As The Citadel Turns

The Class of 2018 marched into Marion Square and affirmed their oath. Photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios
The Class of 2018 marched into Marion Square and affirmed their oath.
Photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

It was a busy weekend for Citadel cadets. Recognition Day for the first year knobs happened Saturday. It’s the most anticipated day of the year for knobs. They cease being knobs and become full member of the Corps of Cadets when at the end of a morning filled with physical challenges they stand with their classmates to hear an address by the Regimental Commander that ends with the sweet words, “The 4th Class System in no longer in effect.” After the announcement the upperclass cadets in the company recognize the 4th Class cadets by using their first names for the first time all year.

A 4th Class cadet carries and upperclass cadet at one of the stations during the "Gauntlet."
A 4th Class cadet carries and upperclass cadet at one of the stations during the “Gauntlet. photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

I heard some grumbling from parents of upperclass cadets and alumni that the changes instituted this year for Recognition Day would undermine the bond the classes formed. I also read several comments by alumni who said that the day has changed so much from their time at The Citadel it doesn’t seem like it has the same significance. Once the day came and went I heard from scores of people who attended and talked of the espirt de corps they witnessed and what a terrific day it was for all cadets.

Before I continue I must acknowledge that I never went through a 4th class system, my son did. It also needs to be brought to everyones attention that recognition day used to be at the very end of the year. The grads from the ’60’s wonder why it is so early before final exams. Others point out that parents would never have witnessed their recognition day. There was no gauntlet, or march to ¬†Marion Square in years past. Those activities started in 2007.

Knobs crawl during one of the exercises as part of the "Gauntlet." photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios
Knobs crawl during one of the exercises as part of the “Gauntlet.”
photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

Carl Carraway, the father of a 2018 cadet and a 1983 graduate of The Citadel wrote a very good review of this past Saturday’s events and posted it to the 2018 parent group. He gave me permission to post his thoughts here:

We all know things change over time. The system moves up, down, left, right, here, there, back and forth, but it is still an intense and demanding system. Recognition Day is different than the one we experienced in ’80. Yesterday our son was recognized along with the rest of the Class of 2018. Prior to yesterday, I had the same opinion (as many alumni) about parents watching the Gauntlet on the parade ground – it should be a closed, private event – based ONLY on my experience in ’80. I initially decided to not attend, but fortunately I changed my mind on Friday. Even though the event is held in public view, it it still a very private event for the cadets – knobs and upperclassmen. Their focus is still just as ours was during our own respective Recognition Days.

Recognition Day started with a PT run at 0530 hrs, leadership classes (yes, leadership – imagine that), followed by the Gauntlet on the Parade Ground at 1030 hrs, a “running tour” of the campus, and finally the class set of pushups. As one who had joked about the Gauntlet in the past, I was very impressed with the intensity, demands, and duration of the Gauntlet and how professionally The Citadel now handles Recognition Day. From the prospective of an alumus, I was proud to watch the Class of 2018 going through the paces. The social media world in which we live allows parents to hover over their cadets during their knob year… and their upperclass years. Yesterday the knobs took the scissors away from the doctor and cut the social media umbilical cords. Many parents witnessed their sons and daughters facing physical and mental challenges they could never image – the cadets proving to themselves and not the world that they are on a road less traveled. That is one of the many outstanding outcomes of The Citadel.

The icing on the cake was the freshmen marching to Marion Square in their dress whites at 1500 hrs to reaffirm their cadet oath. The 2 mile march (each way) was an impressive exclamation mark for the day’s events! In case you are wondering, yes, I walked the entire march down and back on the sidewalk along with a handful of other parents.

If I had not observed the Recognition Day activities, I would have missed an outstanding opportunity to watch The Citadel at its best. Next year I plan to be on campus to watch the Class of 2019 go through their paces and take another “walking tour” down and back from Marion Square.¬†

Cadets work together to flip a tire during the "Gauntlet." photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios
Cadets work together to flip a tire during the “Gauntlet.”
photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

As I wrote in an entry a while back, the only constant is change. Some will resist change, others adapt and move on. The cadets at The Citadel are being given the tools to succeed in business and in life. The Class of 2018 was recognized yesterday after a full day of physical activities.

Before you know it August will be here and the Class of 2019 will matriculate. I guarantee you someone in the class of 2018 will complain that the class of 2019 is getting off easy. The cycle will continue. I’ve volunteered to help parents of cadets for eight years now and I’ve seen it happen each year. Parents need to remember, your cadets are going to vent to you out of frustration, the key is not to join them in their laments. Allow them to vent, offer them support and encouragement. You can even steer them to the place to work out their issues, but don’t join them in their complaining and don’t try to fix their problems. Paul Tamburrino, the VP of the Citadel Alumni Association wrote a blog post for me in September of 2014 about change and The Citadel when the cadets began to complain about the changes the new commandant was instituting. today is a good time to review that entry: The Citadel: Tradition and Change, A Guest Contribution.

4 class cadets crawl toward the company guidon while upperclass cadet try to keep them from the guidon. photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios
4th class cadets crawl toward the company guidon while upperclass cadet try to keep them from the guidon.
photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios