Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel

The cadet leaders of The Citadel at a the Corps Day parade.

The Citadel is a “Leadership College.” I wasn’t sure what that meant until well into my son’s first year.  I went to a liberal arts university and the whole military college experience was foreign to me.  As I mentioned in my first entry, The Making of a Military Mom, when I don’t understand something I read about it and learn as much as I can to help take away the mystery so it ideally becomes less scary.

Senior Cadet Nelson Lalli leads the Bravo Company cadre into the barracks to meet the new cadet recruits.

During his first year, if I dared to question why something was done a certain way my son would reply, “Everything has a reason,” then he’d rattle off a list of things they do and the reason behind it.  Many of the tasks are designed to help them with skills they will need later in their careers. Memorizing certain facts and being able to report them at a moments notice in a military situation can be very important.

Between reading and talking with the parent volunteers with the Citadel Family Association, I started to gain insights into the leadership training model used at The Military College of South Carolina.

Another helpful experience was attending the Ethics Seminar my son attended Sunday mornings instead of chapel.  All first year cadets, or knobs as they are called, attended a religious service of their choice or they could attend the Ethics Seminar.  Our family belongs to a Presbyterian Church, and I am a seminary graduate. My son decided that first year at The Citadel that the Ethics Seminar was his choice.

On Parent’s Weekend that first year, when everyone was attending chapel or religious services with their son/daughter, I attended the Ethics Seminar with my son.  A retired Marine officer led the discussion that morning.  They discussed events of the past week. The cadets were asked to give examples of a situation with an upper class cadet officer and why they thought it was a good or poor example of leadership.  I was impressed with the level of thoughtful discussion and engagement the cadets had in the discussion.

Bravo Company cadre and the new cadet recruits march to their first meal in the Mess Hall.

When second semester started I began to learn about the cadet leadership model and how they go about becoming cadet officers.  The book “Sword Drill” by David Epps was very helpful for me understanding the thought process a cadet goes through when challenging themselves to reach for a position in the chain of command.

A real understanding hit me at the end of that first year.  My daughter and I went for a weekend visit.  We took my son and a friend out for brunch.  Toward the end of the meal my son and his friend began to discuss their week ahead.  They talked about the rank board meeting, the meeting where they are asked why they want to be a certain rank, their schedules, and how they had to proceed.  As I listened to their conversation it hit me.  These two college freshman were discussing their schedules like two young business men.  They weren’t talking about parties, or what class they would skip, but rather when the review board was rumored to be and what they had to do to prepare.

In the years after that first year, I’ve observed each new class go through the process of growing up and taking responsibility for their path at The Citadel. Not everyone wants to rise through the ranks. Some are senior privates.

The cadet leadership of Bravo Company signing up a new cadet on Matriculation Day.

Most cadets, even the ones who do not have rank, take on some type of leadership role during their time as cadets. They may be athletes,  involved with an academic or professional society, participate in an ROTC activity or other campus activites.

The graduates of The Citadel leave the school prepared to take on life’s challenges. As stated on the Leadership & Ethics section of their web site, “Graduates of The Citadel succeed because they know what it takes to meet a challenge in any field: “patience and persistence, discipline and determination, teamwork and hard work.”

Dorie Griggs has contributed previous blog entries about her journey as the mother of a Citadel cadet. You can read her previous submissions:

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

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