Parading with their heritage

Published February 14, 2007

The Admiral's Own band and color guard from Admiral Farragut Academy are heading to Mardi Gras.

But the 32 cadets and their chaperones won't be staying in the French Quarter or throwing beads off balconies on Bourbon Street.

Instead they'll dine on fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico and tour Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island at the annual event held since 1703 in Mobile, Ala.

The group will leave early Thursday morning for the 10-hour ride to Mobile.

"They're leaving at what I call 0-dark-30," said school commandant Robert M. Flanagan, a retired U.S. Marine Corps major general.

The group will be guests at two parades that make up the month-long city celebration, before giving a performance aboard the USS Alabama on Friday. On Saturday, the cadets will march in the Knights of Mobile parade that begins at 12:30 p.m.

Flanagan said the trip will give students a chance to learn more about their school's namesake, Adm. David Farragut, who served as commander of the Union forces at the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay.

Legend has it that it was Farragut who said "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" after the USS Tecumseh was sunk by the Confederacy at the battle's beginning.

New experiences through travel broadens the mind, Flanagan said. "Anytime anyone can travel to see another part of the country ... an important part of the country, to meet different people, it's a good experience for them. It's a good way to recognize our cadets, too. They've worked very hard in the band and to be chosen is quite an honor," he said.

A packed schedule, plenty of chaperones and Mobile's family-style Mardi Gras means cadets won't be overwhelmed by the raucous behavior that is a staple of New Orleans' Mardi Gras festivities, Flanagan said.

"We discussed that as well, what the environment would be like," he said.