The Lessons of a Time Honored Tradition

  • Published
  • By Lt Col. Yukio A. Kuniyuki III
  • 344th Military Intelligence Battalion

When Gen. Douglas MacArthur famously wrote, “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory,” he referred to how competition in team sports was fundamental to preparing young leaders at West Point for the rigors of combat. 


No matter the sport, those who play share an acute understanding of the sacrifice, commitment, resiliency, teamwork and determination needed to be part of a winning team. Many also understand the valuable lessons that failure teaches us. 


Similarly, the tradition of the Army vs. Navy game represents more than just a rivalry. It exemplifies specific truths of military service that: the best lessons are found in failure, you can never prepare enough, the enemy always has a vote, fundamentals are essential, each member of the team counts, and, that you must not dwell on the past. You can only influence the present and shape the future.


On Dec. 1, 2017, the Army’s 344th Military Intelligence Battalion and the Navy’s Center for Information Warfare Training Detachment, combined with the Marine Corps Detachment, will meet for the fourteenth edition of the Army vs Navy football game at Goodfellow Air Force Base. 


The earliest recorded match-up of these juggernauts took place in 2004 when the Army edged the Navy 19-13.  Since that game, the Army has won 12 of the last 13 contests.  The Navy’s only victory occurred in 2008 when they prevailed by a narrow two point victory, winning 49-47.


This year’s contest will prove to be an exciting one. Recently Navy, won the 17th Training Wing Commander’s Football Championship. Their players know how to win, and they will be bolstered by Marines. Meanwhile, the Army defeated the Navy, and the Marines, during regular season play, but fell early in the post-season. They understand what it will take to sink Navy and want to retain the trophy.


Moreover, each team already experienced the lessons and truths mentioned earlier. The Navy entered the post-season with a 5-4 record, ranked fifth out of 10 teams. In contrast, the Army had only one defeat and were tied with the 315th Training Squadron for first place. Over the course of the season, the young soldiers, sailors and marines have learned the value of resiliency and teamwork. Most importantly, they are entering this year’s game knowing that it is theirs to win or lose, and that they must not underestimate their opponent. Ultimately, the contest will come down to discipline, fundamentals and the determination to win as a team.