Air Force Academy brawl injures 27 cadets

Annual "first snow" event is not condoned by AFA

Colorado Springs, COLO. - An Air Force Academy commander said 27 cadets were injured in a brawl during an unofficial ritual marking the first snowfall of the season.

Brig. Gen. Dana Born said in an internal email that cadets needed treatment for injuries including concussions, cuts and a human bite in the Oct. 25 brawl. Later Wednesday afternoon, an Air Force Academy spokesman also said one cadet suffered a broken collarbone.

Born's email was leaked to The Associated Press and other media outlets Wednesday.

Six cadets were taken to the hospital. The rest were treated at the Academy.

In a news release sent Wednesday, the Academy said the ritual, called "First Shirt/First Snow" involves freshmen cadets trying to throw their cadet first sergeant in the snow. 

The email from Born, the academy dean of faculty, said not all the cadets involved in the ritual got into the brawl, and other cadets didn't participate in the ritual at all.

"A relatively small number of cadets chose to take part in this unsafe activity.  This incident was unacceptable," said Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel, Commandant of Cadets.  "Our Air Force expects better. I expect better, and I'm confident the cadets will learn and grow from this."

7NEWS found multiple YouTube videos from previous years showing the "First Shirt/First Snow" ritual. The videos show cadets in headlocks, at the bottom of a dogpile and being dragged down the hallway by their feet. The ritual ends with the first sergeant thrown into the snow.

7NEWS wanted to know who monitors the dorms. An Air Force Academy spokesman said two officers or noncommissioned officers and one cadet patrol the two dorms overnight.

In the internal email, the Dean of the faculty wrote, "This ritual has devolved to become increasingly violent, with significant numbers of cadets requiring medical care over the past two years. What used to be 4 degrees throwing the first shirt into the snow has turned into a brawl between upperclassmen defending the first sergeant and the 4 degrees trying to capture the first sergeant ... Obviously, this has gotten out of hand and cannot be repeated. There is no way we can condone or defend this.