Pillow fights banned at West Point

Cadets from the United States Military Academy (above) at West Point said that in at least a few cases, helmets or other "hard objects" were stuffed into pillowcases, which would help explain the number of concussions.
Cadets from the United States Military Academy (above) at West Point said that in at least a few cases, helmets or other "hard objects" were stuffed into pillowcases, which would help explain the number of concussions.PHOTO: REUTERS

This comes after annual affair to build team spirit among new cadets left 30 injured

NEW YORK • The superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point has decided to ban pillow fights, like the one in August that left two dozen freshmen cadets with concussions and six with other injuries.

The pillow fights at the academy have long served as a way for new cadets to build camaraderie at the beginning of their gruelling plebe year. But the event three months ago appeared to have set records for aggression, according to The New York Times.

The wounds included a fractured cheek and a broken nose. The latter was caused, a new Army investigation said, by the helmet one cadet was wearing "rotating forward and striking him in the nose" after he was struck by a pillow. Another cadet was found unconscious.

"While never officially sanctioned, it is now officially banned, and we will take appropriate action to ensure that all faculty, staff, leaders, the Corps of Cadets and everyone at West Point knows that it will not be tolerated," West Point Superintendent Lieutenant-General Robert Caslen said in a statement.

Lt-Gen Caslen said that the academy was also pursuing unspecified administrative disciplinary measures against those involved in the fights, including "senior military members and cadets alike".

He did not identify or provide the ranks of those who could be punished, but said he intended "to send a clear message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated". The Army investigation said the pillow fights dated to 2001, but congressional testimony suggested they dated back more than a century.

Cadets said in interviews that in at least a few cases, helmets or other "hard objects" were stuffed into pillowcases, which would help explain the number of concussions.

The Army report confirmed that one video showed a cadet striking another "with a pillowcase that clearly contained a hard object, and knocking him to the ground".

But the report suggested that doctors - while not ruling out hard objects - believed the injuries were largely caused by cadets being "hit by elbows or other body parts" or from falling or being knocked down.

Lt-Gen Caslen said the violence could have been prevented with better communication between cadet leadership and senior military personnel before the pillow fight.

"I am troubled by the failure to mitigate and lead, and by the conduct of those whose actions contributed to this incident," he said in the statement.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2015, with the headline 'Pillow fights banned at West Point'. Print Edition | Subscribe