Since 2010 when my son was cadet at The Citadel I’ve contributed to a blog, first it was the military blog, Off the Base, then I posted my own blog on WordPress, Dorie Griggs. This effort led to beginning Facebook groups for parents of new cadets. There are now groups for the parents of cadets, some grads, in the classes of 2016 – 2021 as well as the group, Military Parents of The Citadel, for parents of cadets and grads on military contracts.
I could not have predicted in 2010 that the blog would still be active, or that I’d still be involved with a school my son graduated from in 2011. As I outlined in the blog post, The Story of my Untraditional Calling, this effort has evolved from a call I have felt to be a supportive presence to people.
Together the groups I started and/or moderate include just under 2,500 members. It is a rewarding experience to help ease the anxiety of new parents. It is also a very time consuming venture. Between moderating the Facebook groups to answering private messages on an average day I interact with between 10 – 30 people daily about something cadet related. This has all been done on my own time at my own expense.
A few very thoughtful and supportive parents in the past couple of years have sent monetary gifts to help me make occasional trips to Charleston to attend events. Some have offered their homes so I don’t incur hotel charges. I am so grateful for their support.
I’ve now moved my blog to this platform to make it possible to add affiliate links and to encourage contributions to my effort to support parents. These links will make it possible for me to derive a small bit of income while providing helpful information to parents. Using the links will help me to continue to help parents and does not cost the user any additional money.
This is a big step for me and uncharted territory. With our own daughter graduating high school in May and heading off to college, I need to find ways to help pay tuition.
As always I welcome your feed back. Thank you for visiting.
Every once in a while our children will do something and we are brought back in time to when we were their age. This week that happened to me.
My youngest, Chelle, is in a literature class in high school. They are reading The Great Gatsby. This week for extra credit they could dress as a character from the book. Chelle wanted to dress as a flapper. I told her where two of my dresses were hanging in storage that she could try on. One of the two dresses was made by my mother for me when I was her age.
I took dance classes growing up and by high school I had put together a “Charleston” routine and performed it at the end of summer variety show at our swim club. My mother took an old slip of hers, and added fringe to make a flapper style dress. I wore that dress again in the Sparta High School senior variety show in the Spring of 1977.
Two nights ago Chelle put on the dress my mother made for me in 1976. My husband took a photo. As I was telling her about the dress I remembered I was in the local Sussex County newspaper wearing the same dress. I found the clipping in an old scrap book. That is when the memories really started flooding in.
In the newspaper photo above, to my right is my good friend Michelle “Chelle” Chaudoin. My friend Chelle was in an in air place collision of two small planes while she was a student at Arizona State University. She died May 4, 1980 just three years after the photo was taken. I was with her parents and grandparents the night they received word that, in fact, it was Chelle in the plane that went down into a lake that day. I’ve written about Chelle Chaudoin and a neat reunion at The Citadel a few years ago.
I sent both photos to my friend Chelle’s mom, Jodie, who is a widow now and in her 90’s. We had a wonderful exchange of memories and both agreed that my daughter, Chelle, is far more sophisticated than either my friend or I was at her age.
My mother died just over 27 years ago and never met any of my children. Moments like the one this week, seeing my daughter in a costume my mother made for me, reminds me that through our memories our loved ones are never far from us.
In just a few short weeks scores of families will head to Charleston and the campus of The Citadel for Parents’ Weekend. The class of 2016 will receive their rings (THE Ring) Friday afternoon and the Class of 2019 will go through a promotion ceremony Saturday morning. They will move from being cadet recruits to cadet privates. While it is a fun weekend for all classes the focus is really on the seniors and freshman, or knobs as they are called. I am very excited to attend the events this year at the invitation of a few friends.
Friday, October 9: (Note: Parking begins to fill up before noon on Friday. Allow extra time to walk to your destination on campus if you arrive closer or after noon.)
10:30 am – Report to Parents by the President and Senior Staff: If you are in town early and can attend, these talks are always informative.
12:55 pm – The seniors process from 2nd battalion to McAlister Field house as the knobs cheer them on. If you are on campus, this is a fun tradition to watch. The knobs in the class of 2019 line both sides of the street and cheer on the seniors as they process by. It is a great time to take photos and video.
For families of seniors: Families of the seniors really should be seated inside before the processional. If you really want to see them march in and you have a large party have someone save your seat, or designate one person to take photos. We had our seats staked out on the middle aisle part way up the stands my son’s senior year. My husband is a photographer and found this was the best place to get photos of the ring being presented. The seniors are divided in two groups by company then in alpha order. Be sure to ask your cadet which side their company will be on to make it easier for you to spot them when they are seated. Each company invites a special person to their class to give them their rings. It can be a former cadet officer TAC officer, alumnus or other person special to the class. Ask your cadet who they selected. The school will have a video of the presentation after the ceremony. See this link for a video from a previous year.
After the presentation ceremony is over the seniors run out of the field house, across the parade field to the chapel. This began after the presentation was moved to the field house. cadets used to receive their rings in the chapel years ago. The past several years the seniors began to run to the chapel and knock on the memorial plaques and chapel door with their ring. They then run to their company letter. Junior cadets form an arch that the senior run through, grab a glass of sparkling cider then throw the glass at the company letter. If you position yourself at the sallyport with a view of the company letter you can see this ritual play out. I wrote about my son’s senior year here.
The seniors will spend a little time inside the company then will join you outside the barracks for photos and to show off their ring. Have your camera ready! The seniors smile more this weekend than they have for the previous three years.
The Summerall Guards have a practice Friday afternoon. Others will have free time before the ring ceremony Friday night. (See this video from 1991 to see the tradition hasn’t changed much over the years.)
For families of knobs: If you can get to campus to see the march into the field house it will give you a glimpse into the pride the seniors feel. The knobs will cheer on the seniors and then will be able to leave campus fairly soon after the seniors go into the field house. As with everything else this first year the knobs are not in control of their time. Let them know when you will get to campus and ask them where they want to meet you. Be aware that some families will not be able to visit their son or daughter this weekend. If you can, invite your knob’s friends without family in town to join you. You will have the entire afternoon and evening together. Ask your son or daughter when they wan to return. Many go back a little early to get their rooms ready for open barracks in the morning.
1:00 – 3:30 pm – Information reception Various vendors and cadet clubs have display tables set up in Mark Clark Hall. Bring cash and your check book. In the past, some vendors have not taken credit cards. If you see something you want get it this weekend. There is no guarantee they will have it at a later big weekend.
6:00 pm – Ring Ceremony and Family Photos The evening begins with the Junior Sword Arch (JSA) opening the event by performing their silent drill. You are not required to be there for this, but it is a very neat performance to watch. Some families/groups who go through the ring later in the evening opt to go out to dinner rather than watch the JSA. Each company and group of cadets are given the time to go through the ring.
Traditionally the cadet escorts their mother through the ring. Over time this tradition has broadened to other significant people to the cadet. It is also traditional for the women to wear a formal dress since the cadets are in their most formal uniform. You will see cocktail length or evening slacks suits on some in attendance, but the majority still wear formal dresses. A video of the presentation from a previous year.
Gentleman going through the ring wear either a dark suit or a tuxedo. If the men are not walking through the ring they dress for the dinner plans the family has that evening. The cadet and whomever they escort are to be on line at least 15 minutes before their scheduled time. Be sure you wear comfortable shoes if you are walking through the ring as you may be waiting a while to walk through. The rest of the party not going through the ring go to the stands to sit and wait for them to walk through.
A note about dinner. Since the companies go through at different times each family/or group of families will decide when they need to have dinner. Reservations are important since it is a Friday night and a big weekend in Charleston. As a side note, many seniors reserve Friday night for family then will go out with their classmates Saturday night. Of course that too varies with each cadet/family.
Saturday, October 10:
8:00 am Buyer Auditorium, Mark Clark Hall – Coffee and juice is available for parents. Vendors of various types including the photographer who takes the company photos are available.
Parents of Regimental Band Company guests may enter Padgett-Thomas barracks at 8:00. Band company has other duties this morning.
8:30 – 10:15 Open Barracks Families and their guests can visit their cadet in their room. Some parents use this time to bring food items to their cadets. For many it is the first time to see the barracks room fully made up and inspection ready. The knobs have spent a lot of time on the company banner. Be sure to make a special note of the banner. There are various bulletin boards that are painted by the cadets in each company.
8:45- 9:15 am Kelly Cup Competition The Kelly Cup is a competition between squads made up of knobs from each company. The final four squads compete Saturday morning for the Kelly Cup. Your son or daughter will have told you if they are participating. If they are not you have more time to spend with them before their promotion ceremony.
9:30 – 10:00 Regimental Band and Pipes Concert Held on the parade field this is a nice concert to attend while the knobs prepare for their promotion ceremony.
10:10 – 10:20 am Fourth Class Promotion Ceremonies A very moving ceremony for the knobs and their families. The knobs are lined up in front of the company letter. Family and friends can watch from around the group. The company commander and the company 1st Sgt present the knobs with their company letter. Afterward they do push ups together. This ceremony marks the end of the cadre period.
Once the ceremony is over the cadets get ready for the parade and families move to the parade field to wait for the parade to start.
Each year various groups of parents use this time to meet somewhere on the parade field to say hello to friends they have made through the various Facebook groups. This year I’ll be watching the promotion ceremony for Bravo Company then will be by the jet, “Annette” outside of 1st battalion.
11:00 – 11:45 am Review Dress Parade and Awards. Get your spot on the parade field or in the stands for the parade. Some people bring their own folding chairs and place them along the ropes before the parade to save a place. You’ll soon learn the best viewing spot for the company you want to see. It is nice to watch from the stands, but we enjoyed watching first battalion some on to the field from in front of Mark Clark Hall for some parades.
12:00 – 12:45 pm Lunch You have several option for lunch as outlined in the printed schedule. I think every family should eat in the mess hall at least once during the four years at the school. You’ll need to have reservations for the mess hall or a boxed lunch. Many families pack a picnic lunch, or bring food for their cadet then tailgate for their lunch. You will not be able to take your cadet off campus for lunch. The Citadel Alumni Association has a great BBQ lunch in the Holliday Alumni Center from 12 – 2:00 for $12 per person. It is good food and served int eh nice air conditioned room on the first floor. This is where I usually eat before the game.
2:00 Football Game The cadets march to the stadium from the barracks as fans line the street. The Summerall Guards perform at halftime. The cadets have to stay together in the stands during the game. The knobs will be able to get something to eat and drink at half time. Many families go ahead before half time and get them something to eat and drink and have it waiting for the knobs. If you haven’t already you can get tickets to the game through the ticket office. You can also buy tickets the day of the game.
Many families tailgate before and after the game. The families of knobs usually try to leave campus as soon as the football game is over and the knobs are released to leave. This first year knobs usually want to sleep, eat and sleep some more when they get off campus.
I spent this past year as a chaplain resident at the Atlanta VA Medical Center in their clinical pastoral education (CPE) program. CPE is training for chaplaincy or pastoral care. The program is tough by design. You are forced to look at your own issues so you can fully be present for others in their time of stress.
This past week was Challenge Week at The Citadel. The first year cadets, or knobs as they are referred to went through an intense period of training. The upperclass cadets charged with their training are called cadre. For the past week the cadre have taught them about the military system. The knobs are marched to and from a series of meetings. It is a tough week. Last night the knobs were given their phones back. From what I am hearing from their parents, they have had a mixed bag of experiences.
The conversations with the parents of knobs this morning made me remember my first time preaching at the Sunday nondenominational chapel service at the VA. The text for that Sunday included Psalm 13, “How Long, O LORD.”
As I field questions and comments from the parents of the knobs I found myself visiting the text of Psalm 13 and reflecting on how appropriate it is for knob year. (If you are interested you can listen to my sermon from last year here.)
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me Forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
Each of us has our own story of feeling isolated and alone. The feeling that everyone, even God has abandoned us. Some days it feels like everything is against us and everyone else is enjoying success. The key is in verse 2, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” In just about every situation our thoughts are what we wrestle with, more than the actual situation. This is especially the case with knobs. They may internalize what their cadre is saying.
The beginning of my residency I had so many doubts about my abilities that I was my own worse enemy. It was only after I realized that fact that my entire experience changed to a positive one. I had been so caught up with what other people said or thought, I forgot to own my strengths. I’ve learned knobs go through a similar experience, each on their own time frame.
From what I’ve seen at The Citadel the knobs that come in with their eyes wide open to the process, the ones who attended the pre-knob overnight visit and attended CSI, have a realistic view of the process. The ones who enter knowing it is a game and do not internalize what is being yelled at them seem to adjust the best. It is a thinking game. The knobs who maintain their sense of humor and do not internalize negative comments fair the best. For some it takes a while to adjust.
The ones with a sense of humor and a good outlook will hear the yelling but not take it to heart. One cadet friend said he used to stare at a spot on the wall and when the cadre yelled he’d pretend he was in a Peanuts comic and hear, “Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah “Shine your shoes” Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah.” I am told there is usually a nugget of information the knob needs to listen for like, shine your shoes, polish your brass, etc.
The parents of the knobs need to remember that for their son or daughter Challenge Week is the toughest experience most of them have ever been through. When the knob calls home they need someone to vent their emotions to, someone who won’t yell at them. Listen and encourage this first year. If you are ever concerned about your cadet you can contact the staff peoplelisted on this page.
Knob year, and the following three years, are a rollercoaster for the cadets. As I wrote earlier, parents should not get on that rollercoaster with their cadet. Yes, it is hard to hear your child struggle, but if it was their decision to go to The Citadel you need to remind them that they knew what they were signing up for. Remind them of the inner strength they have to get through this experience. Help them draw on their faith system, whatever that may be to get through the tough times.
The whole year isn’t like the first week. Once classes start and the extra activities they will have opportunities to socialize and have fun. There are faith groups on campus, club sports, and special interest groups. They will each eventually find their niche.
Parents need to keep the larger picture in view for them. Help them break it down to small goals. Get to Friday, enjoy the weekend, get to the next Friday, etc. Hold on until Parents Weekend. After that, Thanksgiving is around the corner. Winter furlough comes quickly after Thanksgiving.
It won’t be long until they will be preparing for their sophomore year and telling stories about their knob year experiences.
Various offices and groups on the campus of The Citadel have their own Facebook pages and/or groups. These pages and groups can provide a link for parents to keep up with what is happening on campus. The following list includes official school groups and pages, but also groups and pages started by cadets, parents and alumni.
If you know of others that should be added, please let me know.
The year is flying by, at least for me. It’s hard to believe the cadets who were knobs my son’s senior year will receive their rings October 4. I envy the senior families. Ring Weekend was a highlight of our four years of visits to The Citadel.
Of course it is also a big weekend for knobs and their families. The promotion ceremony Saturday morning is a huge step in the life of a knob. They will move from being cadet recruits to full members of the Corps of Cadets, but still lowly knobs. I’ve written several entries about the weekend and will include links below.
The summer before our son started his senior year I had a lot of questions about how the transition from ROTC cadet to an active duty Army second lieutenant would happen. That summer my husband was peaking at a conference in Charleston. My daughter and I went along and I made an appointment with a Major in the Army ROTC department at The Citadel to ask a few questions. I was clear that I wasn’t there to ask about my son in particular but rather I wanted to learn what steps are involved in going from a cadet to an officer. I didn’t tell my son about the meeting either;)
The Major was very helpful. He gave me a chart. I’ll explain the system as I understand it, but I encourage you to do your own research. Just like cadet life each persons path is different.
Our son was on a 4 year Army ROTC scholarship. That meant while I was in Charleston the summer of 2010, he was in the Seattle area at Joint Base Lewis McChord going through the Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC). The chart we reviewed dealt with the LDAC process too.
The summer before senior year, for 4 year cadets, or after senior year for 3 year cadets, they attend LDAC. They enter the course with a grade from their sending school’s ROTC department. During the 29 day course they are graded on various tasks including the Army Physical Fitness Test. They accumulate points for each task. If they do really well in each task they can earn RECONDO status, which gives them an extra point. If they are the top several cadets in a platoon they earn an extra half a point. The Major said the extra point for RECONDO status can bump a cadet up on the point list over 1,000 names.
A note for parents: The Public Affairs office at Joint Base Lewis McChord does a terrific job of keeping family members posted. The cadets have to give up their cell phones a few days into their time there. You can send packages but they have to eat what ever is sent when the package is opened. They usually share with the people in their platoon. Be sure to ask your cadet to tell you their company and platoon. You can then know how to mail them letters and packages and also will know what group of photos my contain a glimpse of your cadet. The LDAC Facebook group is usually posted a month or so before the first group reports. the Warrior Forge blog has links to the Flickr photo site and other helpful information like training schedules. They broadcast the graduation online for each class. The cadets who have just graduated from their college are commissioned at the end of this graduation. The Citadel rising seniors (4 year ROTC cadets) are commissioned the day before commencement
At the end of the summer, early in the first semester, the Army looks at where they need to fill positions. The cadets have already filled out forms indicating which branch of the U.S. Army they would like to serve. Three of their choices must be combat arms related branches. At some point in the fall the assignments are given.
At the Citadel they have what is called the branch meeting. All the graduating Army ROTC contract cadets are gathered in a seminar classroom and each receives an envelope with their assigned branch. The cadet is not guaranteed a spot in their choice of branch. Our son listed Armor as his first choice and that is where he was assigned. I heard from others who were assigned branches far lower on their list.
Some cadets will know their duty station, or where they will be based after training, before graduation. Some will find out at their Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC). Each branch of the service trains at a different base. Armor and Infantry are at Ft. Benning, GA. Our son was in the Armor branch so this is where his training in the Armor BOLC took place. A quick Google search for the branch and BOLC should turn up the base website and Facebook groups they may have.
The school will post the details of the commissioning service on the main website or the page that lists the various commencement weekend events. The Army is usually the largest group to be commissioned and the service is held early Friday morning. Plan to get to the chapel an hour early for the best selection of seats for the service. Two family members can go forward during the service to pin the bars on the new officer. After the ceremony inside, the new officers go outside to the parade field to receive their first salute, usually from a friend who is a non-commissioned officer (NCO). It is customary for the new second lieutenant to give the NCO a silver dollar after the salute when they shake hands.
Report dates for each new second lieutenant will vary greatly. some may need to report right away and for others it could be months before they start their new job in the Army.