The US Air Force Academy cadet's annual snowball fight, marking the first snowfall of the season, developed into a brawl that saw nearly 30 cadets hospitalized for injuries that included concussions, arm bites and cuts, school officials said Wednesday.
According to a statement by the academy, the unofficial ritual called the "First Shirt/First Snow" involves freshmen cadets attempting to throw their cadet sergeant into a snow bank. The event became violent resulting in injuries to several participants.
Reuters reports that the commandant of the cadets, Brigadier Gregory Lengyel, said: "A relatively small number of cadets chose to take part in this unsafe activity. This incident was unacceptable."
Lengyel said six cadets were hospitalized and 21 others treated for "bruises and lacerations" at the academy clinic.
School authorities say they are investigating the incident.
AP reports that school spokesman Lt.Col. John Bryan, said they are treating the incident as a "teachable moment."
In a statement, the school authorities said: "Our Air Force expects better. I expect better, and I'm confident the cadets will learn and grow from this."
Reuters reports that an internal memo, written by Brigadier General Dana Born to the school's administrators, and obtained by the Air Force Times, said the annual ritual between freshmen and upperclassmen has developed into an annual brawl in the last two years.
According to the Air Force Times, the memo said: "This ritual has devolved to become increasingly violent, with significant numbers of cadets requiring medical care over the past two years."
AP reports the memo added: "What used to be (freshmen) throwing the first shirt into the snow has turned into a brawl between upperclassmen defending the first sergeant and the (freshmen) trying to capture the first sergeant."
The memo did not say how many participants were injured last year.
However, the memo recommended that Lengyel should allow the annual ritual continue if the cadets demonstrate they can exercise restraint and conduct themselves with "good order and discipline and proper risk management."
But MSN Now comments: "When your traditional snowball fight turns into an all-out brawl resulting in hospitalizations and injuries, including concussions, arm bites, and cuts requiring stitches, you’d think it was time to stop it cold."
Reuters reports that the Air Force Academy is located in Colorado Springs, 60 miles south of Denver. The school has an enrollment of about 4,100 cadets. Graduates are commissioned first lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force.