Shake it up: West Point cannon crew, ‘A-Man’ and Rabble Rousers

by Tommy Grant

While the West Point cadets in pads are the center of attention for the annual Army-Navy game rivalry matchup, the game wouldn’t be the spectacle it is without the supporting cast of cannoneers, cheerleaders and the “A-Man.”

Army Times interviewed a handful of the cadets who spend their precious free time carrying on age-old traditions while bringing school spirit, excitement and pageantry to the field, sidelines and stands.

A-Man

Cadet Dylan Carmody, class of 2025 serves as the “A-Man” a kind of crowd-pumping West Point hype man. The Bernardston, Massachusetts native first went to a West Point home football game in November 2019 and saw a muscled guy in a yellow tank top energizing the crowd from the sidelines.

Carmody turned to his mother and said, “One day that’ll be me when I’m a cadet.” He was joking, of course. That was, until 2022 when one of the academy cadre reached out and offered him the job. He accepted without a second thought.

The A-Man can’t rely on a fake muscle costume like some other mascots. His “guns show” pythons have to be game ready each week. So Carmody hits Arvin Gymnasium on the West Point campus six days a week for at least 90 minutes of weight training and a half hour of cardio and core.

He attends all games, pumping up about two hours before kickoff and hitting carbs and water to stay pumped and energized through those long Saturdays. Carmody runs the field getting the fans fired up, especially on third down situations and rips out pushups in the end zone whenever Army scores a touchdown.

“The best part of the job is interacting with Army fans, hands down,” Carmody said. “Words cannot describe how much of an honor it is to hear little kids say, ‘I want to be you when I grow up someday.’”

Cannon Crew

Cadet Matthew Decker, class of 2024, is the Cadet in Charge of the Cannon Crew for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The Middletown, New Jersey native learned about the crew from his team leader and joined in his second year at the academy. He works with an Assistant Cadet in Charge, who’ll take over his position when he graduates and a Noncommissioned Officer in Charge.

“Many cadets in my old company were on the team and I saw this as a way to bond with them and to get involved outside of our normal activities like drill or company athletics,” he said.

The biggest commitment for the crew is on each game day. Throughout the week leading up to the game they plan out each event, draw ammunition and writing risk assessments for the crew’s duties. Though the big event doesn’t often kickoff until noon or later, Decker and his crew start their day at 8 a.m. First they coordinate with military police to draw the cannons and ammunition. Then they conduct pregame safety checks and run through their various procedures.

When Decker tells West Point graduates he’s on the crew, they normally associate it with the football games. But that’s not the crew’s only duties. They also fire the small artillery piece for soccer matches, lacrosse games and other sporting events such as the Fallen Comrades Half Marathon and the Sandhurst military skills competition.

“The most fun part about the position is definitely firing rounds. We have three 75mm howitzers that are across Lusk Reservoir and then a field cannon that fires a shotgun blank,” he said. “Watching the games on the field is an incredible experience, but nothing beats firing the 75′s.”

Rabble Rousers

Cadet Bridget Konopa, class of 2024, serves as the captain of the Rabble Rousers, the West Point cheerleaders. The Kokomo, Indiana native grew up dancing and competing in gymnastics. But she never cheered until attending West Point.

The team practices four days a week, traveling to all home and away games and adding another Saturday practice if there is no game scheduled. The team has a separate unit called “Pom” that performs dancing combinations and tumbling moves. That means some members will run double practices, working through their cheer routines and Pom choreographed numbers for both the sideline cheering and on field halftime performances.

The team cheers at West Point basketball games and other events while also competing in cheer competitions.

“The most fun part of my position is being able to dance and lead the Pom team,” Konopa said. “I have a great group of girls, and I can honestly say this has been the best team I’ve ever been on. That makes my job a lot easier.”

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

Read the full article here

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