This Saturday, the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen will storm Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia to contest the 114th Army-Navy game against their archrival U.S. Military Academy Black Knights. Hundreds of thousands of people across the nation will view the game on television, with many supporting the Blue and Gold.
But for Mike Thumm and Art Pruett — two USNA alumni now working at Naval Air Station Patuxent River — that support extends well beyond the football field. Both men serve their beloved alma mater by volunteering as Blue and Gold Officers.
“The correct title is Naval Academy Information Officer, but we’re better known as Blue and Gold Officer,” said Thumm, deputy program manager, Weapons Control System, Tomahawk Weapons System Program (PMA-280). Thumm, former commanding officer of the Pax River Marine Aviation Detachment, graduated from the USNA in 1975.
Blue and Gold officers are assigned to specific schools to identify and recruit student prospects who might be interested in attending USNA and be capable of completing its rigorous academic and officer-development program. They serve as the liaison between the academy and the candidates, helping with the application process, which requires a Congressional nomination.
“There are about 10 different documents or tests to complete in the application process, and the best time to begin working on it is between junior and senior year,” said Thumm, who is assigned to St. Mary’s Ryken and DeMatha high schools. “If it’s done in summer, they’re in good shape when the admission board meets as soon as the school year begins.”
Part of the application process is a face to face interview conducted by the Blue and Gold Officer and the student candidate.
“We look at five categories: leadership, responsibility, time management, communication skills and physical fitness,” Thumm said. “This gives us a snapshot of what they’ve done and what their potential is. It’s the only time someone is face to face with the applicant and it’s an important part of the process because, if [admissions] is on the fence about anyone, they’ll pay attention to those interview results.”
Pruett, product support manager, Naval Air Traffic Management Systems (PMA-213), is a retired Navy captain who graduated in 1987. Assigned to Chopticon and Great Mills high schools, King’s Christian Academy and Leonard Hall Junior Naval Academy, he views his Blue and Gold role as a way to give back.
“I want to help the naval academy obtain the absolute best and brightest candidates for admission,” he said. “It’s simply my way of giving back for all of the things that USNA has ultimately given me.”
Eggs and Legs Tradition Prior to Game Day
On Friday, both men will be among the 100 or so people who regularly attend the annual Eggs and Legs Breakfast, a tradition that unwittingly began years ago at USNA when a Supply Corps officer had to come up with a last-minute meal to feed the busloads of Midshipmen traveling to the Army-Navy game; the only thing available was chicken drumsticks and eggs.
“[Our local breakfast] is hosted by the Greater Southern Maryland Chapter of the USNA Alumni Association and is a great opportunity to meet fellow USNA grads as well as share in some stories about our time there,” Pruett said. “It’s a way to get revved up for the game; and, yes, we actually eat eggs and chicken legs for breakfast.”
Go Navy; Beat Army
Thumm and his wife, Patti, are Navy football season ticket holders, attending about five home games per year, traveling to Annapolis in their Navy-decorated car and wearing their team jerseys. They have attended the Army-Navy game in the past but will be watching on TV this year, he said.
Pruett’s fondest memory harks back to his days at the Academy when, in 1983, the entire Brigade of Midshipmen was flown to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., to attend the big game.
“Everyone had a host family they stayed with out there,” he recalled. “The 1.5-mile march to the stadium was like marching in the Rose Bowl Parade with thousands of people lining the street waving and cheering us on. It’s the only time the game has been held west of the Mississippi. Navy won.”
In fact, Navy is riding a wave of 11 consecutive wins and no matter what Coach Rich Ellerson might say to his Black Knights about how the last 11 years has no bearing on this weekend’s game, Navy supporters believe Army’s fate will be 12 straight.
Make those Mules sing first. Go Navy!