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Snowball fight turns into big brawl at Air Force Academy

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 7:52 p.m.

DENVER — The Air Force Academy said 27 cadets were injured in a brawl during an unofficial ritual marking the first snowfall of the season.

Six cadets were taken to an off-campus hospital upon the Oct. 25 ruckus and have been released, the academy said on Wednesday. The others were treated at a cadet clinic.

The injuries included concussions, cuts and a human bite, and some cadets required stitches, Brig. Gen. Dana Born wrote in an internal email that was provided to media outlets. Academy officials confirmed the email is authentic.

Born is dean of faculty.

Academy officials were treating the incident as a “teachable moment,” said Lt. Col. John Bryan, a school spokesman. He said he did not know of any plans to discipline cadets.

Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel, the commandant of cadets, said in a statement that the brawl was unacceptable.

Lengyel did not say how many cadets were involved but said it was a “relatively small number.”

The ritual is called “First Shirt/First Snow” and involves freshmen trying to throw cadet first sergeants — known as first shirts — into the snow.

“This ritual has devolved to become increasingly violent, with significant numbers of cadets requiring medical care over the past two years,” Born wrote in her email.

“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.”

It wasn't immediately known how many cadets were injured last year.

“Obviously, this has gotten out of hand and cannot be repeated,” Born wrote.

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