COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Twenty-seven Air Force Academy cadets were injured last Thursday after a traditional hazing event left some with concussions, broken collar bones and cuts and bruises.
The hazing, known as First Shirt/First Snow, is an unofficial tradition that occurs every year on the first snow when freshmen cadets try to throw their cadet first sergeant in the snow, while the upperclassmen try to defend the sergeant.
“We’re going to consider this a teachable moment,” said John Van Winkle, an academy spokesman. “They are going to learn from that situation.”
In other words, the academy will not be taking punitive actions against the cadets who participated, and will let the episode and its consequences speak for themselves.
This year’s hazing sent six cadets — those with concussions and broken collar bones — to local emergency rooms and left 21 others with minor injuries, said John Van Winkle, an academy spokesman.
Van Winkle said the “tradition,” which has since been condemned by the academy, roughly dates to the 1980s. Many in the academy, including Van Winkle, had not heard of the tradition until the injuries were reported. Most of the academy’s 4,000 cadets did not participate in the hazing, he added.
The academy is launching a safety investigation into the hazing, Van Winkle said.
The commandant of cadets talked to freshman cadets on Friday and Saturday after the event, emphasizing that the tradition “needs to stop and will stop,” Van Winkle said.