Summerville Citadel Club Send off Dinner

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Last week the Summerville Citadel Club hosted a send off dinner for the class of 2020. One of the members who is a graduate and the father of a 2019 cadet invited me to be on a panel for the dinner. While I’ve spoken at the Atlanta area send off dinners, this is the first time an alumni group outside of Atlanta has invited me to address parents at their club. It was a high compliment.

It was a fun visit. Thursday afternoon I stopped by campus to say hello to a few friends and met a few people I only knew by name before. It was a fun couple of hours.

Thursday evening I was on a panel with Col. Robert Pickering, Director of the Office of Multicultural Student Services and International Studies and Ombudsperson, and Lt. Col. Bob Sberna, assistant commandant for discipline. We each took a few minutes to give our background and then share a bit of advice, followed by questions

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L-R:Moderator, Bryce Maddray, Dorie, Bob Sberna, Robert Pickering

The moderator asked me to address social media during my time with the microphone. It is an aspect of knob year, and cadet life that didn’t need to be addressed just a few years ago. With Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Tinder, and others the cadets now have multiple ways to make bad decisions.

Before a student begins knob year it is best to tighten up the security on all social media. This is good advice for everyone. For entering knobs who want to keep a low profile and be a “Ghost knob” it is essential. Cadets and alumni will find posts with hashtags related to The Citadel and share the posts. Photos, status updates and more that are public will be shared widely.

You can’t always help what someone may find when searching the internet for your name, but it is a good idea to do your own search and see what someone may find out about you. Students who played in varsity sports or who made the news for academic achievements can’t remove the news articles, but at least you’ll know what someone else will learn about you if they do a quick Google search.

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The panel discussion

After I spoke about social media the rest of my short presentation was addressed to the parents. It is an anxious time for many families. As I mentioned in this blog a number of times Citadel parents have to learn to let go and move to a supportive role. Your son or daughter will have to learn the system and sort through the huge amount of tasks in front of them. Knobs will not get encouragement in the traditional sense. That is where parents and friends off campus come in. You cannot go through the system for them, but you can be a safe place for the knobs to vent.

13690836_10154322805629747_9204941944420649182_nThe biggest problem the first few months is sleep. The knobs try to get everything done sacrificing sleep. If a knob isn’t getting sleep their priorities are not in order. Yes, they will get yelled at if their brass is polished or their shoes aren’t shined, but they will not be asked to leave for unpolished shoes. The Citadel is first and foremost a college. If a knob does not prioritize academics they will not be a cadet for long. If you are the parent of a knob and they complain about lack of sleep remind them that they are at a college. No one was denied a diploma because their shoes weren’t shiny enough. (BTW – they will never be shiny enough the first year) Time management is a huge leadership lesson cadets learn during their time at The Citadel. Staying up all night to shine shoes and brass is not a sustainable plan.

Three years ago this week my oldest son returned from his first deployment to Afghanistan. It was a difficult deployment. The battalion lost three men and quite a few others were seriously injured. I am usually a very patient person on the Facebook groups for new parents, because I know how scary it can be to sen da child to a military school. The 9 months my son was deployed I will admit to being a bit less patient with anxious knob moms. Cadets at The Citadel do have it tough, but no one is shooting at them and they will not run over an IED as they walk to class. It is important to keep your worries in perspective this first year and the three years following. It is a tough school, but not a war zone.

The advantage of having a student at The Citadel is knowing where they are every night at midnight. Knobs must spend the night in the barracks every day first semester knob year. They can go off campus on the weekends when they are granted general leave, but they much be back by midnight. Parents of non-military college students have no idea what their students are doing day-to-day, and much less at night.

The system at The Citadel helps the cadets take ownership of their successes and their mistakes. As journalists nad veteran Dave Cullen pointed out recently time is the most precious commodity to military cadets. The ability to decide what to do with your limited free time is a luxury. So when designing the discipline system taking away the freedom of choice is a very effective form of punishment. Cadets who are caught in violation of rules are given tours or confinements. For tours the cadet walk on the quad back and forth for 50 minutes while carrying their rifle. Confinements mean the sit and do school work either in their room or other designated location for a set amount of time often missing out on the fun off campus activities their friends are taking part in. I’ve heard from many cadets and alumni it is a very effective way to deter poor decision-making.

During the Q&A session Lt. Col. Sberna reminded the students present to begin studying their knob knowledge in the Guidon online. Entering the school year having already memorized the alma mater and other bits of knob knowledge will help. That is of course in addition to breaking in your shoes and being able to meet or exceed the physical fitness standards.

The fall athletes report in a week and the rest of the Class of 2020 will report a few weeks later. Best wishes to everyone as they begin their journey on “the road less traveled.”

 

 

Matriculation Weekend Tips

Screenshot_2016-07-13-19-37-46The Citadel,  Class of 2020 reports the morning of August 13. By now the soon-to-be knobs should be checking the Matriculation Headquarters page each week for updates. Just last week they posted the schedule for the weekend.

A few tips to prepare for weekend:

  • Be sure you have made hotel reservations.
  • Drive to campus from your hotel the day before so you will know how to get to the Holliday Alumni Center. Getting lost Saturday morning can really add to the stress of the knob. (Ask me how I know)
  • Be sure you have a full tank of gas. You wait in your car in a long line Saturday morning. You won’t want to be the family that ran out of gas before you report.
  • Say your real goodbye’s before you leave the hotel or your home. Once you arrive on campus things move quickly and the knobs time will not be their own.
  • The knobs turn in their cell phones when they go into the barracks. They should turn them off before they walk in. They won’t get them back for at least a week.
  • Arrive on the early side. The line starts around 6:30am. Check in begins at 7:00 am. It will be hot arriving early means it will be a chilly 85-90 versus 90-100.
  • Once you get to the barracks the Citadel Family Association volunteers will be there to help unload your car and let you know where to move your car. They have blue shirts on and all of them have been in your shoes.
  • Once the boxes are unloaded the knob reports in on their own. (With their FERPA form) Parents must wait with the boxes.
  • Once the knob comes out you’ll do what he or she tells you to do. How things happen from here can vary by company and each year the process is fine tuned based on the current cadet leadership.
  • All families must be out of the barracks by 10am. Many families leave earlier because their son or daughter is ready to start their process .
  • There is an information fair in the McAlister fieldhouse. It is a great time to get your questions answered and meet people from various departments. The fieldhouse is air-conditioned and there are restrooms, and water fountains.
  • The President, Commandant and the Citadel Family Association rep address parents after the information fair.

FAQ

  • Extended family members can come with you, but you should be aware there is a lot of standing and waiting around. Ask you son or daughter who they want to drop them off. One good option is to have everyone at the hotel and only a few go to campus that morning. No know wants to report with a huge entourage.
  • If you have young children, bring quiet toys, snacks and water.
  • If you have older family members or family with disabilities that make standing difficult, bring a folding chair.
  • The presentation should be over around 12-12:30
  • You can attend Sunday worship but you will not interact with your son or daughter. They are divided into groups for worship, Protestant, Catholic, Anglican, and ethic seminar.
  • The oath ceremony takes place Monday evening. The school has live  streamed it in the past. If you are in town you can attend. You will not interact with your son or daughter.

NOTE: Parents of the Class of 2020, if you haven’t already, join the Facebook group, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2020. Go to the page request to join, then email me to let me know you are the parent of a knob.

A Note to My Critics

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The blog entry I posted yesterday, The Odd Things Citadel Parents Learn is now the most viewed entry this year and the top post since starting this blog in 2011 after my son graduated. Apparently it struck a chord with parents and alumni, but for different reasons.

The current parents tell me they can relate to everything I’ve written. The few alumni I’ve heard from directly say they can relate as well. They understand, because they know me, that I was poking fun at the strange things parents of cadets learn.

I can understand why the alumni wonder why parents know about shoes, T-pins, sheets etc. Unless they have a cadet who has attended since the barracks have air conditioning and all cadets are required to have a computer and encouraged to have a cell phone, they just won’t understand what it is like for current families.

Prior to the early 2000’s electronic communications had not been a big part of our lives. Now to stay competitive in the job market a cadet must know how to use a computer and other devices. Prior to 2000 college life was different for everyone. Few people had laptops and we weren’t used to being electronically connected to the world.

Skype, Facetime and other means of communication weren’t around either. While an argument can be made that the knobs should have limited access to communication, the fact remains that post Virginia Tech tragedy campuses around the country had to institute communication plans with the students. The Citadel now encourages knobs to have cell phones. They can’t use them whenever they want but they do have them.

For readers new to my blog I encourage you to read through the blog posts linked below. You’ll find I repeat over and again that parents must learn to let go and allow their sons and daughters to take ownership of their successes and failures. Once Matriculation Day arrives and parents ask what they can do about this or that on campus, my usual response begins, “you don’t need to do anything, that is up to your son/daughter . . . ”

My son, a 2011 graduate, never told me anything at all about his experience. I have over the years heard stories from others. I did buy most of the items on the Success Packet List and the Nice to Have List. It was my high school graduation gift to him. I don’t know many cadets who have the money to spend, about $1,000 on shoes ($100+ a pair), boots (close to $150 a pair) athletic shoes (close to $100 a pair), and the other required items. I learned a lot about what they needed and how to save money, i.e. cheap sheets, good socks for instance. I pass that information on to others just as local parents shared with me their recommendations.

Stories of washing machines and dryers at home getting clogged by T-pins that were left in sheets at the end of the school year have led them to be referred to as “minions of satan” by a number of parents. (hat tip to my friend Mandy) Many would prefer their cadets use the straps to hold the sheets in place.

My son never told me about the sink or much else for that matter. He did, however, tell my younger son, who told me. When visiting for parents weekend my son’s knob year in 2007, my younger son said, “You didn’t touch the sink did you?!” When I said no and asked why would he ask, my younger son told what the knobs use it for. (he’s never been good at keeping a secret)

I am the chair of the Atlanta Citadel Club’s new Parent Committee. As such, I felt I needed to alert the club about what is being said by alumni about my recent blog post. I received this encouraging note in return:

At these times, I always lean towards my favorite quote about “critics” from Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man (or woman!) who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I’ve heard through the alumni grapevine that many of them don’t understand why parents know about any of the things I write about. If you are an alumnus who feels I am a “Helicopter Parent” I invite you to email me to discuss your concerns. I much prefer a civil dialogue than hearing second-hand about comments made about me and my experience with my family by people I’ve never met. I encourage you to read the blog post below to get a background on why I started this blog and the  parent Facebook groups **see below

Previous blog posts about letting go:

The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel

A Letter to The Citadel Class of 2015

Matriculation Day: The Hardest Part for Parents is Letting Go

Transitions and Letting Go

Advantages of being the Parent of a Citadel Cadet

Preparing for Knob Year – Parents Edition

Uniformity, Lists, and Letting Go

**If you want to know why I started this blog, see this entry:

The Story of My Nontraditional Calling

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photo by Stanley Leary

The Odd Things Citadel Parents Learn

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A cadet room in inspection order for Parents Weekend. photo by Stanley Leary

I was never a cadet and do not claim to know the ins and outs of being a cadet. I have however learned quite a bit about being a supportive parent of a cadet. Since my son’s sophomore year at The Citadel I have volunteered my time to help new parents learn the odd terms and culture at The Citadel. At first I was a volunteer with the Citadel Family Association and since his graduation I have maintained this blog site and administered Facebook groups for new parents. Since the rules do change slightly from year to year I’ve developed a good relationship with various officials on campus to make sure what appears on this blog or on the Facebook groups I moderate is accurate and up to date.

Last month the Georgia Citadel Parents Group hosted a parent orientation meeting. In the Atlanta area these events have been happening in the early summer for over ten years. As the questions about preparing for knob year came pouring in from the parents of the class of 2020 I realized that I’ve become an expert on some very odd areas.

You might be a parent of a Citadel Cadet if. . . .

  • You know Bates is not just the name of the Downton Abbey Valet.
  • You become an expert in plain toe black Oxford shoes, or low quarters, and where to find them.
  • You are disappointed to learn the new Bostonian Kinnon style shoe does not meet regulations (stitching on the heel), but encouraged to know the Florsheim Lexington style does.
  • You know what deep lug soles are on combat boots.
  • You know which store in your area carries the plastic bins needed in the required sizes.
  • The staff at your local post office know your name, your cadets name, and what their favorite snacks are.
  • You know where to find the cheapest white flat sheets.
  • You know a change in the white PT sock requirement from crew length to ankle length socks sets off a major shock wave. (Yes, all cadets must wear ankle length white socks for unit PT this academic year.)
  • You find the best and easiest way to label clothing.
  • You know what shirts stays are used for.
  • You develop a hatred for T-pins.
  • You wish your cadet preferred the sheet stays over T-pins for securing their sheets.
  • You know why the cadets want fine grade sandpaper.
  • You have a supply of your cadets preferred brand of T-shirts, socks, and underwear on hand.
  • You know the best way to prevent blisters.
  • You know the best way to send a care package to a knob.
  • You know what the cadets use the sink for in their room. (I wish I didn’t know this one)

Added July 11:

A Note to My Critics

Citadel Success Institute: The beginning of the journey

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Citadel Success Institute students (Class of 2019) are led around campus by their cadet instructors. photo by Stacy Carter

Today some members of the Class of 2020 at The Citadel begin their journey at The Citadel Success Institute. It is an a time of mixed emotions for many parents. Although my son did not attend CSI before knob year, I can share a few insights I’ve learned from talking with families who did have a cadet attend.

The Citadel experience is different from other colleges in many ways. The biggest difference is that the cadets learn to take control and ownership of their success and failures. For parents this means learning to let go of control and movement to an advisory role.

Specifically for parents of CSI students that means when your son or daughter learns something about they way their cadet mentors do something, that will take priority over anything you hear from other parents or cadets. While many things at The Citadel are uniform by design there are small ways the cadets will learn to put their own unique mark on their time at the school. It can be how they do their cleaning and polishing to how they organize their time and what activities they decide to take part in.

Some parents handle the transition better than others. Gone are the days of checking homework and looking at their grades each week. You will not be able to see grades until mid-terms then again at the end of the semester, if your student has shared their password with you. (That is an individual family discussion. My opinion, if you are paying the bills your student should give you access.) You’ll have to rely on your student to let you know how you are doing in their academics, and everything else for that matter once they are at The Citadel. Most likely you will not know or meet their professors for a while if at all.

Parents of CSI parents as your student tells you what they have learned, and what they prefer to do to prepare for knob year, follow their lead.

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Citadel Success Institute students (Class of 2019) cross the parade field. photo by Stacy Carter

Uniformity, Lists, and Letting Go

Knobs line up

One week from now some members of The Citadel Class of 2020 will be on campus for Citadel Success Institute (CSI). That means across the country and beyond families are busy getting the necessary items and preparing to say good-bye. The parents of athletes who report July 26 and the parents of the cadets reporting August 13 have a bit more time, but they too are spending their time pouring over the Success Packet list and the Citadel Family Association’s “Nice to Have List.”

Military schools have a tradition of making sure everyone looks the same. Uniformity and not  standing out is stressed. Because of this emphasis the families readying their student to report get a bit anxious. Everyone wants to make sure their student has what they need.

What I’ve come to realize though is while you do have lists of things you need to have and lists of things that are nice to have, the cadets still manage to carve out their own way of doing something. For instance, they all need flat white sheets to go on their twin sized bunks, but some cadets will decide they like to have a little extra fabric to tuck under and will want extra long sheets, others do not want the extra fabric. Some cadets use T-pins to secure their sheets to the bunks, others like the elastic straps made for this purpose.

Since the Class of 2020 has not started the year yet, the parents and their students are left with the official list and the Nice to Have list and must make decisions about what to bring. The knobs will develop their own preferences as the year goes on. Parents will slowly learn that no matter what they send, their son or daughter will still find something else they want or decide they do not need what was packed. This is all part of the 4th Class system, maybe not in a formal way, but finding their own way on a very regimented path is a by product of the 4th Class System. (see the PowerPoint on 4C Learning Outcomes)

There are rules for everything, but the cadets still find a way to be their own individual. Some will make their mark in Physical Training (PT). Others will stand out in the classroom, or athletics, or clubs. Some knobs will strive to be a “ghost.” They will do what is expected, but not do anything to bring attention to themselves. Others decide they want to stand out in their field of endeavor. For instance, if they are good at physical training they will do things that may mean extra push ups as a result. The person who is good at PT doesn’t mind extra exercise.

For the non-military person, like I am, this all seems pretty strange. That is alright, we non-grad/non-military parents aren’t the cadets and don’t have to understand it. As parents we are just supposed to be supportive. As I mentioned in a previous post being supportive in this context is helping them with the things they need to report, then encouraging them throughout the year.

I tell new parents each year not to stress about the lists of items, just do their best to get what is listed. Each year the parents worry and obsess over plastic bins, underwear sheets and shoe polish, then soon learn what size bin was sent, or type of sheet really doesn’t matter. In a way I believe parents need the lists to obsess over to distract themselves from the fact their child is going off not only to college but to a military college. The parents can’t control what happens once they arrive at the gates, but they can try to make sure their child has what they need.

If you are the parent of a student entering this year, get the items they need, then take time now to be with your child.

It is a tough year. No matter what they do or don’t do, they will get yelled at a lot. Nothing will ever be right. They won’t get positive reinforcement on campus, that is what you can provide.

They will make friends that will become their family. The cadets have a saying, they spend four years trying to get out of The Citadel and then the rest of their lives trying to get back.

If your son or daughter has chosen this path they have the strength to get through the year. Remember that and remind them of that fact often in the months to come.

The Citadel: Send off Events

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Dorie Griggs welcomes the class of 2020 and their parents at the annual Georgia Citadel Parents Orientation gathering June 18.

44 days and a wake up until the Class of 2020 reports to The Citadel, even earlier for the Fall athletes. For many families it is a time of great excitement and some anxiety.

It’s been years since my son was a knob, but I remember the emotions well. The past few years I’ve had the opportunity to be on campus for Matriculation Weekend a few times. Last year I had the honor of standing in as a mom to a young man who flew in from the west coast by himself. I picked him up at his hotel and drove him to the Holliday Alumni Center to begin his journey. So while it may have been years since I had my own son there, I do have some “adopted” cadets who I claim as my own.

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Current parents of cadets help to answer questions from the 2020 parents at the June 18 meeting.

A great way to stem the tide of emotions is to meet with other parents, both current and new, to talk about preparations and get feedback from the experienced families. I still remember everyone I met at the send off dinner when my son was about to begin his journey. I’ve collaborated with the Citadel Foundation to come up with a list of events that are scheduled. A few clubs have already hosted their events and are not listed.

If you do not have a club or Citadel family near by, and even if you do, Join the Facebook group, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2020 The group is for parents and legal guardians of the Class of 2020 only. Please go to the page and request to join then email me to let me know you are the parent of an incoming knob.

To contact a club in your area, see this list.  If you are the parent of a current cadet and want to host an event in your area, the Citadel Family Association has a page on their website with instructions. You can see that page here. Class of 2020 knobs and parents can also contact the CFA Area Rep for your region if you have questions.

The following are dates for Send off events I have heard of so far. For details, contact the club president. If you know of others, please let me know and I will add them to the list.

 

June 30 – Greater Columbia Club

July 14 – Summerville

July 16 – Tampa

July 21 – Charleston, Sumter

July 23 – Chicago, and Columbia SC Moms Brunch (email Barbara Hoke, brhoke6623 (at) gmail (dot) com)

July 27 – Charlotte

July 30 – Low country Mom Brunch, Dorchester/Berkeley/Charleston/Beaufort/Colleton counties (email Lori Littlejohn Cook, lorijean94 (at) yahoo (dot) com)

August 2 – Greenville and Aiken, Beaufort

August 4 – Atlanta and Horry County

August 6 – Washington, DC

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Members of The Citadel, Class of 2020, from Georgia break out to meet with alumni and current cadets during the Georgia Citadel parents Orientation gathering June 18.

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