7 Days and Wake Up

Checking in at Holliday Alumni Center
Matriculation morning, 2015

We are one week away from the day Class of 2021 report to The Citadel on their Matriculation Day. Hopefully by now the incoming knobs have read the Matriculation Headquarters page, and completed the necessary tasks. Parents of the Class of 2021 should be aware of everything on the headquarters page, but should really read through everything on the Freshman Parent section of the school web site.

A mailing with helpful information for parents from the Citadel Family Association (CFA) will arrive in the mail soon. The CFA is made up of current parents who volunteer their time to support new families. Once your student learns their company you’ll have a company and battalion rep to support you. You can also find their contact information on the CFA web site.

Parents talk to the “Blue Shirt” volunteer as they wait with the boxes as their knob reports to the battalion.

I moderate a Facebook group called The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2021. We have a record number of parents in the group for this time of year. Membership is already over 630. The group is only for parents and guardians of knobs. Please let your extended family and friends know they cannot join the group, but they can follow the public pages the school runs to keep up with what is happening on campus.

This is the time of year I advise new parents to step away from the computer and spend time with their family. It can be a stressful time for many families, so much so that I end up writing a blog post about letting go each year around this time. I’ll add a few links at the end of this entry.

I do understand how scary it can feel to send a child to The Citadel, or any military college. The key to remember is your student has chosen this type of college experience. If this is what they really want to do they have the skills necessary to be successful.

Trust me, when my son went to The Citadel I was extremely nervous. What I learned that first year is that I didn’t have to understand why they do things the way they do. I was not a cadet my son was. He was the one that had to deal with the 4th Class system. To this day I can’t say I totally understand the “why” around much of the process, but I have come to appreciate the outcomes. The Citadel was exactly where my son, and most cadets who choose to take on the challenge, were supposed to be.

If you are a parent worried about this first year, you aren’t alone. A few words of advice. Try not to worry about things that haven’t even happened yet, because most of the things you worry about will never happen. If you feel you need to speak to someone on campus the Parent liaison is one place to start: parents@citadel.edu The company and battalion TAC officers and the Ombudspersons are also great resources for parents.

If you find you are nervous and obsessing over the parent’s Facebook page each day, walk away from the page for a while. Most likely by now your student has what they need to report on the 12th. Once you have read the Matriculation Headquarters , the Freshman Parent information page and the Citadel Family Association page you are set for next week. Read my previous post with matriculation day tips next week before you get to Charleston for a review.

I have walked your path as have scores of other families. We understand your fears, but also know how great the rewards are for those who stay and wear The Ring.

If you will be in Charleston the night of August 12, sign up for the 2021 Family BBQ dinner. It is a great way to meet other families.

On a personal note. . . this year our youngest is a college freshman. She moved into her dorm at Columbus State University yesterday. It was a completely different experience from her older brother’s matriculation day in 2007. We are slowly adjusting to our new normal as empty nesters while still missing our girl.

Blog posts about my son’s knob year and what I learned:

The Making of a Military Mom

Mom Readies for Son’s Military College

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

How The Citadel “Ya-Yas” Came to Be

Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel

A few tips about knob year for parents:

Knob Year Notes for Parents

Posts about letting go:

Uniformity, Lists, and Letting Go

Citadel Parents: Let it Go!

Transitions and Letting Go

Matriculation Day: The Hardest Part for Parents is Letting Go

Preparing for Knob Year – Parents Edition

Advantages of being the Parent of a Citadel Cadet

Our family Matriculation Day morning at the hotel, 2007
Taylor, Chelle, and Nelson (Bravo, 11) May 2017

 

 

Parents Weekend, 2007
Chelle in her new dorm room. August 3, 2017

Preparing for The Citadel – Parent Edition

The knobs check in with the company’s 1st Sergeant and turn in their phones. Remember to turn them off so they won’t be dead when they are returned in a week.

Each year about this time in the Facebook group for new parents some parents post that they are really stressed about the preparation. I try to be as caring as  can be and encourage these parents to begin to let go of the process and encourage their student to do the prep work necessary.

Since tuition is now really high, especially for out of state students, I understand the need for families to monitor expenses and to be concerned with the purchases needed to report to The Citadel.

For many alumni who tell tales of their parents dumping them at the gates and driving off on matriculation day these parental concerns confuse them. Sending a student to The Citadel today is a major investment. Out of state tuition is over $40,000 a year. Most families must watch their expense and it is a team effort to meet the expenses.

With that background I offer a few tips for new parents:

The Citadel is a leadership college. That means in addition to their academic major they will be learning leadership skills. Parents need to learn to step back and let their student take charge of their process. This includes getting everything gathered to report on Matriculation Day. Once they report you will not have any control of how your student handles their training. Start practicing letting go now.

The new parent Facebook groups help with basic questions and support. Do not spend your time trying to get everything “just right.” Each cadet and family are different there is not one right way to get ready for Matriculation Day. The future knob must prepare physically and mentally for the big day. They need items on the Success Packet list and should break in their shoes. How those things come together with vary with each person.

Last year the father of a knob sent me a video clip from Finding Nemo. In the clip a small sea turtle, Squirt, gets thrown out of the current. Nemo’s dad, a clown fish named Marlin panics and tries to go after Squirt. Marlin is stopped by Squirt’s laid back dad, Crush, who says, “Kill the motor dude. Let us see what Squirt does flying solo.” As a parent be like Crush, not Marlin. Do not try to intervene with your knobs experience. You’ll be amazed at what they can do “flying solo.”

The staff and cadet cadre have a strong tradition of training young students and molding them into strong cadets. Allow the process to work. If at any time you have concerns or questions, contact the parent liaison, Capt. Taylor Skardon, parents@citadel.edu. or one of the three Ombudspersons.

Cadre members lead knobs from the Cadet Store back to their company. August 2015
Knobs in the class of 2019 study their Guidons.
A 2019 knob reports to his company on Matriculation Day.

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.

The Citadel: Being Supportive From the Outside

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Parents and family members look through the sallyport gates as the cadre walk by on Matriculation Day, 2015.

I did not attend The Citadel, my son did. Over the years I’ve learned a good bit about the process, but I am still not an insider and never will be.

However, I have learned how to be a supportive parent of a cadet. A parent of a cadet should follow the strict definition of supportive, “Providing encouragement or emotional help.” That is important for new parents to keep in mind this first year, especially if over the past several years you are the type of parent who reminded your student of deadlines and due dates or if you did their scheduling.

At The Citadel the cadets learn to take ownership of their actions. Time management is a huge part of that process. The beginning of the year the first year cadets, or knobs as they are called, learn how to polish and shine brass and their shoes. They learn where everything goes and how to get ready for an inspection. THey learn the rules of the school and what is expected of them. This all takes place before the classes start. Once the classes start they have to juggle the military aspect of polishing and cleaning, with the academic rigors. Parents can be a huge support during that transition.

When a knob begins to feel overwhelmed they will often vent to family and friends not at the school because these trusted contacts are the only ones they feel safe with at the beginning. It can be hard to hear the complaints but it is now when they need your encouraging support. Remind them they are strong. As time goes on the knobs will slowly learn to trust and lean on their classmates. In fact their friends knob year will become like family to them for the rest of their life.

The knobs are put in situations where they must make snap decisions and judgements. It seems arbitrary to an outsider. I’ve gain insights into the reason the system works the way it does by reading books and talking to graduates and cadets.

One book I read, Through Their Eyes by George Steffner was very helpful. The following paragraph is from page 41 and it explains how the training that takes place in the mess hall works:

“The process was designed to create a pressure cooker environment in which young officers in training were pulled at from every direction, for every imaginable reason, to do things that were next to impossible. But the cadre were not there simply to make our lives miserable. Hot situations gave the upperclassmen excellent indicators of who was and was not suitable for command, both at the school and later in life, whether in a military capacity or otherwise. The idea was simple: to be so overcome with stress and responsibilities, so completely surrounded with impossible demands on their time that they would have to choose in triage fashion the most important tasks to complete while keeping a cool head in the process. It was a proven method, not without flaws but generally successful in creating leaders who could make important decisions under pressure. Someday these men might lead a platoon or company through knee-deep mud. Someday these men might find themselves taking fire and incoming mortar rounds from all sides with little hope of escape, What would be needed then wouldn’t be a leader who fell apart and  got is entire command wiped-out but rather one who could think clearly and rally his men to hunker down, counter attack and if possible survive to fight another day. The only way to weed out those who couldn’t take life’s pressures was to do so in an early crucible and this was part of that crucible.”

The memorization of the Knob Knowledge in the Guidon (the updated Guidon should be posted this summer) and other facts they must remember have a similar purpose. One day in their post college position they may be called on to remember details and information in a pressured situation. Developing the ability to memorize and to integrate that information into your memory is a crucial skill in high pressure situations.

One of the biggest differences I’ve observed between cadets and their non-military school counter parts is the ability to manage their time. With all the required activities, including mandatory class attendance and meal attendance, time becomes a precious commodity. Taking time away from cadets is a form of punishment whether it is walking tours or sitting confinements.

Confinements and Tours as defined in the Blue Book:

6.8.3 Confinements

6.8.3.1 A confinement is a 50‑minute period during which confined cadets, in duty uniform with white waist belt, are required to remain in their assigned confinement classroom (or when approved by the ACD their own room which will be in MRI order) studying.

6.8.4 Tours

6.8.4.1 A tour is a 50‑minute period of time during which a cadet marches on the quadrangle at 120 steps a minute with a rifle at right or left‑ shoulder arms.

It is a strict system with checks and balances in place to encourage good decision-making. That is not to say that cadets are above trying to stretch the rules a bit.

 

As I mentioned in an early blog post, Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel, the cadets, especially the ones interested in holding rank, must learn to use their time wisely. It is a job skill that other college students may not learn until they are in their first job.

For the families of incoming knobs this is all a bit overwhelming right now. In the months ahead you will learn to let go of the daily control over your son or daughter’s time and actions and adjust to supporting them in their activities. If they call and complain about their process, know that you are the only one they can complain to right now. They usually vent then move on leaving you to worry as they go on to the next task. You need to remember they are only getting small bits of information at a time and cannot see the big picture. Your role is to be supportive by helping see the big picture and keep their long terms goals in mind.

A few tips for how to be supportive when you hear from a knob:

  • Remind them they are stronger than they feel at that moment.
  • Tell them they will get through this one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time.
  • Encourage them to build relationships with their fellow knobs. They will learn they are not alone.
  • Remind them they are at college, grades are more important than shining shoes. Fit the shining in around their studies not the other way around. (their shoes will never be shiny enough)
  • Help them set small manageable goals. i.e. make it to Friday of each week, then to Parents Weekend, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.
  • Frequent care packages of their favorite protein bars and treats is always welcomed.

If you are the parent of an incoming knob, join the Facebook group for 2020 parents.  Extended family or friends are not permitted into the group.  This is a volunteer effort that is very time consuming with just the parents. If you are a 2020 parent, go to the group page and request to join then send me a Facebook message or email (address in the About section) to confirm you are a parent.

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Knobs in the Class of 2019 line up after getting their hair cut the Monday after Matriculation Day. Part of the 4th Class system is becoming uniform with everyone in your class.
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Knobs from the Class of 2019 study their Guidons after gettting their hair cut.

The Citadel: End of the Year Tips for Parents

2015 ready to say good bye
Members of the Class of 2015 turn to face the Corps of Cadets.

Each year about this time I receive an interesting mix of questions. Families of seniors write with graduation questions. Sophomore and junior parents have fewer questions but the ones they do have revolve around either the BVA process for junior year or early questions about Ring Weekend for rising seniors. The knob families are gearing up for Recognition Day, and the parents of high school seniors have matriculation Day questions.

Senior families:

The graduation schedule is posted on the school web site and should answer most of your questions. You only get 8 tickets per family. some large families set up a computer/TV combination in a rental home so the people who are not at graduation can see the live stream.

The school posts a link to the Balfour graduation announcements. They did not have the site updated early enough for many families so many have used a different company that offer better prices and plenty of options: Signature Announcements

I refer parents to the link to Emily Post Graduation Etiquette for an explanation about the difference between announcements and an invitation. Since the tickets are limited it is customary to send announcements a day to 2 weeks after the graduation to let friends and family know of the milestone reached by your graduate.

On graduation day be sure to ask your graduate where they want to meet you when the ceremony is over. The place is packed and if you have a designated place to meet it can cut down on the time it takes to find your grad is a sea of people.

For more tips and photos just enter Graduation in the search window of this blog page. Here is the post I wrote after graduation last year: Graduation for the Class of 2015

Dismissed
Class of 2015 Dismissed!

Junior families:

The biggest question that I’m asked is about the ring payment.The Citadel Alumni Association will send a bill in late August once the registrar lets them know who is qualified to receive their rings in October. Hopefully you or your cadet have been saving up. The cost of the ring has been in the $1,000 range the past several years. The payment is due before Ring Weekend.

BV and Summerall Guards with Jason
A few 2014 Summerall Guards, 2015 Bond Volunteers pose with ’89 grad, Jason Perakis, before their run Friday of Corps Day Weekend.

It is customary for the cadet to escort their mother through the giant replica of the ring the Friday evening of Ring Weekend. The schedule of when each company goes through the ring is posted early in the new school year by the cadet activities office.

For photos of dresses and other activities of the weekend, see this post: Parents’ Weekend at The Citadel, 2015

Sophomore families:

There isn’t much parents need to know before junior year. If your son has plans to become a Bond Volunteer Aspirant, you can expect them to spend a good part of their summer physically preparing. I’ve posted several entries about the process you might find helpful.

Knob families:

It won’t be long until your son or daughter will cease being a knob and become a regular 4th Class cadet. Recognition Day is coming up. If you attend, remember it is not a day to interact with your cadet. If you go, watch from the sidelines, take photos and be in awe of how they have grown as a class in one short academic year. This year I am looking forward to being on campus and joining some 2019 families for lunch that day.

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

A heads up about sophomore year: It is a different type of tough.They aren’t knobs but if they have rank they are the lowest ranking officers. Many refer to it as knobmore year because it doesn’t seem a whole lot different than the year before. Parents like to call it knob-no-more, but I’m told by many cadets and grads that knobmore is a better description.

A few words of caution. . . It is a year when they do get a little bit a power. It can be a time when they will run into the discipline system a bit more. Grades can slip sophomore year because they don’t have anyone telling them what to do like they did the year before.

Families of high school seniors:

Congratulations! You are about to embark on quite a rollercoaster ride called Knob Year. Please join the Facebook group called, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2020. Please send me an email to let me know you are the parent of an incoming knob. The group is only for parents of knobs, not extended family. You’ll meet other parents who will become your friends. A few parents of grads are in the group to help answer questions. We have a variety of different backgrounds.The Citadel Family Association also has a Facebook group you can join. The Area Reps are parents throughout the country who volunteer to be a support to knew parents. Once you know your son or daughters company (on Matriculation Day) you will have a CFA parent volunteer you can also contact for help and support.

Knobs and Mark Clark statue
Knobs line up after getting their heads shaved Monday of Challenge Week, 2015

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.

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.

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.

Survival Tips for Knob Parents

The Class of 2018 reports to 5th battalion. photo by David Hall
The Class of 2018 reports to 5th battalion.
photo by David Hall

Welcome to The Citadel parent family!
I am sure Matriculation Day was a mixed bag of emotions for you. The Citadel Family Association volunteers do a terrific job of helping ease what is usually a very stressful day for families. The real tough time for parents begins today.

I am not a graduate of The Citadel so I cannot speak to the cadet experience, but I can relate to how a parent feels when they send their student off to knob year. If you are a parent of a knob, please join the Facebook group I moderate, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2018. I will not accept requests to join from extended family members or friends. It is very time consuming volunteer work to keep the parent groups going. I cannot extend an invitation to extra people. Please send me an email before you request to join to verify you are the parent of a knob send me their name and company. My email can be found in the “About Dorie” section of this blog site.

5th Battalion photo by David Hall
5th Battalion
photo by David Hall

This first week without contact from your knob is tough. Each year parents find some measure of comfort by visiting the various school Facebook groups to find photos and videos of the week. I’ll post a few links to helpful Facebook groups at the end of this entry.

A note about Facebook and social media this first year. Facebook groups can be a great way to connect with other parents. It can also cause trouble among parents and cadets when too much is shared to a group wall, or when parents think they should know everything that is going on every minute of every day.

Please limit your posts to general questions. If you have specific questions pertaining to your cadet you send private messages to a trusted friend or CFA volunteer. Do not post specifics about your knob or any cadet to a Facebook group or page.

Know that the groups were established to answer general questions, not to give a full accounting of everything a cadet will do each day. The Citadel is a leadership school. The knobs will learn to take control of their process and learn to navigate the 4th Class System. You can be an encouraging presence. You cannot do this for them.

Related to Facebook is the tagging of your knob in photos. It is best not to tag photos you see on public sites. When you tag your knob the photo is then visible to their friends and family and they begin to post comments. The comments will be visible to the public. Most knobs want to keep a low profile. If you see a photo of your knob, download it and repost to your own page for your family and friends to see.

If at any time you have a concern, I encourage you to address the appropriate department on campus. If the question pertains to something in the company or barracks contact the TAC officer for the company or battalion. A confidential resource on campus is the ombudsperson’s office. They will take your calls or emails an answer your questions confidentially. You can find their contact information and other resources on the web page named H.E.L.P.

On Monday night the school will have a live stream presentation of the Oath Ceremony. You can find the details linked to the home page of the school web site or click here.

Starting this week and throughout the year you can see the schedule for the Corps of Cadets on the Office of the Commandant page. Once on the page click on Operations and Training, then Training Schedules , then look for the week you are interested in reading about. The schedule for this first week is titled, “August 16 – 24, 2014 (Company rotation schedule).” You will see the knobs are kept VERY busy in meetings all week.

Great Facebook pages to follow this year include:

The Citadel

Citadel Photography

The Citadel Bookstore

The Citadel Alumni Association

The Citadel Sports

The Citadel – Department of Cadet Activities

Navigating The Citadel Website

A beautiful Fall day at The Citadel
A beautiful Fall day at The Citadel

This blog began in the Fall of 2011. My oldest son graduated from The Citadel in May of 2011. After chairing the Georgia Citadel Parents Group for three years as well as serving as the Area Rep coordinator for the Citadel Family Association for a couple of years, I accumulated quite a bit of helpful information for parents. A blog seemed like a great place to post this information so any searching for Citadel related topics could find the information. The initial information was taken form the document I used to share with Georgia parents which is also on the CFA website under CFA Benefits titled “Survival Tips.”

After I posted the initial information I did not visit the blog site for about six months. When I did check on the stats for the site, it turned out some days the blog had over 300 hits. Then emails began coming in from parents of incoming cadets. That is when I posted a Facebook group for Parents of the Class of 2016. There is now a group for Parents of the Class of 2017.

The intent of these groups is to help families prepare for knob year and teach them how to find information on the school website. Ideally, after knob year, each parent will learn the ins and outs of the cadet year. After knob year the groups for parents become a place for the parents to post photos, and share stories.

As with many sites that post information, some readers would rather request the answers from a fellow parent instead of learning how to find the answers. The groups are manned by parents of graduates. It is important to note these parents volunteer their time. All of the parents of graduates had to learn about the 4th class system on their own. There were no Facebook groups in 2007 and most of 2008. The goal of these groups is to teach new parents how to find information on their own so they will no longer need help from the volunteers.

The first tip for new parents is this, The Citadel is a military college. The cadets are to learn to handle their own affairs. Parents are needed for support, but should not try to “fix” any problems.

Parents should encourage the cadet to seek solutions on their own. If a problem arises a knob should use their chain of command to find answers. If it is an academic problem, speaking to their professor, then the academic support office is what they should be encouraged to do.

If it is a matter a cadet does not want to share with their chain of command several resources on campus exist and can be found on the H.E.L.P. web page.

The second big tip for new parents is to use the search window on the citadel.edu web site. Just about everything you need to know as a parent can be found in this way. I will list the top web pages parents should read below.

Remember, the links may change from year to year. If you enter the name of what you are looking for into the search window on the main web site you should find the current link.

You can also go to the webpage the school put together called simply, Parents.

A-Z Sitemap – Use this link to see an alphabetical listing of various departments on campus.

Annual Events page – includes information for the big weekends including Matriculation Day

Cadet Activities – This office handles the details for the knob’s trip tot he beach, Ring Ceremony schedule, Cookies for knobs program, Host families.

Citadel Family Association – A volunteer group of parents that help with Matriuclaiton Day. They also have company and area reps as well as the Nice to Have List for knobs

Information Technology – this page includes computer recommendations and IT support information

New Cadet Information – Part of the Academic Affairs page – lists helpful informaitn for new cadets and includes links for Parents

Office of the Commandant – a great page to book mark.

Parade schedule is listed under the Visitor tab on the home page

People Search – Enter the name of your cadet, faculty or staff member to see their contact information, including their campus mailing address.

Success Packet – Includes the items each incoming knob must ring with them on Matriculation Day.

You can also use the search window on this blog to find information I’ve posted on a variety of subjects, including what moms should wear for the Ring Ceremony.

Cadets during an October parade at The Citadel
Cadets during an October parade at The Citadel