A Few Tips for Parents of the Class of 2017


Caitlyn Lees, 2012 grad, sits at he sign in table with a cadet on Matriculation Day.
Caitlyn Lees, 2012 grad, sits at he sign in table with a cadet on Matriculation Day.

Congratulations!  The journey has started.

The Citadel is definitely different from other non-military colleges. There are a  few tips for new parents to help your cadet recruit, or knob, and you this next year.

Two Citadel Family Association volunteers at 1st Battalion.
Two Citadel Family Association volunteers at 1st Battalion.

The Citadel is a Leadership school. That means now that your knob has reported it is up to them to navigate the system. parents should not call the school and make requests like special leave, talk to their professors like you did with high school teachers. Being a “Helicopter Parent” will not help your knob.

Knobs line up in 3rd battalion to get their pT clothes.
Knobs line up in 3rd battalion to get their pT clothes.

The school does a great job of posting updates to various social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, and YouTube. They will also post photos you can browse through and purchase. The goal of every knob is to be invisible, or a “Ghost knob.” If you see your knob in a photo of the site, share it on your own Facebook page but Do Not post any comments to the page. Set all your privacy settings to Friends only. That includes your photos too.

If you have friends who are the parents of upperclass cadets don’t post questions specific to their walls. Send a private message instead.

Email the Citadel Family Association Company and/or the Battalion rep for you knobs company or battalion. They can be a great resource for traditions specific to your knobs company.

Do Not have your knob as your profile pic or cover photo.

You will not hear from your knob until next week. When you talk to them do remind them this is a military COLLEGE. If they don’t pass their classes they won’t stay in school, no matter how shiny their shoes and brass looks. Knobs tend to try to do everything and skip sleep. That is not a sustainable plan. School work must be a priority. Sleep is necessary. Fit the polishing in where they can. Budget 20 – 30 minutes a night. Your role as parents should be to encourage them to get these priorities straight right away. The knob has to be the one to implement the plan.

The sooner a knob learns to pull together with their classmates the better.

Charlie Company knobs report.
Charlie Company knobs report.

Do not listen to rumors. Go to a primary source for clarification. If it didn’t happen to your cadet or to you don’t repeat a story you’ve heard. I covered some of this advice in a previous post about the Rumor Mill after rumors began to fly last fall.

Learn the school website. I’ve added the most frequently accessed pages to an entry called Helpful Web Links. Bookmark the entry for future use.

Do send encouraging letters and small boxes of goodies.

The Cadet Activities website is a great resource and they will post photos too.

Use your time this week learning how to read the training schedules. If you’d like to see the training modules they will be shown check out the Training page on the Office of the Commandant page under Operations and Training.

Join the Facebook groups for parents, but do not post to the ones with cadets in them. The group for 2017 parents only has new parents and a few parents of graduates who volunteer their time to answer questions. To join the group email me and let me know your knobs name and company. My email address is in the About section of the group page. See the entry on Facebook groups or direct links to other groups.

The Commandant of Cadets, Col. Mercado oversees the morning activities.
The Commandant of Cadets, Col. Mercado oversees the morning activities.

To tide you over as you wait to see more photos from the school See these albums of photos I took this weekend.

Saturday photos

Sunday Chapel

Sunday after chapel

Make plans to attend Parents Weekend. Hotels book quickly. See this entry for information of Parents Weekend.


A few other photos from Sunday Morning.


Personal attentionKnobs line up


The Hospitality Committee

Matriculation Day: The Hardest Part for Parents is Letting Go

Matriculation Day check inWe are approaching the annual rite of passage at The Citadel known as Matriculation Day, the day the first year cadets, or knobs as they are called, report for their Challenge Week, formerly called Hell Week.

To help families prepare for this day the alumni groups in several area host send off events. In Georgia there is a parent orientation meeting. I started a group for new parents only on Facebook called The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2017 to help parents prepare their knob to report while also helping them learn to let go of the day-to-day aspects of their child’s experiences.

The hardest part of the experience for parents is letting go. The knobs have a tough time, but they are busy learning the system and going to classes. It is tough and they manage it well. The parents, on the other hand, tend to have a very tough time the first few months. They worry about their child, mainly because the system is so foreign to them and therefore, it is scary.

The Facebook group for new parents is there to assure parents that they, and their child, will get through this. Each year over 700 knobs report to the school. 2,000+ members of the Corps of Cadets are on campus each year. The parents of graduates in the Facebook group act as coaches for the new parents. We try to give them the tools they will need to support their cadet’s process instead of intervening.

The cadre march the Class of 2016 to their first lunch in the mess hall.
The cadre march the Class of 2016 to their first lunch in the mess hall.

Parents, you are sending your child to a military COLLEGE, not to war. I know the difference now since my son just returned from Afghanistan. My early worries seem silly now. Allowing your knob to take control of their experience and work out their problems is the best gift you can give them.

I do understand the anxiety though. I was in your shoes in 2007. At that time there were no Facebook groups. The Atlanta Citadel Club does have a send off event and the parent orientation was very helpful. I resourced with a local mom of a cadet and also the Citadel Family Association chair couple at the time. In 2007 knobs were not allowed to have cell phones first semester, so we didn’t get a call at the end of the first week. If we were lucky we received a quick email.

In 2011 I was asked to contribute to a blog called Off the Base , my son’s senior year. The blog is the project of Bobbie O’Brien of WUSF in Tampa, Florida. She thought my voice as the mom of an Army ROTC cadet soon to be officer would be helpful to her readers. I hesitated to write about The Citadel because I really couldn’t speak to the cadet experience. My son was the one who attended, not me. In the end I agreed. The entries trace my experience from a mom who couldn’t understand why in the world my son would want this type of experience, to a mom who knows it is not the experience I could have gone through, but The Citadel was exactly where my son needed to be.

Because of my blog contributions to Off the Base, and my own blog, some parents get the impression I never had doubts about the process. To these parents I suggest reading the first few entries from Off the Base. I assure you I was extremely anxious about the whole experience. The first entry, The Making of a Military Mom and the second, Mom Readies for Son’s Military College trace my early journey. The following entries, The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents and Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel, describe in part the transformation I went through as I saw the changes in my son from a young high school student to a responsible adult.

The Cadre lead the Class of 2016 from the mess hall to their first meeting. The first week this process is repeated over and again.
The Cadre lead the Class of 2016 from the mess hall to their first meeting. The first week this process is repeated over and again.

The best gift a parent can give their knob is helping them prepare for Matriculation Day, then let go. Let your knob be the one to reach out to you. They have no control over their time so if you call and they don’t answer the phone, know that is completely normal. Send them encouraging cards and messages. When they do call, be supportive. Remind them of the strength they have within them to tackle their challenges. If they have a problem with a classmate don’t try to fix it for them, but remind them there is a chain of command and a protocol to go through to address concerns.

You can use the time to learn more about the school and the 4th Class system when your knob cannot call or email you. The Citadel external affairs office does a great job of posting photos and updates to the web site and also to their Facebook page for new parents to try to get a glimpse of their knob. Read through the Office of the Commandant page and all the links to learn about the school and the process your cadet is going through. This knowledge is not to intervene, but to see how they are trained.

As a parent it is tough to resist the urge to fix things for our children. Come April and Recognition Day, the knobs, and their parents, will see they have made it through to be full members of the Corps of Cadets and you will each feel a sense of accomplishment and pride of what you have come through.

The Class of 2016 lines up to enter the chapel the Sunday morning of Matriculation Day weekend, 2012.
The Class of 2016 lines up to enter the chapel the Sunday morning of Matriculation Day weekend, 2012.

The Citadel: Parents Weekend Notes For Parents of the Class of 2014 and 2017

The Class of 2011 wait to receive their rings. photo by Stanley Leary
The Class of 2011 wait to receive their rings.
photo by Stanley Leary

This is the time of the summer when I begin to get private messages from parents with cadets at The Citadel. The new parents have questions about getting ready for Matriculation Day, the day the new cadets report. The parents of rising seniors are preparing for Parents Weekend, which is also referred to as Ring Weekend, the day the qualified seniors receive their class ring.

Looking back on the four years my son was a cadet I can understand why there are so many questions about these two events. The school does a great job of posting helpful information, but there are times when a mother just wants to get the opinion of someone who has gone through the experience. Right now the Facebook group for 2017 parents is growing daily with new parents. It is a great place to ask questions of parents of graduates and to meet other new parents.

My mantra with all parents is to remember there is no one right way to do things at The Citadel. Each cadet will have their own goals and possess their own gifts and talents. A general rule of thumb is to talk to your cadet about their preferences before you resource with others. That is especially true about preparing for knob year.

If you wonder whether to purchase a certain item, ask your cadet if they want it first. A recent thread on a Facebook group grew to over 30 comments when a parent asked about bringing printers. Ultimately it is a personal preference. If you ask five different people their opinion, you will hear five different answers.

My son invited a good friend to join us as we went through the ring. photo by Stanley Leary
My son invited a good friend to join us as we went through the ring.
photo by Stanley Leary

Most of the questions from parents of seniors this summer deal with what a mom should wear to the Ring Ceremony Friday night. Some traditional rules about attire for Ring Weekend are now more flexible in practice. Traditionally in any social context you dress for the occasion based on the uniform of the day. For seniors this means their full dress grey uniform, their most formal. They wear this uniform to receive their rings and to walk through the Ring during the ceremony Friday night. SO to follow the traditional rules of etiquette, the mom and or date should wear a formal outfit.

That said you will see all types of outfits on the attendees at both events. Our family opted to wear nice “Sunday” attire Friday afternoon. For the Friday night Ring Ceremony I wore a formal gown. My 11-year-old daughter wore a nice dress and my husband was in a suit and tie. Scroll to the bottom of this entry to see a variety of dresses we saw in 2010.

The Cadet Activities office handles the schedule for the weekend, including the schedule of when each company goes through the Ring. Be sure to check their website and the school website for the schedule. When your cadet’s company goes through the ring will dictate when you plan to have dinner that night. Many companies, or groups of friends, get together for a group dinner that evening. Not everyone does, however. Another example of when you need to coordinate with your cadet. Moms, as you are selecting shoes to wear be aware that you may have to wait in a long line to walk through the ring. It is really an opportunity to have your photo taken as you walk through the giant replica of the ring. After you walk through the ring you can go to the Ring Hop, or take a carriage ride through the campus.

Bravo Company Class of 2014 prepare to receive their company letter. October 4 this year they will wear the ring. photo by Stanley Leary
Bravo Company Class of 2014 prepare to receive their company letter. October 4 this year they will wear the ring.
photo by Stanley Leary

For the first year knobs, Friday afternoon and evening is a time to relax with their family and friends. Knobs and their families do not attend the Ring Hop Friday night. I was told by a TAC officer in 1st battalion that they prefer the knobs to get out of the barracks and off campus while the seniors are receiving their rings. The school will publish a schedule which will include an academic open house Friday afternoon and usually an update from the president. Knobs will have to have their rooms in order for the early morning open barracks, so they try to get back to the barracks before the Midnight curfew.

Saturday morning the barracks will be open to guests. They usually have coffee and donuts in Mark Clark Hall along with an opportunity to purchase photos and other items from various vendors. At about 10:00 each company conducts their promotion ceremony for knobs. They are promoted from cadet recruits to cadet privates at the ceremony. The parade follows the ceremony and is before lunchtime. After the parade families get together for lunch with their cadets either in the mess hall or they bring a picnic or purchase a boxed lunch through the school.

The cadets have to march to the football game together. They also have to sit together in the stands. It is fun to go to the game, then see the Summerall Guards perform at half-time. Many families enjoy tailgate parties outside the stadium before, during, and after the game.

I’ll include links here to previous posts about the weekend.

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Special Weekends: Parents Weekend, Homecoming, Corps Day, Recognition Day

The Citadel: Parents Weekend and Ring Weekend Tips

Senior Parent notes

The Citadel: Parents/Ring Weekend 2012 + Hotel Info

A few photos from Friday night and Saturday follow:

Bravo Company Cadre and knobs do a set of push ups at the end of the ceremony. photo by Stanley Leary
Bravo Company Cadre and knobs do a set of push ups at the end of the ceremony.
photo by Stanley Leary
Bravo cadet officers lead the push ups for the CLass of 2014 promotion ceremony. photo by Stanley Leary
Bravo cadet officers lead the push ups for the CLass of 2014 promotion ceremony.
photo by Stanley Leary


You will see all types of outfits on the moms during the Ring Ceremony. These are a few examples. photo by Stanley Leary
You will see all types of outfits on the moms during the Ring Ceremony. These are a few examples.
photo by Stanley Leary
You will also see other family members in addition to Moms going through with their cadet. photo by Stanley Leary
You will also see other family members in addition to Moms going through with their cadet.
photo by Stanley Leary
photo by Stanley Leary
photo by Stanley Leary


photo by Stanley Leary
photo by Stanley Leary
photo by Stanley Leary
photo by Stanley Leary


Our family outside 1st Battalion after the ring presentation.
Our family outside 1st Battalion after the ring presentation.







Reflecting on the Long Gray Line


The Long Gray Line, 2011 photo by Stanley Leary

Time flies by. Two years ago I was gearing up for graduation weekend at The Citadel. My graduate is now a first lieutenant in the US Army and on his first deployment.

Two years ago I had no idea I would still be in regular contact with parents of current cadets. Once I posted the information for Citadel Parents to this blog I thought that would be it. Parents could find the information and I would move on to other activities. I was wrong.

What I didn’t expect were the emails and phone calls from Citadel parents. By the spring of 2012 I found it was easier to answer the questions of new parents by posting a Facebook group for parents of the class of 2016. A few friends who are now parents of graduates joined the page too. The group grew. It now boosts over 300 members. A group for the class of 2017 parents is now up and running.

Once your cadet gets through the first year at The Citadel you can volunteer with the Citadel Family Association. It is a great way to help other new families learn the ins and outs of having a cadet at The Military College of South Carolina. It is also a terrific way to make friends. This blog is just one way to learn about The Citadel experience. Any number of parents of current cadets can help answer questions as well. The Citadel Family Association is a great place to find supportive parents.

Next week I will travel to Charleston to be with a few of my Citadel Ya Ya sisters, and visit with a number of families with graduating cadets. In a way I feel like a distant aunt to some of these cadets. Little did I know in 2007 when my son matriculated I would become good friends with the parents of his fellow cadets. And I never would have guessed that I would reunite with an old high school friend from New Jersey.

One day four years ago I received an email asking if I was the same Dorie Griggs who went to Sparta High school. The note was from Gwen, a friend with whom I spent many a weekend with in high school. Who would have guessed that thirty years after leaving high school in New Jersey we would be reunited in South Carolina at The Citadel. Her oldest son is now a graduating senior and will begin his training in the US Army and Gwen will be a Blue Star mother.

Next week I will enjoy being a spectator at the annual rite of passage from cadet to graduate during the Long Gray Line parade. I’ll spend time catching up with good friends and meeting some of the parents I only know through Facebook.

The cycle begins again in June as the Atlanta Citadel Club hosts the annual cadet send off dinner for the incoming Class of 2017.

The Citadel: A note to Parents of the Class of 2013

Seniors in the Class of 2008 march in the Long Grey Line.
Seniors in the Class of 2008 march in the Long Grey Line.

Sunday, January 6, 2013, cadets from The Citadel return back to campus for the Spring semester. For the Class of 2013 it marks the beginning of their last semester as cadets.

I’ve watched the last several years as the seniors anticipate being part of the long grey line of graduates in May. They look forward to their time to break free of the rigors of the military college and begin their life as graduates who wear the ring. Sometime during graduation week it really begins to hit them. They have worked hard for four years to earn the right to wear the band of gold, walk the long grey line and receive their diploma.  What dawns on them graduation week is that while they are moving forward with their new life, they are leaving some of the best years of their life behind. They have become family to their classmates and will now spread across the globe to begin the next stage of their life.

I’ve heard it said among alumni and I have seen it with the cadets the past few years. They spend four years trying to graduate and the rest of their lives trying to get back.

For the parents of the Class of 2013 I have a few tips for this semester and beyond. . . .

Remember tickets to graduation are limited to 8 per cadet. they can request additional, but it isn’t guaranteed. The Cadet Activities office handles all tickets. Your cadet can network with their friends to see if they have tickets to spare.

Enjoy the next four months. Realize your cadet has made it this far in a very tough program because you gave them the tools necessary to succeed. It is a great accomplishment for the whole family.

Spring semester flies by. Visit when you can. Take photos.

Plan ahead for graduation. Make reservations for lodging and meals.

If your cadet will commission with a branch of the service begin now to learn what that will mean for your cadet. The required uniform is expensive. Rituals like the first salute from an NCO also includes handing them a silver dollar. Join the Military Parents of The Citadel Facebook group. The group includes current and former members of the military who are also parents of cadets are graduates as well as parents who learn from each other as they pass through the various training then deployment stages.

Make plans to see the friends YOU have made the past four years. The Facebook groups are great, but be sure to get email and mailing addresses.

Consider purchasing a frame for their diploma from the gift shop. They seem expensive, but custom framing is more expensive.

If your cadet is a member of the Summerall Guards consider purchasing a few items now to give as gifts later.

The Lifetime Membership to the Citadel Alumni Association is a great lifelong gift. Other alumni gifts can be found on the CAA website.

Moms, if you want a “mom’s ring” you may need to let your husband know. Some cadets purchase them for their mothers, but many never think about it. Your husband and your cadet could work together to get one for you.

Your senior is a young adult. They will make mistakes. Hopefully they will learn from their mistakes. Be there to listen when they want to talk, but try to move from a supervisory role to interested observer/consultant. It is time for them to strike out on their own. This transition can be as difficult and even more difficult for the parents than the cadets.

For everyone in the classes of 2014 – 2016, your time is coming soon. Bookmark this entry for future years.

A Note For Parents of 2014 BVA’s:

Be prepared for a tough few months. Your cadet is about to begin their most physically challenging time at The Citadel. I am also told by graduates that they look back on their time as BVA’s as some of the best times they had at The Citadel. They just don’t have extra time to call or keep in touch. Join the Facebook pages for the Summerall Guard Foundation and The Summerall Guards once your cadet makes it. Summerall Guards wearables can be purchased through their website. BVA pants and shirts too.


Previous Posts about Graduation week:

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Grey Line

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual

Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet

The Citadel: Preparing for Knob Year, Class of 2016

A member of the Class of 2015 reports on Matriculation Day 2011.

It’s hard to believe it is time for the next class of cadets to prepare for their Matriculation Day. Last year at this time I began to post advice for the Class of 2015. The nice thing about a military school is the same routines are in place each year with minor changes.  The advice in the post The Citadel: Unofficial Tips for Families of Knobs is still valid. A Letter to the Class of 2015 contains words of wisdom for incoming cadets of any future class and their parents too. Be sure to read these two entries and the links in them for information on reporting. Also review each link on the Citadel Parent Info page on this blog.

Visit the Matriculation Headquarters page. The required items to bring can be found in the Success Packet listed under Important Documents and Links.

To make it easier to find helpful information for new cadets and their parents I updated my blog with a Citadel Parents Info section.  The information listed is a result of 4 years of volunteering with the Georgia Citadel Parents Group and The Citadel Family Association. I’ve updated the information and added links as I learned new information or when the schools main website updates their information.

With the help of my husband, photographer, Stanley Leary, I put together a slide show of Matriculation Day photos. The key for parents to remember about The Citadel is it is a leadership school. That means your high school graduate is treated as the adult they are. You raised them and now they must learn to handle their own affairs.  Before Matriculation Day it is fine to help them get ready for school by making sure they have the necessary items, but they must take the responsibility for getting ready physically and mentally for the challenge ahead.  That includes being able to meet the minimum physical training requirements prior to Matriculation Day. Military scholarship ROTC cadets should meet the highest requirements. The ROTC pages for each branch of the service will give you more details on the specifics of their training.  The staff and websites for The Citadel Army ROTC , Navy ROTC, and Air Force ROTC are very helpful if you have questions as your student prepares to report.

Citadel Family Association, “Blue Shirt” volunteers wait with parents of the Class of 2015.

The top advice after physical training is to break in the black leather Oxford shoes. The incoming cadet should wear them each day for a few months prior to reporting.

To get a head start on learning the various aspects of being a knob the new cadet recruit should review The Guidon. Parents should read through it to become familiar with the terms used on the campus as well as the various traditions. The Guidon is published each year. The 2011-2012 edition is available in pdf format on the schools web site. Once additional tip for new families, when you have a questions about the school, most of the questions can be answered by reading the web site.

Tips on what to purchase can be found in the Getting Ready for Matriculation Day advice section of this blog.  The school updates the Success packet each spring. Make sure you read the Success Packet thoroughly as it includes action items for your cadet and for you as well as the list of what your cadet Must Bring. The Matriculation Day Headquarters link is usually posted to the main page and also to the Admissions office page in the main website. The Citadel Family Association posts a Nice to Have List on their website. While most items on the list are a good idea to pack, be sure to ask your cadet what they want from the list. Remember you can help them get ready, but once they report you need to defer to your cadet. Each company and each battalion have their own traditions. Your cadet will learn what these traditions entail.

You can resource with other parents, but remember each cadet has their own experience.

Facebook groups for parents are listed by Battalion and by Company on the Helpful Web links page. Just remember the other parents are happy to help, but it is best to ask an individual about specific questions regarding your cadet rather than posting it to an open forum.  You can find parent volunteers by region of the country on the Area Rep section of The Citadel Family Association website.

Your cadet will find out his/her company on Matriculation Day when you arrive on campus. Once you know the company and battalion you can always contact the parent volunteer listed in the Co. Rep section of the website.

As I mentioned earlier whenever possible encourage your cadet to work out their own problems using the cadet chain of command. They can always seek the help of the Ombudsperson on campus who is a confidential resource for cadets, faculty, staff, and parents too.

The Bravo Company cadre lead the new knobs of the Class of 2015 to lunch on Matriculation Day 2011. (Note the crew length socks)

More Tips for The Citadel Class of 2016