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Tradition Comes First in Storied Army-Navy Football Game

Whether it’s dropping to give “ten to the wind” at Ft. Campbell or the 3rd Infantry Division’s “Dog Face Soldier", tradition will always be part of the U.S. military, just as history is. The West Point cadets and the midshipmen of Annapolis know this better than anyone, as they carry on their annual traditions during this year’s Army-Navy football game.

Here are five of the best traditions surrounding the Army-Navy game.

Prisoner Exchange

Taking prisoners might sound like a scary endeavor, but where else in the world could it be a fun experience? During their junior year, selected midshipmen and cadets spend a semester "in enemy territory" attending the opposition's institution until game day, where they are returned to their own side during a prisoner exchange.

This tradition is not only involved, it's mutually beneficial. The selected students integrate with peers of different “services” and among them as brothers-in-arms. It helps to foster mutual respect and open the gates of communication between rivals that eventually become teammates.

Mascot Thieves

It’s not uncommon for students of rival colleges to attempt to kidnap their opponent's mascot, but the lengths to which these two schools go to is unmatched.

In 1995, a group of cadets broke into the Maryland dairy farm where the Navy's mascots, all goats named Bill, were kept. The incident went all the way to the Pentagon, where official orders had to be handed down to get the goats returned to their home. Those same orders stated that kidnapping of mascots could lead to punishment.

That didn’t stop those hard-charging Army cadets. In 2007, Bill XXXII, XXXIII and XXXIV were kidnapped under "Operation Good Shepherd" and the cadets created a mini-documentary to document their feat.


Short spoof videos called "spirit spots" have become very popular among both cadets and midshipmen. The idea that was once a simple, “Go Army, Beat Navy” (and vice versa) has since become short movies or commercials uploaded to YouTube. Check out these "spirit spots" to enjoy several from both service academies.

Drill and Ceremony

There’s nothing quite like a crisp, clean dress uniform. And these games feature a stadium full of them. As each academy enters the stadium, they are line up in tight rows and columns, taking drill and ceremony to a grand scale. If you’ve ever conducted "D&C" drills, you would that it can take a lot of command and control to get a large group of people moving in time with one another. That’s why this game offers a grand spectacle of precision and discipline.

A Sign of Respect

Members of each academy know that, while the football game is important for bragging rights and pride, there is nothing more important that knowing that at the end of the day they’re on the same team. At the conclusion of each Army-Navy football game, the teams meet in the center of the field where they first turn to the stands containing the fans of the defeated team, and they sing that team's alma mater. Then both teams turn to the side of the victors and show honor to the victors.

This sign of solidarity and mutual respect shows just how much the military becomes a brother and sisterhood like no other. The rivalry between these two programs may be deeper than any other in the nation, but at the end of the day, away from the field of collegiate competition, they serve side-by-side for America.

History of the Army vs Navy Game Infographic