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.

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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.

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

Reflections on the past, looking forward to the future

The front of our annual Christmas card this year featured our daughter in her Hogwarts robe casting a spell on her brother, while I, in my clerical robe and stole, held up my hands to stop her and Stanley documented the action with his camera. A totally silly photo. Taylor's sign reads, "I should have been adopted." since he is always shaking his head at our silly antics.

The front of our annual Christmas card this year featured our daughter in her Hogwarts robe casting a spell on her brother, while I, in my clerical robe and stole, held up my hands to stop her and Stanley documented the action with his camera. A totally silly photo. Taylor’s sign reads, “I should have been adopted.” since he is always shaking his head at our silly antics.

The past two months have been filled with activity, some good some difficult. My health and the demands of my chaplain residency have kept me from writing as often. I hope to be back on a regular posting schedule with the start of 2015.

The Monday before Thanksgiving while at work at the VA hospital I began to feel funny. To make a long story a bit shorter, it turns out I was experiencing atrial fibrillation. My heart raced up to 160+ beats per minute and stayed that way for 4 hours. Since that day I’ve had a few other trips to the emergency room, several tests and I meet with the cardiologist this coming Tuesday, which also happens to be our 19th anniversary. While I am still learning what all this means, it does appear that it is a fairly commonly condition. One that can be managed fairly easily.

I am now looking to the next six months and starting to explore what will be next for me when I complete this residency. The path for many people after finishing a year of clinical pastoral education is to become staff of a congregation or to go into full-time chaplaincy. My stated goal at the beginning of this year was to start a nonprofit and continue my call to be a supportive presence for journalists and also for parents of cadets at The Citadel. I am not ordained, and do not plan to pursue ordination, in any denomination so full-time chaplaincy with an established organization is not a possibility.

The first step in starting a nonprofit is to find who else is meeting a need. There are several organizations that provide training and professional support for journalists. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma being the leader in that area, and the Ochberg Society provides peer-to-peer support. I’d like to see a network of clergy, all faiths, and therapists, who are trained in the particularities of the world of journalism so that they can be an effective, caring presence, when a journalist needs support. I’m not sure how that will pan out. I’ve learned that by me stating an intention or an idea, it may spark an idea in someone else and before you know it, a team is formed. I may end up pursuing guest lecturing to journalism programs and newsrooms.

The same idea applies supporting new parents at The Citadel. This next academic year will be my 8th year of supporting a new class of parents of knobs. The first three years I was the chair of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group and also the Cadet Retention and Recruitment Chair for the Citadel Family Association. Since my son graduated in 2011 I’ve continued to help new parents, but not as a CFA volunteer. Once your cadet graduates you are no longer a CFA member. I posted the information I shared with parents in Georgia to this blog site the fall of 2011. I began getting a lot of emails with questions and decided to start a Facebook group for the Class of 2016 parents to make it easy to answer questions in one place. Three years and three Facebook groups later, for the Classes of 2017 and 2018, I’ve just added one for the parents of the class of 2019.

While I do feel a call to do this type of support for new parents, it is very time-consuming and completely unpaid. I’ve begun to wonder if I could make this a nonprofit venture and ask for some financial support from the parents who join the groups. Since I am still in the investigative stage I welcome any feedback my readers have on this matter. I’m not looking to make tons of money from this venture, but at least enough to make it a part-time venture and cover some of my expenses. In simple terms if each member of the Facebook groups donates $10, I’d have a decent part-time income. Let me know what you think in the comments section or send me an email with your thoughts on starting a nonprofit. If I do go the nonprofit route, I will be looking for potential board members with expertise in nonprofit law, fundraising, and other areas.

Please join me the next several months as I explore the next steps in my journey. I’ll continue to post helpful tips for parents of cadets at The Citadel, but will add entries about my own journey as well.

Best wishes to each of you for an exciting year!

A more "normal" portrait of our crew.

A more “normal” portrait of our crew.

Learning The Citadel Website

The Citadel

Each year about this time the stats for this blog go a bit nuts as anxious family and friends search for information on their Citadel knob, a first year cadet recruit at The Citadel. I am not a graduate of the school and cannot speak to what the 4th Class System is like from a cadet perspective. I can however tell you about what it is like to be a concerned parent.

On my personal Facebook page I will post the blog search terms of the day when something strikes me as particularly funny or unique. One term that makes me laugh is “Dorie Citadel,” especially since I was so anxious about the whole 4th Class System when my son was going through it in 2007. Some of the search terms make me wish I could reach out to the person searching for information to tell them it will be OK. My email address is in the About Dorie section if you would like to ask a questions to me directly.

This week, the first week knobs are on campus, I give new parent a few tips on navigating the school web site. For instance, everything they do is outlined on the Office of the Commandant page under the Operations and Training section, then click on Training Schedules. Just scroll down and look for the current week. This week the schedule is broken down by company. After this week you’ll know your knobs class schedule and will see the general schedule for the Corps of Cadets.

On the Facebook groups for parents, here is the link for the 2018 parent group, you can find previous posts and topics by entering a search term into the search window function. Look for the magnifying glass icon on the upper right side of a group page under the cover photo. Click on the icon and the search window appears. Enter your search term and press enter. Previous posts on that term will appear. A photo of the icon is on this page.

A caution about Facebook and social media for this first year, knobs want to keep a low profile. While as parents we are proud of the decision our son or daughter made in attending The Citadel, tagging them on public pages or using a hashtag to ID them as being a knob at The Citadel will raise the profile of a knob and therefore may bring more attention to a knob.

The Facebook group search window will appear when you click on the magnifying glass icon.

The Facebook group search window will appear when you click on the magnifying glass icon. to the right of the words Notification and Create Group.

A word of caution about the various YouTube videos out there. If you are struggling with not speaking to your student this first week, wait to view the videos. There are some really fun and inspiring videos, but there are also quite a few out there of the cadre yelling at the knobs. You will note in the recent ones that the TAC officers, staff who oversee the barracks, are seen observing the cadets. It is still hard to watch knowing your student will be the one getting yelled at this year. If you don’t mind seeing knobs get yelled at see this video of the knobs returning form the beach in 2011.

Each company determines when the knobs get their phone and computer privileges. Usually it is by the start of classes. Please know that knobs have no control over their time and cannot pick up the call or answer a text at will. This is hard on parents but really difficult for some girlfriends to understand. If a knob hangs up quickly it is because someone entered the room. Do not call them back. Wait for them to call you when they can.

Do send goodies to them each cadet has their own preference. My son preferred healthy food. Another Citadel Mom wrote a great blog post about care packages and how to save money on postage. You can read it here. You can order boxes through the US Post Office free online. The box #1096L is the largest small box that fits in their boxes. The box will fit in a flat rate envelope saving you postage. You can save money of postage by using the Click-N-Ship option.

Many parents ask when they can see their knob for the first time. This year August 31 is the day they will first be able to get off campus for the afternoon. If you can’t wait to see them until parents Weekend,  which is October 10 – 12, 2014, the best time to see them is on what is called an open weekend on the Yearly Planning Calendar. Open and Closed weekends don’t mean too much for knobs since they cannot have an overnight this first semester. On an Open weekend there are no mandatory Saturday Morning Inspections (SMI) and upperclass cadets can request leave for the weekend. For knobs it means they can go off campus Friday night, Saturday from about 7:00 am – 11:30 pm and Sunday from after chapel or Ethics seminar (10:00am) until 7:00pm or so.

Each year the Corps of Cadets participate in a few special events. You can read about them on the website by clicking here. Parents Weekend is a big occasion for knobs. It is during a ceremony Saturday of Parents Weekend that they are promoted from cadet recruits to cadet privates. During the ceremony the cadre and knobs do a class set of pushups and the knobs receive the company letter which is worn on their uniform. For more information on Parents Weekend schedule watch the school web site and the Cadet Activities page. You can also read previous posts by putting “Parents Weekend” in the search window of this site.

The Cadet Activities office has a program where they will quietly deliver cookies to cadets for special occasions. You can read about it here. They also handle the order forms for the school newspaper The Brigadier, a good way fro families to keep up with the happenings on campus.

The football games are fun to attend. For tickets and information on all the athletic events visit the web site Citadel Sports. They also have a Facebook page, The Citadel Sports. The Citadel Brigadier Foundation is another good page to follow. The foundation raises funds to support the athletic program and scholarships.

Professor Tiffany Silverman with Monuments Men author, Robert Edsel, and several cadets at the VIP reception before the lecture

Professor Tiffany Silverman with Monuments Men author, Robert Edsel, and several cadets at the VIP reception before the lecture

If you are more into the arts, you’ll be thrilled to learn about Fine Arts at The Citadel. A terrific program that last year brought in the author of the book Monuments Men to campus for a book signing and talk. The program is headed by Professor Tiffany Silverman and offers a variety of classes to cadets, including a Fine Arts minor.

I encourage each family to take time to learn about the school and what is available by exploring the web site. The A-Z Search option is a great tool and the People Search option is also very helpful. Both are located under the Info tab of the citadel.edu web site.

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