It took a young Navy lieutenant to sink a veteran captain.
As at least two dozen midshipmen cheered him on, Lt. Joe Parks fired a fastball yesterday at a tiny red target that tripped a latch that pulled the seat out from under Capt. Gerard Farrell, the deputy commandant of midshipmen at the Naval Academy, and sent him plunging into a pool of icy water.
The midshipmen, in early Army-Navy week frenzy, laughed and cheered as water sprayed out of the dunking booth in front of Bancroft Hall and Captain Farrell came up sputtering.
"Of course, I didn't quite hit the target, but I was close enough and he fell, anyway," Lieutenant Parks said. "It's like horseshoes and hand grenades."
The booth is a new addition to the activities geared to psych up the midshipmen and their football team for the biggest game of the year Saturday in Philadelphia.
The brigade has scheduled pep rallies, blood drives and endurance contests all week. Today, midshipmen will get to take a few whacks with a sledgehammer at an old car painted West Point black and gold. Friday, members of the 13th Company will take off running to carry the game ball to Veterans Stadium for the 105th meeting of the service academies.
Yesterday, senior officers and midshipmen took their turns in the dunking booth while Navy fans paid $1 for three shots at sinking them. The money goes to the midshipman spirit fund to help pay for next year's Army-Navy activities.
Dressed in Navy shorts and a white, long-sleeved T-shirt, Captain Farrell warned secretaries and civilian office workers of the consequences of dunking him.
"Just remember who does your evaluation," he shouted to Vanessa Bryant, who was warming up amid cheers of, "Go Vanessa, go Vanessa," from her office mates.
Although the captain is the third-highest-ranking officer at the academy, he was not the one who drew the biggest crowd. That honor went to senior Midshipman Joseph Paccapniccia, the captain of the academy cheerleading squad.
His appearance was the talk of the yard all morning, and when his 30-minute shift began at 1 p.m., dozens of midshipman were lined up for the chance to sink him.
When Sophomore Midshipman Mathew Bucher nailed him on the first try, the crowd howled with glee and four midshipman elbowed their way to the booth from the back of the crowd to pour eight buckets of ice into the water and over Midshipman Paccapniccia's head.
Then, it was Midshipman Chad Gary's turn. The plebe sent his squad commander into the water with his first throw and the other midshipmen loved it, whooping and hollering with delight.
"It felt good when he hit the water," Midshipman Gary said.