Academy Teams Debut Special Uniforms For 2021
by Joe Harman
Service Academy football teams have unveiled the designs and stories behind the alternate uniforms they will wear for intra-service academy rivalry and other games during the 2021 season.
Intra-Service Academy games have always brought out the grandest displays college football has to offer: the parades, the "March-ons", the fly-overs, the President of the United States, etc, but in recent years, another highly-anticipated aspect of these rivalry games is the special uniforms these teams wear.
Not merely playful variations on a theme intended to generate buzz, the special uniforms worn by the Academy teams will once again honor historical units of the teams' respective military branches.
The Coast Guard Bears have announced that they will wear a special uniform to honor the legacy of Station 17, the Pea Island Life-Saving Station from the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
According to a release from the Coast Guard Academy, Station 17 was an outpost of the U. S. Life-Saving Service--a precursor to the U. S. Coast Guard--that was commanded and staffed by an all-African American crew from 1880 until it was decommissioned in 1947.
That crew proved to be one of the most valiant of the USLSS's history, but their collective achievements went ignored for generations. In 1996 they were posthumously awarded the Coast Guard's Gold Life-Saving Medal for the daring rescue of the passengers and crew of the E. S. Newman that happened 100 years prior.
The Coast Guard football team will wear the Station 17 uniforms for four games this season: at home on Sept. 18th and Oct. 2nd, at Catholic Univ. on Oct. 16th as well as the Secretaries' Cup match-up against Merchant Marine on Nov. 13th.
The Navy Midshipmen will wear a special Marine Corps-inspired alternate uniform and helmets for their Sept. 11 game versus Air Force at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis.
According to Naval Academy releases, the special uniforms will feature many elements and motifs that honor the proud and storied legacy of the Corps, including the Marine Corps's distinctive Eagle, Globe, & Anchor emblem, the quatrefoil and the colors red, white and blue from the dress uniforms of Marines.
The Marine Corps uniform is the only uniform in the U.S. military designated to include the red, white and blue colors of the American flag. The Navy alternate uniforms are once again designed and supplied by Maryland-based company Under Armour.
The announcement from Navy Football does not indicate any further games where this alternate uniform will be worn, and no announcement has yet been made on a uniform for the Dec. 11th Army-Navy Game.
Meanwhile, the Air Force Falcons will debut their special uniforms that honor the legacy of the B-52 "Stratofortress" aircraft at the same Sept. 11 game at Navy, when the two teams also recognize the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
The new Falcons' uniforms are the latest edition in the "Air Power Legacy Series", a series of alternate uniforms that honor the history and legacy of the US Air Force. Now in its sixth year, the series has included uniforms honoring the Tuskegee Airmen, the World War II Flying Tigers, the F-35 aircraft, the AC-130 and the C-17.
The helmet is designed after the B-52s that flew in Operation Linebacker II during the Vietnam War and are painted in the Air Force SEA (Southeast Asia) camo, with USAF on one wing and the roundel on the other.
The Strategic Air Command adorns the front right chest of the uniform while the name plate uses the orange outline with the airport codes for Andersen AFB, U Tapao and the 7th Bomber Wing patch to represent all former B-52 units. The left pant leg features 11 B-52 plane silhouettes representing the 11 days of bombing during the conflict. The right pant leg has the tail flash of the plane and the number on each player’s pant leg matches their uniform number for the first time in the history of the series.
The Army Black Knights have not announced an alternate uniform for 2021.
For the 2020 Army-Navy Game, the Black Knights wore an alternate uniform that honored the 25th Infantry Division during the Korean War, who were known as "The Wolfhounds", while the Navy Midshipmen wore special uniforms that celebrated the 175th anniversary of the Naval Academy and the architecture of its Annapolis, Maryland home.*
The Air Force Falcons wore a stunning gray and red alternate uniform for their 2020 match-up against Navy that honored the 332nd Fighter Squadron from World War II, which was the only African-American squadron in the US Army Air Forces and held the best record for escorting bombers into enemy territory.**
* Kercheval, Ben, "2020 Army vs. Navy Game: Special uniforms for 121st rivalry meeting between Black Knights, Midshipmen", CBS Sports, CBS Interactive, 12/12/2020 https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/2020-army-vs-navy-game-special-uniforms-for-121st-rivalry-meeting-between-black-knights-midshipmen/, accessed August 20, 2021
**(author unknown) "Air Force to Honor Tuskegee Airmen With 2020 Air Power Legacy Series Uniform", United States Air Force Academy, 09/21/2020, https://goairforcefalcons.com/news/2020/9/21/2020_Air_Force_Football_APLS_Uniform.aspx, accessed August 20, 2020