The traditional and enduring rivalry of the annual Army-Navy football game is an event that nearly everyone in the Army community has some connection to, from cadets all the way to top-level Army officials.

That’s true for Col. Anthony Bianchi, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s garrison commander and a former Army Black Knights football player.

Bianchi, who received his commission in 1997 and played as a linebacker and a defensive end during his time on the football team, was a part of a Black Knights team that won against Navy in four back-to-back seasons. The team even earned the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, the season winner of a series between the U.S. military academies, in 1996 during his senior year. Later, among other roles, Bianchi worked as the school’s deputy military athletic director and as a mentor for the team known as an officer representative.

“I think it’s a rallying cry, a rallying point for us to get together and reminisce,” he said in an interview with Army Times, adding that the event “resonates with the country.”

Throughout his career, Bianchi found that discussion of the Army-Navy game has had the power to bridge connections with fellow soldiers and officers.

Col. Brian Reed, West Point chief of staff, shared in an interview with Army Times how he also views the game as a way to build a greater sense of community.

“That’s the theme, it brings people together,” he said. Reed, who received his commission in 1989, served as the head officer representative for the Black Knights before taking up his current position earlier this year.

He shared that some his fondest memories of watching the annual rivalry come from his time overseas. In addition to tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel/Resolute Support, Reed served as the director of the commander’s action group at U.S. Central Command from July 2014 to May 2016, under the leadership of Gen. Lloyd Austin and Gen. Joseph Votel.

“It brings together not just academy grads, not just West Pointers, but certainly across multiple commissioning sources,” he said, reminiscing about putting the game on for officers and soldiers in an operations center while abroad.

Most people can likely not boast about attending as many Army-Navy games as either Reed or Bianchi, who have gone to an estimated 13 and 22 respectively, but those interested in watching this year can find the match broadcast on Dec. 10 on CBS at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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