Air Force brawl: Unofficial Academy tradition results in melee, 27 injuries

Six cadets were taken to an off-campus hospital after the Oct. 25 ruckus and have been released, the academy said Wednesday. The others were treated at a cadet clinic.

Rick Wilking/Reuters
The graduating class of second lieutenants arrive at the Air Force Academy's Class of 2012 graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado in this May 23 photo. Nearly 30 Air Force Academy cadets required medical care, with six of them hospitalized, after an annual tradition to mark the first snowfall of the season turned into an out-of-control melee, school officials said October 31.

The U.S. Air Force Academy said 27 cadets were injured in a brawl during an unofficial ritual marking the first snowfall of the season.

Six cadets were taken to an off-campus hospital after the Oct. 25 ruckus and have been released, the academy said Wednesday. The others were treated at a cadet clinic.

The injuries included concussions, cuts and a human bite, and some cadets required stitches, Brig. Gen. Dana Born, dean of faculty, wrote in an internal email that was provided to The Associated Press and other media outlets. Academy officials confirmed the email is authentic.

It wasn't immediately known if any cadets were disciplined. A statement from the academy said "appropriate measures will be taken" but it did not elaborate. Academy officials did not immediately return a phone call seeking an explanation.

Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel, the commandant of cadets, said in the statement that the brawl was unacceptable.

Lengyel did not say how many cadets were involved but said it was a "relatively small number."

The ritual is called "First Shirt/First Snow" and involves freshmen trying to throw cadet first sergeants — known as first shirts — into the snow.

"This ritual has devolved to become increasingly violent, with significant numbers of cadets requiring medical care over the past two years," Born wrote in her email.

"What used to be (freshmen) throwing the first shirt into the snow has turned into a brawl between upperclassmen defending the first sergeant and the (freshmen) trying to capture the first sergeant."

It wasn't immediately known how many cadets were injured last year.

"Obviously, this has gotten out of hand and cannot be repeated," Born wrote.

Born wrote that Lengyel stopped short of banning the ritual and said cadets could propose keeping it if they found a way to avoid violence.

The academy is located outside Colorado Springs and has about 4,000 students. Upon graduation, they are commissioned as second lieutenants in the Air Force.

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