Citadel Mom Cycle Completed – A Blue Star Mom Emerges

The Bravo Company sophomore clerks stand behind the first sergeant, a junior, as a knob checks in on Matriculation Day 2010.

It’s been a month since we were in Charleston for our son’s commissioning service, the Long Gray Line graduation parade, and then graduation. Since that event filled weekend, there have been many new experiences. The most significant for me: passing along my contact lists and notes from the past three years as the coordinator of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group.

The new coordinator is Lynda Goodfellow. Her son, Niles, is a rising sophomore. Lynda will do a terrific job making sure the new families are informed of the new life their child is entering.

Passing along the information is a mixed bag of emotions for me. I know the friendships I have formed the past four years will continue, but I’ll miss the regular contact with the school, the families and regular visits to Charleston to take part in the various big weekends. The role of coordinator and also, for the past 2 years, Area Rep coordinator for the Citadel Family Association felt more like a calling to me.

I have a master of divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. During my time there, I took a number of classes in pastoral care and clinical pastoral education, which is the training you go through to be a chaplain. In many ways, I used what I learned in seminary to be a supportive caring presence to the families I came into contact with the past several years.

Writing for the Off the Base blog has helped me ease into the eventual graduation of my son and his move into his new role as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. By writing down what I’ve learned, I hope to help future classes of Citadel cadets and their parents navigate the fourth class system.

Dorie and Nelson pose in front of Murray Barracks after the Class of 2011 receive their rings. Photo by Stanley Leary.

By the number of hits the most recent entry, A Letter to The Citadel Class of 2015, is receiving, I can tell the preparation for Matriculation Day has begun. The official information for the Class of 2015 has not been posted yet, but that doesn’t keep incoming cadets and their families from searching for all the advance information they can find. The Success Packet from 2014 can be found online, but will be revised for 2015.

All academic institutions have their cycles. For military schools in particular, the cycles are very predictable. Beginning in late April and going through July, families begin the preparation process of sending their student off to become a cadet.

Some parents begin to do their own research. Since my name remained on the Citadel Family Association web site as a contact, I have received emails and phone calls for the parents doing the early research. I’m sure the new contacts in each position are now getting the early inquiries too.

In the next few months the Class of 2015 will be (or SHOULD BE) running, doing push ups and sit ups in preparation for Matriculation Day in August.

The rising 3rd Class cadets, or sophomores, are looking forward to not being a knob. Some are preparing for their new role as part of the cadet command system, attending various military camps, and in general enjoying their summer.

The rising 2nd class cadets have similar outlook, but they know they will have even more privileges and will have more responsibility in the cadet command. The juniors who have set their sights on becoming a Bond Volunteer Aspirant and eventually a member of the Summerall Guard silent drill platoon, are spending their summer working out (or SHOULD BE) to prepare for the tough year ahead. These cadets have a tough road ahead of them.  They will hold rank which is like having a full-time job outside of their class work, and they are treated like knobs by the current Summerall Guards.

The rising 1st Class cadets spend their summers looking forward to the day in the fall when they receive their rings, one of the best days in the life of a cadet. If they are on an Army ROTC scholarship, many will attend the Leader Development Assessment Course (LDAC) held each year at Joint Base Lewis McCord. There are other training courses and events for all the branches of the military. The cadets who are not entering the military begin to see their time as a student is coming to an end and begin to focus their energy and thoughts to what they will do in the “real” world after graduation.

Each step of this process means the cadets and their parents and guardians are learning their new and changing roles. It’s a time of life when our role as parents shift a bit. We are about to watch our children launch from adolescence into full adulthood. Some will make that transition completely for others it will be more gradual.

The Griggs/Leary Family attend the annual “Roswell Remembers Memorial Day” celebration. Dorie, left, with daughter, Chelle. Photo by Stanley Leary.

In the past month, my son attended at least three weddings of his classmates with more on the horizon. Some former classmates are still hunting for jobs. Most are beginning to realize they spent four years looking forward to graduation and now they miss their classmates and the life they complained about for those four years.

My son reported to Ft. Benning May 30, Memorial Day. He is living in an apartment complex in Columbus, Georgia where at least 20 other classmates from The Citadel are also living. Each young man is serving in the Infantry or Armor branch of the Army.

We spent our Memorial Day morning at a large ceremony in our hometown. I met several other Blue Star Mothers that day. When the national anthem was played, we all stood with our hands over our hearts and tears in our eyes. I’ve attended this ceremony before and didn’t feel as connected to it as I do now.

The cycle continues. As the cadets and their parents prepare for the next school year, I’m moving on from my role as a support person to Citadel parents, to a student of how to be a supportive parent to an officer in the U.S. Army. I know this next role will last a lot longer than the previous one.

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The Citadel: Unofficial Tips for Families of Incoming Knobs

As we get closer to my son’s graduation in May, I’ve been reflecting on all the things I’ve learned about The Citadel and being a supportive parent to a cadet in this leadership school.  I thought I’d share a few of my insights in the hope that a parent just starting their journey will find these insights helpful.

Matriculation Day morning, families wait by their cadets boxes as the cadets check-in.

If you don’t have a Facebook page, get one. Once you are set up, join the group for your cadets battalion. You can find it by searching “Citadel (enter 1st – 5th) Battalion Parents Group.” Also, join the page for “The Citadel External Affairs” for regular campus updates and photos.

The best gift you can give your cadet is to learn as much as you can about the school and the process so you can be an encouraging presence to them. Reading the various sections of the school website is a great start.

Remember, once they are on campus as a first year cadet, or knob, they are not in control of their time.  YOU have to defer to THEIR instructions about when and where to meet and what they want to do.

First year cadets wait to be processed in by Bravo Company.

The best gift you can give your cadet before they report is to help them purchase all the items they will need as listed in the Success Packet and Nice to Have lists. The lists are updated each year around May/June.  Make sure you have the most up-to-date information. Differ to your cadet on what items they want on the “Nice to Have” list. This may be the hardest lesson for the parents. You must begin to allow your child to make their own decisions.

Encourage your cadet to be fully prepared to report by doing physical training daily before Matriculation Day. If they can meet or exceed the physical training requirements prior to Matriculation Day, they will be better off. Each year they post a Physical Fitness Information packet.  Read it thoroughly.

Read the Parent Tips for unofficial advice on preparing to report to Matriculation Day.

Make sure the black leather oxfords, military boots, and athletic shoes are fully broken in prior to Matriculation Day.

Buy thick white socks and black socks. Don’t spend much on the sheets for their bed.

You do not have to mark their clothes/belongings before they arrive. They will learn the system to mark their things after they report.

The initial check-in desk at 1st Battalion.

The best way to learn about the school is read through the website. If you ever have a question about he school and the process, you can always contact the Ombudsperson’s office for a confidential conversation. The Cadet Activities office is very helpful for information about special weekends.

Do not send large boxes of goodies. You can order free boxes from usps.gov – #01096L will fit into their mail box and is the size of a book when they put it in their “Knobbie bag,” a brief case like book bag.

The A-Z search and the Search window on the main website are terrific tools.

Become familiar with ALL the information on the Office of the Commandant website page. The yearly planning calendar, training schedules, regulations, and a flow chart of the promotions process can be found here.

The big weekends for visits during the year are Parents Weekend, Homecoming, Corps Day Weekend and Graduation Weekend.  You can learn about the history of each on the web site. Learn the traditions of the school: Alma Mater, Cadet Prayer, Citadel Code, Knob Knowledge, The Ring.

Do not listen to rumors and hearsay.  If your cadet does not have first hand knowledge of a situation, do not become worried about a story.  If at any time you are concerned about a story, call the Ombudsperson’s office for clarification.

After checking in with their company, first year cadet recruits pick up their new, “Knobbie” clothes, as modeled by the cadet in navy blue.

Learn how to read the training schedule and you won’t need to ask as many scheduling questions.

Have your own copy of The Guidon.  It will help you learn about what your cadet is going through. You can download it from the website or purchase a copy at the campus bookstore.

The book “In the Company of Men” by Nancy Mace gives you a terrific overview of knob year and the terms you’ll hear from your cadet.

Don’t be in a rush when you visit.  The knobs are not in control of their time.  Bring a book and just be happy to see them when they can meet you.

The Citadel Family Association (CFA) volunteers are fellow parents.  Email or call them for support as you learn the system.  They are all parents of cadets who have gone through what you are going through.  They can help you understand the system. Each Company/Battalion and Area of the country has a volunteer you can contact.

The CFA web site is a great resource especially the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

See the links below for other entires by Dorie Griggs:

The Making of a Military MomMom Readies for Son’s Military College

The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering ParentsHow The Citadel “Ya-Yas” Came to BeLearning Leadership and Ethics at The CitadelThe Citadel Trained Me as Well as My Son

The Citadel: BVA’s and  Summerall Guards

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Care Packages for Cadets: The Citadel Heroes Project

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