C-2 Flying Circus takes flight with precious cargo

Story and photo by Capt. Jannelle Allong-Diakabana USMA Public Affiars

January 9th, 2020 | News, News and Features
 Members of the U.S. Military Academy Class of 1981 return to the C-2 Flying Circus to strengthen the Long Gray Line and help recreate the murals they originally painted in the cadet area.

Over the past few years, extensive barracks renovations and construction across the cadet area couldn’t go unnoticed at the U.S. Military Academy.
As a result of recent renovations, cadet companies have been shuffled around geographically like a deck of cards. Each cadet company brings with them foosball tables, televisions, furniture, photos, memorials of the fallen and even murals.
“The murals embody the soul and spirit of the company,” Capt. Carter Bell, Company C-2 Training Advising Counseling (TAC) Officer, said. “They differentiate us from the rest of the Corps and gives us our own unique climate and culture.”
The Flying Circus, Company C-2, has a special patch that bares the Snoopy trademark, which retired Col. Gus Stafford obtained formal approval to use from Snoopy’s creator, Charles Schulz, when he designed the company patch as a cadet.
“As a cadet, I wrote a letter to Charles Schulz and asked if the company could use Snoopy as a mascot,” Stafford said. “Years later as the West Point Chief of Staff, I wrote a letter to Peanuts Worldwide and received formal approval for the current C-2 patch.”
Stafford, an avid sign painter in his high school days and throughout his 33-year long military career, created the murals that decorate  the current C-2 company common areas and hallways within Bradley Barracks.
“I drew cartoons, carved and painted as a distraction and to raise the spirits of my fellow Soldiers,” Stafford said.
Company C-2 solidified their mascot and motto in the fall of 1977 when their TAC officer Capt. Gary Lorenz, U.S. Air Force, buzzed through Central Area on a crop-dusting biplane over lunch formation during Army vs. Air Force week.
Stafford took the inspiration from his TAC’s spirit mission and Manfred von Richthofen’s squadron from the book, “The Red Baron,” and created several murals that are uplifting, identity-defining, popular and relevant. They also paid homage to the fallen members of C-2, with each of their names painted in the lower left and right-hand corners.
But now the company has been uprooted and they wanted to take their past with them into the future. Prior to C-2’s move into the newly-renovated Eisenhower Barracks over winter break, Stafford laid down the groundwork for the cadets by re-creating all the company murals on large pieces of plywood. The cadets only had to provide their hands, some paint, paint brushes, attention to detail and motivation.
“(This opportunity) created buy-in for company pride,” said Class of 2021 Cadet Austin Henson, C-2 Company First Sergeant.
When informed of the company’s upcoming move, Bell said, “I immediately made keeping the company murals a priority.”
Bell along with his TAC NCO, Sgt. 1st Class Joshua MacNary, maintain strong ties to the C-2 alumni community with monthly newsletters and via social media. They were able to reach out to Stafford after seeing a photo of him painting the original murals on an alumni Facebook page.
“I reached out to see if anyone had Gus’s contact information and we started coordinating to have the Class of 1981 return to help us recreate the murals,” Bell said.
Four former Flying Circus members were able to return for the recreation on Nov. 16.
“I am glad to see we still have a company dayroom so cadets can still come together,” said retired Lt. Col. Susan Neuman.
Class of 1981 did not have Netflix, iPad’s or wireless and so the importance of the cadet dayroom is something that may be taken for granted these days.
According to Neuman, each battalion had a computer lab with three computers located in what was formerly a utility closet.
“I have fond memories of the mural, the dayroom and watching Saturday Night Live,” Neuman said.
The new murals are smaller than their originals, but they are now mobile and will accompany C-2 into the year 2020 and beyond. All the names of the cadets involved in recreating them will be painted on the bottom of each mural, along with the names of the fallen.
“The Circus legacy, traditions and artifacts will live on despite moving out of the long-time home of Bradley Barracks,” Henson said.
A total of seven murals were recreated and prepared for transport to their new home.
“(The members of the Class of 1981) were really able to give us an idea of what the company used to be like, where we came from and provide direction for where the company is headed,” Bell said.