The Knob Year Rollercoaster

Bravo knobs meet the cadre right after the sallyport gates are closed, Matriculation Day, 2010

Bravo knobs meet the cadre right after the sallyport gates are closed, Matriculation Day, 2010

Matriculation Day for The Citadel Class of 2019 is just over a week away. So far there are close to 330 parents of entering knobs in the Facebook group The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2019. I can tell by the questions I am getting both online and in my email inbox that nerves are running pretty high for many parents. I was there in 2007 and totally understand. We are not a military family and no one in our family ever attended The Citadel so the experience was completely foreign.

After eight years of volunteering to support new parents I have learned a few things that to help new parents. While the next year will be a real rollercoaster of emotions for the class of 2019, the parents should resist to get on the ride with their student. If your student has decided to enter The Citadel, they most likely have a good idea of what they are signing up for this year.

As I mentioned in the blog post, Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel, the process helps these young men and women learn how to take ownership for their actions. You can read more about the leadership training the cadets are exposed to on the page for the Krause Center for Leadership & Ethics and also the page of the Office of the Assistant Commandant for Leadership Programs.

Reading the school website and learning about what your student will go through is one way to ease the “scariness” of sending a child to a military school. Like most things we aren’t familiar with, the more you learn about the process the less intimidating it will be. I also recommend that parents who are not familiar with The Citadel or knob year read the book by Nancy Mace, In the Company of Men. It is a good read and gives an overview of cadet life and insights into the traditions of the school. Sword Drill by David Epps is a novel that also helps you learn about the process cadets go through. These are both books I’d recommend reading first semester. You’ll learn about the school and it will take your mind off of missing your son or daughter.

The first few months are the toughest because of all the adjustments the cadet recruits will go through. Once they get their phones and computer access back you’ll begin to hear stories. Many of them can be quite funny. Your cadet recruit will need you to be their sounding board. Because they have no rank or status in the Corps of Cadets they will use their parents and friends off campus to vent to about knob life. Listen, be empathetic, but realize they need to blow off steam. Most likely after they talk to you, whatever they were upset about will be worked out and they will have moved on while you are still worried.

If they are having trouble in class or with the system talk them through ways in which to solve whatever problem they have. They have a cadet chain of command to report to and they have confidential staff resources available which can be found on the page called H.E.L.P. Whenever possible it is best for the knob to work out their problems on their own. If at any time as a parent you have concerns about your son or daughter, you can also contact the Ombudspersons on campus. Capt. Paluso addressed the Atlanta Citadel Club in June and told the 2019 parents in attendance that if they have any concerns about their child’s experience they should contact the TAC officer or him. Many parents of cadets and graduates will offer advice based on their experience, but since the school changes each year it is always best to trust your parental instincts and contact the staff person who can address your concerns. I encourage all parents of cadets and graduates to listen to the address Capt. Paluso gave in June. It is a long talk and Q & A session but you don’t have to watch the video, just listen.

Encourage your cadet recruit to keep their priorities straight. Each year the knobs get so caught up with the military aspect of things they burn the candle at both ends. They go to class during the day, study then stay up late shining shoes and brass. That is not a sustainable plan. They need to prioritize studying and sleep and fit in the polishing in short spurts throughout the week and on the weekends. The Citadel is a COLLEGE first. No one failed out because their shoes weren’t shiny enough, but they have for getting poor grades. They need to get sleep to be able the handle their very busy schedule.

Getting back to phone calls and knob year. While they will have their phones back a week after they report, knobs cannot just call and text at will. There will be times when you are on the phone with them and they have to hang up. Do not get upset and do not call them back. Most likely it means an upperclass cadet just came into their room.

If your son or daughter have a boyfriend or girlfriend, they too need to understand this. Relationships are tough to keep up knob year. It takes a very understanding significant other to understand this year isn’t about them. Many, many, relationships from high school break up this first year. Just one more tough part of being a knob. Parents, your job in these situations is to help your son or daughter see the big long term picture, getting their diploma, graduating, and starting their career. It can be tough to see the big picture knob year when you are kept in the dark about most things on campus.

A great way to help the knobs this first year is sending care packages. The knobs love getting them and it gives parents something positive to focus on. It can get pricey though. Another Citadel mom wrote a blog post with tips on saving money when you send a package. See the link to her post HERE. The campus post office staff is also very helpful. If you live close to campus you can drop things off at the post office to be put in their box. The post office contact information can be found HERE. They also have some tips on the Matriculation Headquarters page in their letter. The USPS box 1096L fits nicely into their mail box. It is also the size of a book and fits into their knobbie bag. You can order them for free through the USPS web site and they will be delivered to your home.

During this first year, parents, you will need to find your own support network. Many parents have friends who are the parents of upperclass cadets. They can be a tremendous source of support. The Citadel Family Association (CFA) is a group made up of parents of current cadets. There are representatives for each company, battalion and many areas of the country. These volunteers can also be a great source of support and information. The CFA volunteers also are on campus for matriculation day to help the families move their knob’s things into the barracks and answer questions. Look for the people dressed in blue shirts. After this first year you can volunteer to help too.

This year will be a rollercoaster for your knob, but if you employ a few of the tips above you should get through it without too many ups and downs.

The Citadel: Class of 2019, Matriculation Day Count Down

Featured guest speaker Captain Eugene “Geno” Paluso, II ’89 USN (ret.), Commandant of Cadets, with Colonel Hutto '87, Citadel Alumni Association,  Dorie Griggs and the ACC Officers

L-R: Andy Frey, ACC president; Colonel Laurence Hutto ’87, Citadel Alumni Association; Featured guest speaker Captain Eugene “Geno” Paluso, II ’89 USN (ret.), Commandant of Cadets; Dorie Griggs, Michael Escoe, ACC VP and Gregory Horton and James Stevens, ACC Board of Directors.

Capt. Eugene “Geno” Paluso, commandant of cadets was the featured speaker at the Atlanta Citadel Club‘s annual cadet send off dinner. A group of alumni incoming knob and their parents heard the vision and goals of the commandant. If you have some time I highly recommend you listen to his talk and the Q&A afterward.

The pre-knobs in the Class of 2019 who attended the Atlanta Citadel Club dinner in June.

The pre-knobs in the Class of 2019 who attended the Atlanta Citadel Club dinner in June.

Right now the Facebook group for parents of the class of 2019 is right at 260 members and is growing each day. The topics in the group range from clear plastic boxes, shoes and shoe polish to computers and wireless set up. It is an exciting and nerve wracking time for the new families.

My son started in 2007, before Facebook. Fortunately the Atlanta Citadel Club has had a group for parents for years. I am still in touch with a few parents I met at that first send off dinner the summer of 2007. While I didn’t have Facebook groups to help me I did correspond with The parents of cadets I met at the dinner and also the Citadel Family Association (CFA) volunteers. The CFA is for parents of current cadets and is a great resource for all parents. In the time leading up to matriculation day you can look up your area representative. After matriculation day, when you find out what company and battalion your cadet is in, there are company and battalion reps who will be very good resources for you.

Right now the incoming knobs, or pre-knobs, should be breaking in their shoes. This year it has been tough to find the proper shoes as some styles are changing and brands some cadets have bought in the past are no longer being made. The Bates brand plain toe black leather oxford with rubber heel is the one the school recommends. As long as the shoes meet the published criteria on the Matriculation Headquarters page the shoes and boots will be fine. Pay particular attention to each link on the Matriculation Headquarters page, including the Commandant’s Matriculation Information page. In addition to the list of required items in the Success Packet which is listed in the Matriculation Headquarters page, parents and their pre-knobs should review the  Citadel Family Association’s “Nice to Have List.”

Entering knobs place their belongings on the side walk outside the barracks and go to check in. Family members wait by the belongings.

Entering knobs place their belongings on the side walk outside the barracks and go to check in. Family members wait by the belongings.

The items to bring hasn’t changed much over the past few years. The clear plastic boxes seem to cause some amount of stress for moms looking for the exact sizes listed. Please don’t stress over these. You do need to be sure they are no larger than the sizes listed, but it really isn’t something to lose sleep over.

I am going to repeat myself here, but it can’t be stressed enough, you and your pre-knob should read the Matriculation Headquarters page and click on ALL the links on the page, and all the links on the pages you will navigate to. Before arriving on campus I suggest you print out the Matriculation Day schedule from the Matriculation Headquarters page and also the Traffic Diagram from the Matriculation Information page.

This year I have plans to be on campus over the matriculation day weekend for meetings with various staff members. I look forward to meeting some of the parent sI’ve corresponded with as well.

You may find the following entry, located on the left hand side of this blog page, helpful as you get ready to report:

Matriculation Day: Reporting in that First Day

Hotels That Offer Discounts to Citadel Families

The Boat Center at The Citadel.

The picnic tables by the boat house. My favorite place on campus.

Each year I am asked about the best hotels to stay in when parents visit the school. The city is a very popular tourist destination and there are a wide variety of properties to choose from that range from luxury hotels to discount properties. Some families prefer to rent a home or condo and stay at Folly Beach or Isle of Palms. Vacation Rental Buy Owner vrbo.com is one good resource or check out any number of realtors in the area.

The following are a list of properties that offer discounts to Citadel families.

The Citadel has a link on their website to a page with hotels that offer a discount use this link to access discounts to eight hotels.

I’ve called each of the following hotels. They all have a special rate, but you need to book early and call the hotel directly to get a hotel room in the discounted block. Discount sites like hotels.com and using your AAA card can help too.

Charleston Marriott Use the link for a discounted rate. (click on the highlighted hotel name) Their phone number, 843-723 3000

Hampton Inn Airport 843-554-7154 ask for “The Citadel Rate”

Hawthorn Suites call 843-225-4411 ask for “The Citadel Rate”

Home2Suites call 843-744-4202 ask for “The Citadel Rate”

LaQuinta Inn & Suites Charleston Riverview 843-556-5200 ask for “The Citadel Rate”

Red Roof Inn Plus 843-884-1411 select the Front Desk option ask for “The Citadel Rate”

Wingate by Wyndham 843-553-4444 ask for “The Citadel Rate”

If you have a favorite property you stay at during visits, leave a comment on this post.

Signs You Were the Parent of a Knob at The Citadel

Members of the Class of 2019 from the Atlanta area gather after the Atlanta Citadel Club's annual send off dinner.

Members of the Class of 2019 from the Atlanta area gather after the Atlanta Citadel Club’s annual send off dinner.

The Class of 2019 will report to The Citadel in August. The Facebook group for the parents of the Class of 2019 already has over 170 members. I met several families and incoming knobs this past week at the annual send off dinner hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club. I began to ponder the unique experience parents of cadets at The Citadel go through their son or daughter’s first year. I decided to write down a few of my observations about being the parent of a cadet who used to be a knob. Feel free to add your insights in the comments section.

Signs you were the parent of a knob at The Citadel:

You know the best places on campus to wait for your knob without their cadre seeing them.

You know how to pack a very small box from the U.S. Post Office with lots of goodies and still pay a low flat rate.

The workers at your local post office know you by name and ask about your knob by name.

You know where to find white T-shirts at the best price.

You stay up for hours combing photos of hundreds of knobs, all dressed alike, just to get a glimpse of your son or daughter.

You have shared a photo of a group of knobs because you thought your child was in it, only to find out that was not your child.

You know the importance of condiments and chocolate milk.

You’ve ever referred to a teen aged cadet as “Mr.”

You’ve found T-pins in your laundry.

You know insect repellant is a necessary item when you visit the campus.

You’ve combed the internet for the best prices on plain toe black oxfords, shirt stays, socks and underwear.

You drive onto campus in the silent procession before midnight to drop your knob off before “All ins.”

You know what “All In” means.

You know how great it is to have your knob with you, even if they are sound asleep for most of the visit.

When you hear MRI you think “morning room inspection” before “magnetic resonance imaging.”

Sallyport, SMI, rack, brace, sir sandwich, are part of your normal vocabulary.

You’ve known exactly where your college freshman is Sunday through Thursday evenings and after midnight Friday and Saturday.

You’ve made great friends with the parents of your knobs classmates.

You recognize a Citadel sticker on a car from 50 paces.

You are pretty sure you are the reason The Citadel Bookstore has met their monthly sales goals.

Dorie and Nelson right before leaving the hotel for The Citadel. Matriculation Day, 2007. photo by Stanley Leary.

Dorie and Nelson right before leaving the hotel for The Citadel. Matriculation Day, 2007. photo by Stanley Leary.

Updated: The Citadel: Official and Unofficial Facebook Groups and Pages

Senior cadets march into McAlister Field House as the knobs of the Class of 2018 cheer them on. Photo by Stanley Leary

Senior cadets march into McAlister Field House as the knobs of the Class of 2018 cheer them on.
Photo by Stanley Leary

Various offices and groups on the campus of The Citadel have their own Facebook pages and/or groups. These pages and groups can provide a link for parents to keep up with what is happening on campus. The following list includes official school groups and pages, but also groups and pages started by cadets, parents and alumni.

If you know of others that should be added, please let me know.

Art at The Citadel

The Citadel Admissions

The Citadel Alumni Association

The Citadel Army ROTC

The Citadel Bookstore

The Citadel Brigadier Foundation, Inc.

The Citadel – Department of Cadet Activities

The Citadel 

The Citadel Football

The Citadel Foundation

The Citadel Graduate College

The Citadel Intramurals

The Citadel Lacrosse Program

The Citadel Republican Society

The Citadel School of Business Administration

The Citadel School of Engineering

The Citadel Sports

The Citadel Sports Network

The Citadel Student Government Association

The Citadel Young Alumni

Citadel Ice Hockey

Citadel Sailing

Citadel SHSS – School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Citadel Sports/Charleston Post and Courier

Citadel Strength & Conditioning

Naval ROTC Unit The Citadel

The Summerall Guard Foundation

Battalion Groups for Citadel Parents (unofficial NOT administered by the CFA)

Citadel 1st Battalion Parents Group

Citadel 2nd Battalion Parents Group

Citadel 3rd Battalion Parents Group

Citadel 4th Battalion Families (Open Group)

Citadel 4th Battalion Parents Group (Closed Group)

Citadel 5th Battalion Families

Area Groups (unofficial NOT administered by the CFA)

California Citadel Parents Group

Georgia Citadel Parents Group

MD VA DC Citadel Parents Group

NC Citadel Family Group

Citadel Fayetteville NC Group

South Carolina Citadel Parents

Texas Citadel Parents Group

NYNE PA NJ Citadel Families (NY, New England, PA, NJ)

Florida Citadel Parents Group

Company  Parent Groups (unofficial NOT administered by the CFA)

Alpha Co

Band Co

Bravo Co

Kilo Co

Lima Co (Parents and Cadets)

Other Parent Groups

The Citadel Family Association (CFA) official group

Citadel Alumni Grad Dad Advice

Citadel Moms

Military Parents of The Citadel (for parents with cadets or graduates in the military)

The Citadel Parents of the Class of 2016

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2017

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2018

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2019

Matriculation Information for The Citadel, Class of 2019

Knobs line up in 3rd battalion to get their PT clothes. On matriculation Day.

Knobs line up in 3rd battalion to get their PT clothes. On matriculation Day.

The Matriculation Headquarters page of the citadel.edu website is updated for the class of 2019, with more updates to come throughout the summer. For the soon-to-be knobs and their parents it is a time of mixed emotions. If you are both feeling a mixture anxious and excited you are in good company.

It is very important for the entering knob to read through everything posted. There are some deadlines that you will have to keep up with throughout the summer. The first deadline is June 10. Your registration information must be in on that date. The other assignments are due at various times as posted. Keep visiting the Matriculation Headquarters page and the Commandant’s Matriculation Information page for updates throughout the summer.

Take some time to read through the Success Packet. The list of required, and optional items, is in this document on pages 6 – 7. The packet includes details about other rules. Take time to absorb all the information. Also visit the Citadel Family Association page for the “Nice to Have List

Last year I wrote a post about transitions. Parents you may want to review that entry. The toughest part of knob year for many parents is the transition you must make. The Citadel is a leadership school. Your student will need to navigate the 4th class system on their own. Parents move to a support role. Moving out of the decision-making role is tough for many parents.

The next two months the rising knob should be working out daily. If they arrive able to meet or exceed the physical training (PT) requirements it will help with their transition. The PT requirements are very important. Each year some knobs report in poor physical shape. That just makes the transition for them harder.

Breaking in the black leather Oxfords is another thing that should be started as soon as possible. Wear the shoes often throughout the summer. Blistered feet is a major cause of problems for knobs in the first month.

Parents of the Class of 2019 are invited to join the Facebook page for parents (please email me to verify you are a parent of a knob. See the “About Dorie” section here for my email). The entering knobs should keep a low profile on social media. It is a good idea for everyone, but especially for knobs, to set the security settings on Facebook and other social media to Friends only. To keep a low profile do not use hashtags related to The Citadel on posts to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or any other medium. The goal is to blend in and not call attention to yourself. If your profile lists that you are a cadet when you . haven’t even started knob year, you are inviting unwanted attention from cadets and alumni.

Many alumni chapters host cadet send off events. The Atlanta Citadel Club has a very nice dinner planned for June 18. If you are not sure if your area has an event, contact the admissions office at The Citadel. They can let you know if an event is planned for your area. The Georgia Citadel Parents Group has an orientation for parents scheduled June 14 at the Dekalb Library in Decatur. Margaret Landry is the chair this year. If you’d like her contact information just let me know.

It is an exciting time. Do yourself a favor and study up!

Visit the following sites for tips on getting ready and for reporting on Matriculation Day:

Matriculation Day: Getting Ready

Matriculation Day: Reporting in that First Day

Knob Year Notes for Parents

Graduation for the Class of 2015

Graduate Sadarius Lucas and I take a selfie together after graduation

Graduate Sadarius Lucas and I take a selfie together after graduation

I had the honor of attending the graduation of the Class of 2015 last weekend. A young man I’ve known since before his Matriculation Day, Sadarius Lucas, invited me to be there for his big day. I arrived early in the afternoon Thursday before the Saturday graduation. It was fun to see cadets and families in the bookstore and on campus getting ready for the big weekend.

Friday morning I took my time getting to campus but had the opportunity to watch as the newly commissioned officers in the Air Force, Navy and Marines were rendered their first salute. While standing outside Summerall Chapel I was thrilled to see my long time friend, Gwen and her extended family. I wrote about Gwen a while back. We went to the same high school in New Jersey and ran around with the same friend group. When Gwen’s oldest was a knob she found my name in the Citadel Family Association list of volunteer and emailed. We picked up right where we left off 30 years before. It is just one story of many of the friendships that have been renewed between the parents of cadets. I say it often, I never expected that I would end up with so many new friends because my son chose to attend The Citadel. In this case it was a true gift to reconnect with Gwen.

I had the opportunity to finally meet a few people in the administration that I had not met before. We were all outside the chapel at the same time. I was floored to find out they all were familiar with this blog and also that I administer Facebook groups for parents of cadets, but not as surprised as I would be the next day after graduation.

2016 SUmmerall Guards enter the parade fieldAs the afternoon went on the weather was looking pretty iffy. Rain was in the forecast. The Summerall Guards began their performance and got through the entire series before the rain began. I noticed that the Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Mr. Bob McDonald was sitting next to President and Mrs. Rosa. I had met him briefly after a Town Hall meeting he held at the Atlanta VA in the fall. I went over to say hello. He continues to impress me with the work he is doing for our veterans. Right after he introduced me to his wife and his sister, who is the mother of a 2015 graduate, the rain began. Out of no where secret service men appeared with large black umbrellas. I’ve decided having “people” in the midst of a rain storm is a very nice perk.

The Class of 2015  form the Long Gray Line

The Class of 2015 form the Long Gray Line

Members of the Class of 2015 turn to face the Corps of Cadets.

Members of the Class of 2015 turn to face the Corps of Cadets.

I scooted to my car to wait out the rain. Fortunately after a 30 minute delay the rain died down and the final parade of the year, the Long Gray Line began. If you are ever in Charleston on the Friday before graduation, you owe it to yourself to be on campus for this parade. The rising cadet officers take their command and then the senior cadets leave their companies and stand shoulder to shoulder the length of the parade field to form a long gray line. At the designated time they march forward to the families and friends at the other side of the field and away from the Corps of Cadets. The seniors are grinning ear to ear as they march forward. They turn around and as their companies pass them on their way off the field they give a final salute. It is a very moving experience just to watch. You can catch a glimpse of the long gray line parade and the other events of the weekend in this video produced by the school.

Celebrating with the graduate and his mother.

Celebrating with the graduate and his mother.

Saturday, the BIG day, began early. Seating is first come first served so we arrived at 7:30 am to secure decent seats close to the podium and not too high up. It turned out we were only three rows behind Cadet Lucas. The commencement speaker, Keller Kissam, did an outstanding job of delivering an inspirational address to the Class of 2015. Take the time to listen to his address. You’ll be glad you took the time.

Class of 2015 Dismissed!

Class of 2015 Dismissed!

A highlight of graduation at a military college or academy is the final announcement by the president, Class of 2015 Dismissed! last Saturday we were not disappointed. The white covers were high in the air and the graduates were busy hugging and shaking hands. They were all heading out to points around the globe. Some will meet while deployed others may run into each other while doing business. After tolerating quite a few photos Sadarius and his mom and friend were off to Columbia, SC because he had to get to a 3:00 job interview! He is such a gifted young man I expect to see wonderful things from him in the years to come.

My final gift came as I was walking to my car near Mark Clark Hall. A golf cart approached and driving it was Captain Geno Paluso, commandant of the Corps of Cadets. He stopped his cart and said hello to me by name. We only met once before, briefly last fall at a football game. He went on to thank me for the help I provide to parents of cadets. I was floored that he knew my name. I was shocked to find out he knew that I do any type of volunteer work with parents. He ended up giving me a ride to my car. I like to tell folks he was my chauffeur for the afternoon. Fortunately a friend was right there to take a photo.

My "chauffeur " for the afternoon, Capt. Paluso.

My “chauffeur ” for the afternoon, Capt. Paluso.

I made one last stop at the boat house and the dock before leaving campus to head to Savannah to see my oldest son. It was a wonderful weekend. I am now very busy screening the requests to join the Facebook group for parents of the Class of 2019. If you know someone with a student who will be a knob this fall, please pass along this link. And please ask them to email me for message me to confirm they are a parent of an incoming knob. My email address is in the “About Dorie” section of this blog.

I love visiting the dock behind the boathouse whenI am on the campus. It is always so peaceful.

I love visiting the dock behind the boathouse whenI am on the campus. It is always so peaceful.

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