two weeks.  Navy plays Southern Methodist University this Saturday, and they have the Atlantic Conference Championship game after that.  Army-Navy is the next week, December 10th, traditionally the last college football game of the regular season.
It’s too early to start previewing the game itself, but it’s never too early to talk about the rivalry in general.  This blog series, then, is meant to introduce casual fans to the greatest rivalry in college sports.
Welcome to Army-Navy!
Everyone has heard of the Army-Navy Game.  Even when it’s not particularly competitive, it’s still more than just a football game.  It’s one of America’s greatest national spectacles.  Reality, though, is that if you didn’t go to one of the service academies, you may not know a lot about either Army-Navy or the academies themselves.  For example, folks frequently ask me, “Are they really soldiers and sailors?”  
Yes, but they’re also college students.  They are, in fact, cadets and midshipmen attending four-year public military colleges, the United States Military Academy (USMA) and the United States Naval Academy (USNA), respectively, tuition free in exchange for a commitment to military service after graduation.  Both were designed as engineering schools, and both require a full load of pre-engineering coursework—including calculus—for all students.  West Point has of late adopted a more balanced liberal arts program in line with the needs of its parent service, but even non-engineers at Army still take a five-course engineering track.  Both schools also require a five year active duty commitment upon graduation, followed by a three-year commitment in the inactive ready reserves.  Army and Navy are also both steeped in pride and military tradition, making their rivalry a truly passionate affair.
A few basic comparisons are below.  These are your military academies, America.  You should know something about them.

Founding: West Point
Sylvanus Thayer, the father of the
U.S. Military Academy.
Though cadets have undergone military and engineering training at Fortress West Point since 1794[1], the United States Military Academy was not formally established until 1802.  President Thomas Jefferson signed the bill establishing the Academy as part of a national compromise in 1801.  Jefferson himself believed that the nation needed a national university, and he accepted that this university would be a military academy in compromise with the hawkish elements of his Congress.
West Point is the United States Military Academy and not the United States Army Academy because it was built first.  The needs of the military were synonymous with the needs of the Army at the nation’s founding.  This has caused some confusion over the years, leading Academy officials to take the moniker “Army West Point” in reference to their sports teams.  To graduates, however, “Army” and “West Point” are the same.
Founding: Annapolis
President John Quincy Adams urged Congress to establish a Naval Academy in 1825.  The Navy School was founded in 1838 at the Philadelphia Naval Asylum, but it was moved to the former Ft. Severn outside Annapolis, Maryland—and rechristened the “Naval Academy”—in 1845.  “Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft decided to move the naval school to ‘the healthy and secluded’ location of Annapolis in order to rescue midshipmen from ‘the temptations and distractions that necessarily connect with a large and populous city.’”[2]
Advantage: Army. Though it’s funny to think of the early Naval Academy as a drunken, syphilitic institution sited conveniently close to Philadelphia’s red light district, reality is that this comparison is much closer than it might seem.  At its founding, West Point was perhaps the least “military” place in the history of military academies.  Early cadets came from aristocratic backgrounds, kept servants in their quarters, and spent most of their time drunk.  This only changed in 1817 when COL Sylvanus Thayer became Superintendent[3].  COL Thayer instilled discipline into the Corps of Cadets and redesigned the Academy’s curriculum, turning West Point into the nation’s first true engineering college.  He also invented the “Thayer Method” of instruction, in which cadets stand to brief their lessons daily to their classmates as a means of ensuring that each cadet understands the day’s instruction.  This method is still in use today.
Location: West Point
The U.S. Military Academy is located at Fortress West Point, named for an S-turn in the Hudson River, the so-called “west point”, approximately fifty miles north of New York City.  The Continental Army first occupied this site on January 27, 1778, and it is now the Army’s oldest continuously-operating post[4].  Fortress West Point, then “Fort Arnold”, was originally intended to guard the Upper Hudson Valley and Upstate New York from marauding British ships.  The traitor Benedict Arnold famously betrayed his country by selling the plans to the fort to the British during the Revolution, after which the fort was renamed “Fort Clinton”.  The site became “Fortress West Point” after the Revolution.

West Point as photographed by Astronaut Tim Kopra, '85,
while he commanded the Int'l Space Station.
West Point stands just outside the sleepy little village of Highland Falls, New York.  Highland Falls is quaint but small, and cadets are not allowed to drink within six miles of post.
Location: Annapolis
The U.S. Naval Academy is located at the former Ft. Severn in Annapolis, Maryland.  The site was originally occupied as a coastal artillery fort in 1776, intended to guard Annapolis Harbor.  Ft. Severn itself was formally established in 1808 but did not see action during the War of 1812[5].  The Army gave Ft. Severn to the Navy in 1845 specifically for use as its new Naval Academy.

Annapolis, per USNA.edu.
Advantage: Navy.  Army has a bit more history, but as any midshipman will tell you, ”At least we have a real town outside our gates.”  Annapolis is in fact a great town.  It also has a good relationship with the Naval Academy.  When I—very briefly—dated a midshipmen back in the early 1990s, I was astonished by how easily she moved on and off post and by how much there was to do near the Naval Academy.
Army gets bonus points for proximity to New York City, but it still takes a train ride to get there.
Mission and Motto: West Point
Mission: To educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.
Motto: “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Mission and Motto: Annapolis
Mission: To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.
Motto: Ex Scientia Tridens, i.e. "Through Knowledge, Sea Power.”[6]

Advantage: Army.  Both schools mission statements are problematically long.  “Duty, honor, country,” however, has become synonymous with national military service.  By comparison, Navy’s motto applies only to the Navy, and I had to look on Wikipedia to find it.  It may be on their website somewhere, but they certainly don’t use it as a fundamental part of their identity.  Army does.
Students: West Point
West Point’s student body is the United States Corps of Cadets.  The Corps is organized along the lines of a 19th Century rifle brigade.  There are four regiments, each with nine companies, A through I.
Students: Annapolis
Annapolis’s student body is the Brigade of Midshipmen.  The Brigade has two regiments, and each regiment has three battalions with five companies per battalion.[7]
Advantage: Push.  I only included this, so that you’d know what you’re watching during the March On.
That’s all for this week.  Next week we’ll take a look at each Academy’s crests, logos, and basic symbology, and we’ll touch on some of the accomplishments of their most famous graduates.
Go Army!  Beat Navy!!!

Author's Note: In the original version of this post, I neglected to include the footnotes.  These have been added below.  Fixing the hyperlinks, though, would have been much more trouble than it was worth.

[2] History of USNA.  https://www.usna.edu/USNAHistory/ 
[7] Midshipman Organization (The Brigade Broken Down). http://usnawiki.blogspot.com/2012/03/midshipman-organization.html 

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