Hell Week and Knob Year Survival Tips for Parents

Knobs and cadre members outside of Jenkins Hall Sunday afternoon.

I made it to another Matriculation Day at The Citadel, my 6th, 5th as a volunteer. Like most visits to the school it was a busy weekend. My tradition is to stop by Mark Clark Hall when I arrive in Charleston. I began to meet incoming families right away. The Gift Shop tends to be a place where all the new families visit when they come to campus.

One thing I didn’t realize before going to campus was the impact posting this blog would have on a broader audience. After my son’s graduation I decided to post the basic information I gave to the Georgia families each year during our orientation for new families. What I discovered this weekend is that I should never underestimate the research prowess of anxious parents! The advice I’ve been sharing with Georgia families is now online and available for anyone who searches the web for information on The Citadel. The end result was that this past weekend people I had never met called me by name to say hello.

The whole experience was a bit surreal. I’m an extrovert so meeting all the new families was really fun, but it just felt a bit strange and rewarding to know that my little blog actually reached the intended audience and helped a few people.

Volunteering during Matriculation Day and being the administrator of the Facebook group for parents of the class of 2016 is a good distraction for me right now too. My son will be deployed sometime later this year. Helping others is a great way to forget about your own anxieties.

I purchased a “Big Red” flag for my son and had his graduation year added. The alumni like to get their photo taken with the flag where ever they are stationed. Once I had the flag, a friend of my son held it by the company letter so I could send the photo to him as well.

“Big Red” in front of the Bravo Company letter in 1st Battalion. the day before Matriculation Day.

This first week for new knobs is tough on them, but judging by the posts of new parents I know it is hard on them too. In 2011 I wrote a blog entry for the blog site Off the Base titled, The Citadel: Year One A No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents. Most of what I wrote in 2011 still applies today.

There are a few other tips I’ll pass along to the new parents about this first year:

Each Cadet is different: Remember, each knob and each cadet will have their own a unique experience. During the first year the knobs learn to work together. BUT if you are friends with the family of an upperclassman, take their advice with a grain of salt no two cadets have the same experience. Each year the cadre change the companies each have their own traditions so no two years are the same and no two cadets have identical experiences.

That goes for my suggestions as well. I don’t have all the right answers. Much of this whole process is up to the individual cadet. Each family has to make their own decisions on how to proceed with mail, visits, etc.

Learn the citadel.edu web site: I posted a page called Helpful Web Links to this blog to help make it easier to find the sites viewed most by parents. It includes links to: the photo site that is updated just about daily this week; the Office the Commandant page, where you can find the Training schedules for each and every week and the PowerPoint Presentations the cadets will sit through; and many others. The A-Z  Site map and the regular search window on the upper right side of the home page are great tools to find the information you are looking for about the school.

Regarding Facebook: I know you miss your child. I was one of the parents trolling the photo website during Hell Week hoping for a glimpse of my knob too. Now that Facebook is such a big part of the social media scene, new parents should use restraint when posting to public sites like The Citadel External Affairs page and other Citadel related Facebook groups. They post great photos and information. You should join the page and keep an eye on it, but if you see your knob, don’t post comments. A knob wants to fly under the radar. If a parent starts gushing about their child on the public page it invites unwanted attention to the knob. The cadets and alumni are also part of the public pages. When you see a photo you like download it and repost it to your own Facebook page so your friends can see the photo and comment. Do join the page just for 2016 parents, Only new parents and a few parents of graduates are on the page.

Facebook friends from the Class of 2016 meet in person in Mark Clark Hall.

Questions/Concerns: Email and call your CFA company or battalion rep. If you are part of the Facebook group for new parents you can private message one of the parents of a graduate on the site. If it is a questions about policy of the school, call the Ombudsperson’s office they are available 24/7. They are a great first stop and will keep your call confidential if you’d like.

Phone calls/Email/Texts: The knobs will get their phones and computer access early next week. It can vary by company when they get the privileges back so don’t panic if you hear someone has heard from their cadet and you haven’t. They will not be able to answer the phone/email or text at will. If they do call and the call drops suddenly it is not a bad connection, don’t call them back. It most likely means a member of the cadre walked in the room and they had to hang up. Keep your calls encouraging. You may end up being the one person they complain to. Realize that most knobs will dump their frustrations to their family members leaving them to worry. They rarely let you know a situation has resolved. You are left to worry and they are dealing with whatever it was they complained about.

Mail/Food: They will get to go to their mail boxes when classes begin. Send positive, fun cards and letters. Small boxes of a food are always appreciated. The school has the US Postal Service send small flat rate boxes and labels to you. You can also get them for free at your local post office. TIP: The Priority Mail box #1096L is larger and still fits in their mail box. stuff it with protein snacks or whatever, THEN put it in a flat rate mailing envelope to save on postage.

Visits after Hell Week: The first time knobs can go off campus is most likely August 26. They may have up to 7 hours I say may because the leave is a privilege that can be revoked. This first day off campus is a terrific time for the knobs to bond off campus with their classmates. Most walk to town for a decent meal without the cadre present. Future weekends you can make plans to visit if that is what your family decides they want to do. As with everything else this year allow your knob to call the shots. They will let you know if a visit would help or if they want to spend time with their new classmates. You can send a gift card to the fast food places around campus, like Burger King, McDonald’s, and Hardee’s, or to the restaurants in town like Sticky Fingers, Moe’s and other casual restaurants.

Girlfriends: There is a Facebook group for girl friends of cadets. Request to join the closed group to meet other girlfriends by clicking this link. I haven’t found one for boyfriends.

Looking forward to Parents Weekend: The schedule is usually posted to the main website a few weeks prior to the weekend. It hasn’t changed much over the years, but do check it to see if they decided to change ties of the events from previous year. If you can, try to get to campus before 12 noon on Friday. The knobs have lunch with their senior mentors then they line to road in front of the barracks to cheer the graduating class as they march to the field house to receive their rings. It is fun to watch as the knobs chant the graduating class on. There is an academic open house and the knobs can usually leave with their families in the afternoon. The seniors get their rings then dash out of the field house and into their barracks to celebrate. They usually want the knobs to be out of the barracks before the seniors come in.

My son stares at a knob during the promotion ceremony.
photo by Stanley Leary


The knobs of the Class of 2011 line the street to cheer on the seniors.

The Friday of Parents Weekend is HUGE deal for the seniors. They have waited three years to earn the right to wear THE ring. They receive them Friday afternoon and Friday night is the Ring presentation and Ring Hop. Knobs don’t attend the dance, but if you are on campus in the evening it is fun to see everyone dressed up. It is something to do sophomore and junior year when your cadet might be out with their buddies. My daughter and I picked up some ice cream and sat near the field house watching the mother’s and girlfriends walk by in their beautiful gowns.

Ring ceremony, 2010.
photo by Stanley Leary.

See the few photo albums I have from my weekend at The Citadel here:

Photos of Friday afternoon and evening

Matriculation Day photos

Sunday Chapel and around campus

A Few Notes for the Class of 2016 Before Matriculation Day

Bravo knobs line up in 1st Battalion ready to report to the First Sergeant.
2010 photo

In just a few days The Citadel Class of 2016 Cadet Recruits will report for Matriculation Day. These first year students are called Cadet Recruits until they go through the promotion ceremony the Saturday morning of Parent’s Weekend.

Right now the cadet recruits around the country are beginning to focus on what is in front of them. From all reports it is the most challenging year of their young lives. I am told by graduates that is is also one of the most rewarding years.

I thought I’d write a few last minute tips for anyone reading this who may not have followed my other posts.

For the Cadet Recruits:

1) Set your Facebook privacy settings as high as you can, including all photos. The cadre are at the school now and already have your names. You don’t need to hand them material about you because your Facebook page is open for all to see. This is good advice for anyone, BTW.

2) Be sure you have printed out and completed the FERPA form and bring it with you. Remember your wallet and ID.

3) It’s too late now to start your physical training if you haven’t already. Know that you will do lots of push ups, sit ups and run every day.

4) You won’t find your company until Matriculation morning. After that your friends and family can get your address through the People Search window on the main school site.

5) Hopefully you’ve started to memorize the Guidon, the small book you were sent. If not be prepared to start memorizing.

6) Set small goals for yourself, like just get to the weekend, then get to Parent’s Weekend, Thanksgiving then Christmas.

Bravo Company cadre prepare to meet the Cadet Recruits.

For the parents:

1) Learn the school web site . I’ll post some links you’ll want to know about right away, like the Operations and Training Schedule page and the photos page. When you can’t hear form them the first 7 – 10 days you can learn about what they are doing and look for their photo.

2) Join the Facebook group for your cadet recruits company and battalion. There is also a page for 2016 parents. The only members are new parents and a few parents of graduates. The Citadel Family Association volunteers are a great help as well.

3) Watch the school web site and The Citadel External Affairs Facebook page for updated information on the big weekends and events. The  Cadet Activities page and Facebook group are also good sources of information and photos.

4) Remember this is a Leadership School. Once you leave campus your cadet recruit is expected to take responsibility for their success and failures. That includes their grades and classes.

5) If they call home discouraged build them up. Remind them to use the cadet chain of command if they have issues. If at anytime you have concerns and want to speak to someone on campus confidentially, call the Ombudspersons office.

6) You can usually find links for the information you are looking for by using the search window on the school site or on this blog. On Facebook groups go to the upper right hand side of he group page and click on the magnifying glass icon. Enter the search term and relevant posts will appear. Bookmark this Helpful Web Links post to refer back to through out the year..

7) If you and your cadet recruit are on campus Friday afternoon stop by Mark Clark Hall, fist floor reception room, between 3:00 – 5:00. A group of new parents and CFA volunteers will be in the first floor reception room to just visit and meet each other.

8) At 6:00 there is a BBQ for new families and old friends. You need to RSVP here.

Take a deep breath. It may be a bumpy ride, but you won’t be going through it alone. Your cadet recruit will learn to work with their classmates. You’ll learn how to find information and support from fellow parents.

Best wishes for a great knob year!

The cadre march the cadet recruits to lunch on Matriculation Day, 2010.

The Citadel: Helping Parents Cope with Matriculation Day Anxiety.

Bravo Company during the Corps Day weekend parade.

Matriculation Day at The Citadel is just over 2 weeks away. If I didn’t have a calendar I could tell you it was getting close by the search terms used to find this blog. One search in particular tugged at my heart today. One person searched for “how to cope with your son going to the citadel.” When I read search terms like that I wish I could reach out to the person to give them in the information they are searching for directly.

I would let them know they aren’t alone. So many parents feel totally alone in their feelings when sending a cadet off to The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. It IS a scary process, especially if you have no knowledge of the school or military. That is one reason I posted this blog, to help new parents navigate what seems like a totally different culture with its own language and traditions. Just look to the navigation topics to the left of this entry to find helpful links and advice.

Bravo Company knobs face the Company Commander during the promotion ceremony, 2007.

When a cadet enters The Citadel they not only will get a great college education, but they will learn to take charge of their actions. It is a leadership school. One of the hardest thing for the families to learn is that once you drop a cadet off at the school the cadet is then the one expected to handle their affairs. Of course if the family is paying the bills there are certain expectations that should be met by the cadet. The cadet does need to be the lead in all their affairs and will be the only one to be recognized for accomplishments, or their mix ups once on campus. You may find this entry and the links in it helpful: The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

Early this spring I started a Facebook group for the parents of cadets entering the Class of 2016. The group is for new parents only. I invited a few friends who are also parents of graduates as well so they can help answer the varied questions of new parents. The Files section of the page includes advice and tips for new parents. The questions asked by the new parents are ones that all of us asked when we sent our students to the school.

This type of support wasn’t available in 2007 when my son matriculated. I did find the email of the chair couple of The Citadel Family Association and sent them a note with my questions. At the annual Send Off dinner hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club I met a mom of an upperclassmen who was particularly helpful. Not every parent has that opportunity because not all areas of the country host a send off event.

It is my belief that sending a child to a military college is scary enough. When helping get your child ready to report I don’t believe you should feel isolated. I’m an Army mom now. In the Army they have Family Readiness Groups (FRG) to help family members navigate the preparations for deployment. The military has found if the family members are familiar with the deployment process they will be less anxious and more able to support their soldier. That is how I feel The Citadel Family Association and the various parent Facebook groups work as well.

Members of the Regimental Band during a parade on Corps Day Weekend.

Attending The Citadel is tough for the cadets going through the fourth class system. I don’t believe it should be as tough for the parents. I encourage all new parents to make contact with the CFA area rep and/or join the Facebook group for new parents. Once your cadet is on campus you can join the Facebook group for your Battalion and/or contact the CFA Battalion and Company representative. Some companies have Facebook groups as well. Look over the links on this entry for other Facebook groups related to the school. They are a great resource for information and support.

I do recommend that you join the groups, but only post general questions to the parent groups. Ask specific questions in private messages to a CFA rep or other  parent. If you have specific questions about policy or other official school business call the appropriate office on campus. Learn to use the search window on the schools web site to find the answers to your questions. They also have an A – Z site map. I’ve compiled a list of Helpful Web Links for frequently called departments.

Learn to read the Office of the Commandant page. The weekly training schedules are posted there. When you can’t be in touch with your cadet, you can see the overall schedule for the Corps of Cadets.

One word of caution, years ago before cell phones, email, and Skype, parents would drop their cadets off in August and not see them until parents Weekend or Thanksgiving. The cadets could only call from pay phones once a week. If you talk to an alumnus who went through during that time period, don’t expect a lot of sympathy if you complain about the lack of communication.

If you have friends with children who enlisted in the military, realize that they don’t hear from the soldier much at all during boot camp. It can be 10 weeks with only an occasional 3 – 5 minute call or regular letter. If you meet the parent of a soldier in boot camp or deployed know that they too are going through a stressful time.

We are all proud of our children. We also owe it to them to learn what we can about their process, not to intervene, but to support them.

Remember you are not alone. There are many Citadel parents who are available to answer your questions. My biggest surprise of my son’s four years at The Citadel was that I gained life long friends as well.

We call ourselves The Citadel Ya Ya’s. We had a little reunion at Vendue Rooftop in 2010.

To read more about my process of sending a cadet to The Citadel visit this blog entry:

Blog Posts about being the mom of an Army ROTC cadet at The Citadel

More Tips for The Citadel Class of 2016 and Your Parents

In the past few weeks I’ve  had the opportunity to attend a couple of events for incoming cadets of The Citadel and their parents. I remember vividly all the events leading up to our son’s Matriculation Day in 2007. I also remember how I felt at that time . . . Totally bewildered by the whole process.

Dorie and Nelson right before leaving the hotel for The Citadel. Matriculation Day, 2007. photo by Stanley Leary.

If you’ve read my blog posts before you know most of my advice for new cadets and their families can be found on the left side of this page. Today I am including a few of the top tips for both new cadets and their parents.

For the Class of 2016:

I am sure you are tired of hearing it, and you may even roll your eyes when your parents mention breaking in your shoes, but it really is the one thing you can do to make your life easier come August.

Along with breaking in your shoes be sure you are doing your physical training.

Enjoy the time you have with your family and friends. Cut your parents a break if they want you around a bit more in the next month.

Set your Facebook privacy settings really high. That is good advice for business people too.

For the Parents of the Class of 2016:

Take a deep breath. Your student has decided to attend The Citadel. It is a tough program, but if they decided to attend this school, they have it within themselves to succeed.

Our family and one friend on Parents Weekend, 2007.

Start learning to let your student make the decisions about getting ready to report. It is good training for you. Once they enter the sallyport gates of their battalion you will have to defer to them when it comes to schedules to meet, where to meet, etc.

Make your hotel reservations early.many of the hotels have filled their blocks of discounted rooms for Citadel families already. There is a PGA golf tournament on Kiawah Island the same time as Matriculation Day. I am still compiling lists of properties with available rooms. The Marriott near campus is extending a $249 rate to Citadel families who use this link. Look for hotels in Mt. Pleasant or North Charleston for better rates in general. I’ve written in a previous post about the hotels who traditionally have offered a Citadel Family rate, but most of them are nearing capacity. They may have rooms but not at a discount.

The first week or two without your cadet is the toughest. The Citadel External Affairs office and the Citadel Cadet Activities office usually post photos and other information to their Facebook pages. Be sure to “Like” them.

Senior cadet and mentor, “Mr. Mason” addresses Cadet Lalli during the promotion ceremony. Parents Weekend, 2007. photo by Stanley Leary

When you are upset that you can’t call or get an email from your cadet, remember the scores of military parents who don’t hear from their soldiers for months when they are in boot camp. The ability for knobs to have cell phones first semester is still pretty new. Don’t expect a lot of sympathy from your friends who had cadets during the no cell phone time period.

When you are on campus for Matriculation Day the parent volunteers of The Citadel Family Association are there to help. Get their business card and lean on their experience this first year. It will be your turn to help next year.

Join the Facebook group for your cadet’s Battalion and/or Company. It is a great way to learn about the various big weekends and times of year. Many parents will post photos when they are on campus for parades too.

Bravo knobs do a class set of push ups at the end of the promotion ceremony Parents Weekend, 2007. photo by Stanley Leary.

Remember The Citadel is a Leadership School. Your cadet will go through a tough process and you will be amazed at how he or she will grow as an adult in just one academic year.

To both the cadet recruits of 2016 and your parents, Hold on it’s going to be a wild ride!

4th Class Cadet Lalli joins us on the balcony of the Best Western at the end of Recognition Day. April 2008

The Citadel: Official and Unofficial Facebook Groups and Pages

UPDATED 06/17/2015

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.

Art at The Citadel

The Citadel Admissions

The Citadel Alumni Association

The Citadel Army ROTC

The Citadel Bookstore

The Citadel Brigadier Foundation, Inc.

The Citadel – Department of Cadet Activities

The Citadel 

The Citadel Football

The Citadel Foundation

The Citadel Graduate College

The Citadel Intramurals

The Citadel Lacrosse Program

The Citadel Republican Society

The Citadel School of Business Administration

The Citadel School of Engineering

The Citadel Sports

The Citadel Sports Network

The Citadel Student Government Association

The Citadel Young Alumni

Citadel Ice Hockey

Citadel Sailing

Citadel SHSS – School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Citadel Sports/Charleston Post and Courier

Citadel Strength & Conditioning

Naval ROTC Unit The Citadel

The Summerall Guard Foundation

Battalion Groups for Citadel Parents (unofficial NOT administered by the CFA)

Citadel 1st Battalion Parents Group

Citadel 2nd Battalion Parents Group

Citadel 3rd Battalion Parents Group

Citadel 4th Battalion Families (Open Group)

Citadel 4th Battalion Parents Group (Closed Group)

Citadel 5th Battalion Families

Area Groups (unofficial NOT administered by the CFA)

California Citadel Parents Group

Georgia Citadel Parents Group

MD VA DC Citadel Parents Group

NC Citadel Family Group

Citadel Fayetteville NC Group

South Carolina Citadel Parents

Texas Citadel Parents Group

NYNE PA NJ Citadel Families (NY, New England, PA, NJ)

Florida Citadel Parents Group

Company  Parent Groups (unofficial NOT administered by the CFA)

Alpha Co

Band Co

Bravo Co

Kilo Co

Lima Co (Parents and Cadets)

Other Parent Groups

Citadel Alumni Grad Dad Advice

Citadel Moms

Military Parents of The Citadel (for parents with cadets or graduates in the military)

The Citadel Parents of the Class of 2016

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2017

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2018

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2019

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