Looking forward to Graduation at The Citadel, 2017

Dismissed

Class of 2015 Dismissed!

Each year in February the questions from a variety of parents pick up. The senior parents are looking toward graduation and commissioning. I’ve added a few notes about the end of the year below.

Keep an eye out for the updated graduation schedule. I checked this morning and the 2016 schedule of events is still posted. You can use that schedule as a guideline for this year but watch for updates. A few general notes:

  • Tickets are limited. For the past several years each cadet gets 8 tickets. They can put their name in a lottery for extras but that is not guaranteed. Sometimes they can get a few from classmates who won’t use their allotment.
  • Since tickets are limited to graduation some families rent a house and have the graduation live stream connected to a large screen TV for the guests who can’t be at the event.
  • It is traditional to send out announcements for college graduation. Again traditionally announcements are sent to anyone who would want to know about this big life event. They are sent out the week of or after graduation. The recipient is not obligated to send a gift when they receive an announcement. It is a good time to announce the commissioning of a graduate who is entering the armed forces. You can also put a card with the new contact information for the graduate since they will no longer use the school’s address to receive mail. These small cards are referred to as “at home” cards to indicate the graduate will be at their new home after a certain date. The tradition of an at home card is an old one and has changed over time as to the meaning. You can read the history here.
  • Many families use the online announcement company Signature. They are nice quality, but a better price than what Balfour offers.
  • Commissioning services happen the Friday before graduation. Be in touch with your senior for the updated details on the ceremony. It is traditional for the newly commissioned second lieutenant to give the person who renders their first salute a silver dollar. You can usually find them online.
  • For those commissioning they will have to order and pay for their dress uniform. That process is usually started by now. The expense surprises many parents.
  • The seniors have to be out of the barracks by Thursday night of graduation week, unless they’ve requested and received an exception. Be sure you plan for this when making your accommodation reservations.
  • Many families give their graduate a Lifetime Membership to the Citadel Alumni Association as a graduation gift. There is a special luncheon for the new Lifetime members during graduation week.
  • Like most big weekends, graduation weekend is a time of great activity. Dress for the weather and for comfort in walking. If the weather is warm many ladies wear light dresses for the commissioning service and long gray line parade. The gentleman wear jacket and tie for the commissioning and more casual attire for the afternoon parade. For graduation, business attire is appropriate, a dress or nice slacks for the ladies and jacket and tie for the gentleman.
  • Saturday morning arrive at the field house for graduation early to find a seat. In 2011 we were given assigned seats. The past several years it is open seating. Saving seats is discouraged. If you have young children attending, bring quiet distractions for them like coloring books and light snacks. The ceremony lasts about 3 – 3 1/2 hours. I played The Citadel version of “Where’s Waldo” with my daughter who was in 6th grade at the time her brother graduated. We had a list of my son’s friends and she tried to find them as they sat waiting for their name to be called.
  • Have a plan of where you are to meet after the ceremony. Some families meet on the floor of the field house some meet outside the building. It is helpful to have a plan ahead of time.

Previous posts about graduation:

Graduation 2015 Notes for Citadel Parents

The Citadel: Tips from One Parent for Graduation

Senior Parent Notes

Advertisements

Playing Catch Up and Parents Weekend at The Citadel

2014 Bravo Promotion Ceremony

Bravo Company knobs receive their company letter. October 2014

Catching up

It’s been over a month since my last entry. After the very emotional experience as a juror for a murder trial, the sad news of a cancer diagnosis for one of the Top Nine Cadets at The Citadel was released. After corresponding with his family a YouCaring fundraising site was launch for Jesse Ray Nardone. The original goal of $10,000 was reached within days. you can read about the needs the family has to cover and updates on Jesse Ray’s health on the YouCaring site.

A week or so after the fundraising site was posted, I had a scheduled cardiac catheter ablation. It is taking me a little longer than I had anticipated to bounce back after the procedure. Fortunately I feel pretty well, but I just don’t have the stamina to do too much yet.

Parents Weekend at The Citadel

For my readers who are Citadel parents this is an exciting week. By now I hope you have seen the very helpful information posted to the parent page on the citadel.edu web site. In years past I’ve written a run down of the vents each day of Parents Weekend. Thanks to Capt. Taylor Skardon in the office of the provost that was not necessary this year. There is an overall post and individual pages for each day, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Citadel Family Association (CFA) has also revamped their website with helpful information. Be sure to read the pages and click on all the links.

The weather is looking iffy thanks to hurricane Matthew. Be sure to watch the weather channels to know how to pack. Also check the school web site for any announcements should the storm end up tracking toward the SC coast. It is still early to know what will happen weather wise. The school administrators keep a close eye on weather conditions and will post updates as they can so watch The Citadel website, the school’s Facebook page and the Bulldog Alert page. To read the school’s protocol for hurricanes see this link.

I won’t be making the trip to Charleston for Parents Weekend this year. Our daughter is a high school senior and it is her last Homecoming celebration. I look forward to seeing everyone’s photos and hearing your stories. Best wishes to the Class of 2017 on receiving your rings on Friday.

Ring Presentation 2014

Bravo Company knobs receive their company letter. October 2014

For the families of 2020 cadet recruits enjoy every minute of your time together it goes by in a blink of an eye.

Previous posts about Parents Weekend (see these links for photos):

Parents Weekend 2015

Parents Weekend 2014 and 2014 Tips

Parents Weekend 2012

Parents Weekend Tips 2011

10679535_10152803603024747_4091505769552871071_o

I bid on and won the opportunity to shoot the cannon at halftime of the football game Oct 2014. My daughter was there for moral support ūüėČ ¬†photo by Michael Givens

 

 

Notes for New Citadel Families

13939513_10154413278799747_9019322836739882786_n

A newly shaved Knob next to the statue of General Mark Clark

Challenge Week is almost over for the Class of 2020. It is a challenge for many parents who are used to regular communication with their son or daughter. This is the week when the new parents are initiated into the time honored tradition of scouring social media in the hope of finding a glimpse of their knob, or as I like to call it The Citadel version of “Where’s Waldo.”

For many families their attention is now moving to Parents Weekend and visits with their cadet recruit. This leads to questions about when knobs can go off campus and when are the best times to visit.

According to the Matriculation Day¬†presentation by General Rosa and Captain Paluso knobs can get off campus for their first general leave August 27. It is a great time for the knobs to get off campus with their new classmates and begin to make memories together. I know each family is different so I won’t tell anyone not to visit, but I will say this, if your student was at another college would you get in your car to go spend the day with them? Let them bond and make memories together. If you do go bring another cadet or two with you for a meal. you’ll enjoy their stories.

Parents’ Weekend is October 7 – 9 this year. Once the schedule of events is posted to the school website I’ll write more about this special weekend. In the meantime you can get an idea of what it is like by reading this previous post. For travel arrangements, keep in mind the knobs can get off campus Friday afternoon around 1:00pm and on Sunday they can stay off campus until about 6:00. This is a huge weekend on campus for the knobs who are promoted from cadet recruits to cadet privates. It is also a huge weekend for the seniors who receive their rings on Friday afternoon. If you haven’t already be sure to get your hotel arrangements settled. You can see this link for some hotel suggestions. AirBnB also has some great options in the area.

When it comes to visiting knob year it is helpful to keep a few things in mind. Knobs want to sleep and eat with they get off campus. Getting to watch TV and just relax is a big treat. Don’t expect them to want to do sight-seeing around town this first year. The major weekends are fun to visit but you don’t get much time with your cadet recruit. If you visit on the Open weekend, that means they do not have a Saturday Morning Inspection (SMI) and can spend Friday evening with you until midnight, Saturday most of the day and Sunday most of the day. The Open weekends for the fall are, Sept 2-4; Sept 16 – 18; Sept 30 – Oct 2; Oct. 21 – 23, and for knobs not on ROTC scholarships, Sept. 23 – 25; and Nov 11 – 13. The ROTC scholarship cadets have training weekends these two weekends. To see the full schedule for the entire year go to the Yearly Planning Calendar on this page. Open means that qualified upperclass cadets can put in for overnights. Closed Weekends means all cadets must be in the barracks each night at the designated time on the training schedule.

Be sure to read through the new and improved parent webpage, especially the section for Freshman parents and the Challenge Week section .

For readers who are not 2020 Parents, you can see the photos I’ve taken from Matriculation Weekend on Facebook here:

Matriculation Day, 2016

Matriculation Sunday

Matriculation Sunday Evening

Challenge Week – Monday

Oath Ceremony

13879330_10154413939884747_5646067353962066606_n

Members of the Class of 2020 prepare to take the cadet oath.

Summerville Citadel Club Send off Dinner

13680154_10154325128679747_2689957516080979377_o

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

13692870_10154325093674747_6028873897057346174_o

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.

13719618_10154325094329747_9106139088508337724_o

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.”

 

 

The Odd Things Citadel Parents Learn

knobroominspecorder

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 shirt 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

The Citadel: The Stress of Getting Ready

knobcheckin

Knob checks in with the Bravo Cadre then directed to the PT issue area.

 

In two months, less if you are an athlete reporting the end of July, the Class of 2020 will report for Matriculation Day at The Citadel. This time of year is stressful for the families of the incoming knobs.

The students are starting to get their “game face” on. If they are smart, the incoming knobs are breaking in their shoes and working on their physical training. I’m told by cadets and alumni those are two things a knob can do to help them self out the beginning of this challenging year. It will still be tough but if you can meet or exceed the PT standards at least the new cadet recruit won’t have to do remedial physical training on top of everything else.

While the incoming knobs, also called cadet recruits, have concrete things they can do to prepare the parents task is not as straight forward. Parents need to begin to prepare to, but their preparation is more mental than physical. Sending a child off to The Citadel is a scary task, especially if you do not have any military background. I know it was scary for me.

Parents need to remember that sending a child off to college should be a time of celebration and focus on the success of the recent high school graduate. Too many parents dwell on the change in a negative light, forgetting that there are some exciting time ahead. Yes, we all miss having our children at home, but sending them off into the world is a sign we have done our jobs as parents.

I’ve learned that for some parents they cope with their anxiety by obsessing over the Success Packet list of items to bring and the Citadel Family Association’s “Nice to Have List.” The problem with that plan is the parents tend to over think the list. There is not one perfect kind of sock, underwear, or the exact size plastic bin. You really can’t make a mistake. If something isn’t brought with them the knobs share with each other. They can also purchase items they need from the Cadet Store and the Bookstore

The big difference in sending a child to a military school like The Citadel is the abruptness of it all. The knobs turn in their phones the very first day they arrive and do not get them back and do not have computer access for a week to ten days. Some parent handle this better than others.

My suggestion is to keep yourself very busy that first week. Limit your time on the computer and social media. Let your friends and family know you’d like to get together for a visit, spend more time on your other children and your spouse. Most likely they’re feeling a bit strange about this new normal too.

It’s also a good idea to try and let go of some of the control over your son or daughter’s time now. In a couple of months you will have very, very little input as to how they spend their time or what they are doing day to day. Get used to that now.

The first few weeks that the knobs are on campus some photos will be posted to the school’s Facebook page¬†, and the Citadel Photography page as well as the parent Facebook groups. You’ll begin to understand the game of “Where’s Waldo” in a whole other context. Once they get their hair cut and wear the same uniforms it is very hard to find YOUR Waldo. (Pro tip: If they are in the PT clothes look for their athletic shoes.)

Between now and Matriculation Day step away from Facebook and spend time face to face with your family.

 

No Fun February

2011 BVA Cuts Day

The members of the 2011 BVA’s are put through their paces by the 2010 Summerall Guard. photo from Facebook, Feb. 2010

In the past couple of days I’ve gotten quite a few private messages from parents who are hearing of a discipline situation on campus. I do not have first hand knowledge of what happened. What I can assume is some cadets were accused of breaking a rule or rules. In the course of investigating the situation a ruling was made and consequences were given.

The rules and procedures for investigations is outlined in the Blue Book section 6, if you’d like to read through them. There are separate procedures for Honor Violations. The cadets are expected to know, and follow, the rules on campus. If there is an infraction there is a procedure to write it up, a procedure to respond, and depending on the type of infraction, procedures for a review or board meeting to address the situation.

The system is built to reward good behavior/actions and consequences are outlined for breaking rules. There is also an appeal process. A PowerPoint presentation about the Discipline System can be seen on the school website.

It is never easy to hear your child broke rules, and its even harder if you don’t believe they did it or weren’t treated fairly. At a leadership school like The Citadel the system is designed for the cadets to know the rules then follow the process and procedures, including the appeal process if they do not agree with a ruling. It can be very hard on parents to take a back seat as their student navigates this process.

I am not a graduate of the school. What I can share with you are my observations of this system as an outsider. I know many cadets who have gone through what I would consider minor violations that still resulted in a battalion transfer, to major lapse in judgement that led to a two semester suspension. In all cases it was tough on the cadet and their parents. In the cases I know of the cadets handled the situation far better than their parents. The cadets took their punishments, learned a lesson and moved on. In some cases they ended up doubling their good friends because they ended up claiming affiliation with two companies.

I know it is hard to hear, or read posts, from parents of cadets who have gotten in trouble. It is tough when they are going through the situation. With time lessons are learned and life goes on.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to be less judgemental and more compassionate. Unless something has happened to you or your cadet remember, you never have the full story. I’ve also learned that sometimes, even if it is your cadet involved, parents don’t always get the full story.

A side note about February. . . .the cadets and alumni have a term for it, “F’d up February.” It is a tough school all year long but in the winter it is even tougher. Early morning PT is even worse in freezing temperatures. February is often the time when cadets in the discipline system because of infractions that happened late first semester find out the results of the review or boards and begin their punishments.

Fortunately as the days get longer and the tempuratures warm the mood on campus improves. Spring break is followed by Recognition Day, then graduation. The good news is we are just about halfway through February.

If at any time you have concerns about what your cadet tells you, call the Commandant’s Office. If you want someone to talk to about your concerns the Ombudsperson’s are also a good resource.

%d bloggers like this: