During his opening remarks at the USAA Media Row press breakfast, Bill White, Senior Vice President and GM, Distribution and Service for USAA (and retired Navy captain and Naval Academy graduate!), reminded attendees what the Army-Navy game presented by USAA really means. "It's bigger than football," he said. "We all know the players will leave the field and go out and serve our country, but so will every member of the marching band. Every cheerleader. Think about that: every cheerleader on the field will die for you." It's an incredible sentiment and an equally great headline: These cheerleaders will die for you. I met up with White later and congratulated him on the most clickbaity headline of all time. He immediately quipped, "And they'll kill for you! They are steely-eyed purveyors of death." We had a good laugh about it - but we both agreed it's only funny because it's absolutely true.
There's something incredible about the juxtaposition of seeing the dance teams and the cheerleaders, knowing they'll someday soon trade in their pompoms for rifles, leaving their megaphones behind to command ships and squadrons, units and elite teams. West Point's current Commandant of Cadets, Brigadier General Lori Robinson, was, indeed, a cheerleader. According to her West Point bio, she has served in command and staff positions in the United States, the Republic of Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Her tours of duty with tactical units include 17th Aviation Brigade, 18th Aviation Brigade, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team / 2ID, 10th Mountain Division HQ (Baghdad, Iraq), and U.S. Army Alaska Aviation Task Force. Her commands include 3d Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment (Kandahar, Afghanistan) and 4th Combat Aviation Brigade (Bagram, Afghanistan). She's one of countless cheerleaders who have gone on to leadership positions.
This year's Captain of the U.S. Naval Academy's Dance Team, Angela Feng, talked to We Are The Mighty about what makes the Army-Navy game so special.
"Being here is an opportunity for us to show up and show out with both our Army counterparts and also be here with our team and support the Naval Academy and West Point. It's a rare opportunity for us to work together and show that even though we're playing a football game against each other, we are one team: the United States Forces." When asked what she's doing after graduation, Feng said, "I will be joining the submarine force - the silent service."
As you watch the Army-Navy game tomorrow, take a minute to look behind the field and the sidelines and notice the cheerleaders, the dance teams, the mascots and the marching band. They, too, are willing to lay down their lives for us (and yes, in what can only be described as my favorite headline of all time: kill for us). This is more than something to cheer for; it's something for which we should all be profoundly grateful.