The Citadel Ya-Yas become Military Moms

The Citadel Ya-Yas in March of 2010. Photo by Stanley Leary.

A year ago Monday, I wrote about the friends I made through the Citadel Family Association, The Citadel Ya Yas. We are a geographically diverse group of moms who met through our volunteer work and our mutual interest in supporting our children while they attended The Citadel. This group of friends continues to be a strong source of friendship, support and comfort. Between us we have children in the private sector, graduate school, and a few branches of the military. We are in touch through Facebook, email, and phone calls when really important events pop up.

The summer my son attended Leader Development & Assessment Course (LDAC), I found a another group of friends. Most of us have never met, or even spoken on the phone.  We are family members of the cadets who went through LDAC the summer of 2010. We met via the LDAC 2010 Facebook group.  We formed our own Facebook group and now support each other as our children become officers and go through the various stages of training and active duty.

ABOLC graduation. Dorie Griggs, 2LT Nelson Lalli, Chelle Leary, Taylor Lalli. Photo by Stanley Leary.

LDAC also maintains an excellent blog, Operation Warrior Forge, where they post photos and stories about the cadets at LDAC. I was able to watch the graduation in real-time via their live stream, WarriorForgeLive. The LDAC 2012 group should be up later this spring.

I am now on the steep learning curve now being the mom of a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. I’ve learned about Fort Benning, the Armor Basic Officer Leader Course (ABOLC), the Armor Branch traditions, Airborne School, Ranger school, Reconnaissance Surveillance Leader Course (RSLC), and am now learning about Fort Stewart and the 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. Each one of these groups has a Facebook page or group as well. I wrote blog entries about our experience at the Armor BOLC graduation and included links to the sites where I learned about their traditions. I also wrote about the Airborne School first jump and graduation.

Airborne School graduation, November 2011. Photo by Stanley Leary.

When my son went to Airborne school, I corresponded with other family members through the  US Army Airborne School, Fort Benning Facebook group. Some of us met at the Fryar Drop Zone or at graduation. We shared photos from the jumps we attended and even checked on each others’ soldiers. A few of us are now Facebook friends. The experience last fall helped me see the bond the families of active duty military members share.

I am finding that as the mother of a single soldier some information is harder to track down. The Family Readiness Groups seem to be geared more toward the married soldiers who have spouses with them on base to attend meetings and events. At least, this is my experience with a soldier who is not deployed. I was visiting the Fort Stewart site recently and saw a post about their redesign. I plan on sending in a few suggestions.

One of the stated goals of their new design from the feedback page: “We are aiming to be a model example for all other military websites to be based upon.” If you are the family member of a single soldier and have ideas to share, scroll to the bottom of this page and send in your suggestion.

Advertisements

The Citadel Trained Me as Well as My Son

Dorie's son, Nelson (center), poses with other ROTC cadets from his Regiment during the summer LDAC.

The cadets at The Citadel form a tight bond. And as I mentioned in the earlier blog How The Citadel Ya-Ya’s Came to Be, I found a group of good friends as well. Now that I’m making the mental transition from being the mom of a cadet to being the mom of an Army 2LT in less than five months, I’ve learned the network of mom’s only increases.

This past summer my son attended the Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. About 6,400 Army ROTC cadets from around the country passed through LDAC last summer. LDAC is a 29 day leadership test. The ROTC cadets are graded on a series of challenges. That grade is added to the grade they receive from the ROTC program at their school.

Ultimately these scores and their grade point average and a few other factors will determine where they will be assigned within the Army after graduation.

The Public Affairs Office (PAO) there kept up a blog and a Facebook page to keep the parents, wives, husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends informed. They’d post updates on the schedule, information on how to send mail, photos from the various challenges and also provided live streaming of the graduation ceremony. This was my first introduction to the wider dimensions of being an Army family.

Cadets from 5th Regiment at their graduation ceremony. Photo by Jesse Beals.

I combed the blog and Facebook site daily looking for a photo of our cadet. For 29 days I had no sign of him. Then the day after graduation, they posted a photo of  the cadets marching to graduation. There he was on the far right in front carrying the Platoon Guidon!

I was introduced to parents across the country through the Facebook site. We had our own discussion group on the Facebook page for parents of cadets.  There were also discussion groups for spouses and girlfriends. It did appear the wives, moms and girlfriends were the most active on the discussion boards. An occasional dad would chime in. I also learned the Army is active in social media and several discussion boards are available.

The experience helped me see that the training my son received at The Citadel prepared him for the challenge of LDAC.  What I also realized is that The Citadel experience prepared me well to send him off to this challenge. It never occurred to me to be concerned whether he passed the PT test, as so many other parents on the boards were. The Citadel has a very rigorous program and physical training is one of my son’s real strengths.

The group photo is of 5th Regiment Platoon A posted by the PAO of LDAC at Joint Base Lewis McChord.

Many of the posts were of family members upset that they couldn’t talk to their cadet for most of the 29 day experience. The cadets’ phones are locked up the first few days and returned later. I had already gone through that communication shut down during the first week of my son’s first year and then again the year my son tried out for the Summerall Guards.

I don’t for one second equate what I went through as a parent supporting my son at The Citadel with the challenges of an Army ROTC cadet. And it is absolutely not in the same category as that of the parent of a deployed soldier.  However, I do see that being the parent of a Citadel cadet is great training for the tougher challenges of being the mom of a young Army officer.

Boy, did I need that training.  I had no idea at that time how useful all of those experiences would be later on for understanding, accepting and supporting a young Army officer. I am now very grateful to have been a distant companion to our son on the road less traveled.

Helpful links:

Leader Development and Assessment Course

Operation WarriorForge

Army Social Media Handbook 2011

Army Social Networks

How The Citadel “Ya-Yas” Came to Be

Visiting with the cadets from 1st Battalion on Matriculation Day. Dorie Griggs second from the left.

By Dorie Griggs

Parents of cadets at The Citadel are a special group of people. They help each other through the uncertainties of knob year and become friends for life.

The Atlanta Citadel Club had a “Mom’s Club” for years. The Mom’s Club was started by the wife of an alumnus who was also the mom of a cadet. The group acts like a support network for Georgia families. At the end of my son’s knob year, an email went out asking for volunteers to help since the current coordinator had a graduating senior. I volunteered assuming I would help an upperclassmen’s parent. As it turned out, two of us volunteered and we both had rising sophomore cadets.

With one year of experience as Citadel parents under our belt, we headed up the group. Our first official decision was to call ourselves the Georgia Citadel Parents Group to make sure the dad’s felt included.

Citadel Family Association volunteers help the arriving cadets and their families unload the cars.

Each spring, we set up two parent orientation days in June and attend the pre-knob dinner hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club for the incoming first year cadets. At the orientation meetings, we review The Citadel’s list of items the cadets are required to bring.  We also go over the “Nice to Have List” the Citadel Family Association (CFA) has on its web site.  The new parents have a chance to ask questions and the parents of upper class cadets have the opportunity to share their tips on surviving the first year.

There are so many things to learn that having a group of parents who have been through it really helps the new parents. In addition to what items to pack, there are new terms to learn, traditions to understand and some cadets are on military contracts, which adds a whole different perspective to the regular college experience.

CFA volunteers visiting with parents as they wait for their cadets.

Getting a cadet ready to report is really a team effort, but as a leadership school, once the cadets arrive at the school the parent involvement really drops off. The cadets begin to take charge of their own experience and are responsible for letting their parents know what they may need. Generally speaking this involves support, reassurance, reminders of why they are there and some money in their Bulldog account every now and then. 

In addition to volunteering with the Georgia parents, I also became active in The Citadel Family Association.  The CFA volunteers are a big part of Matriculation Day, the day when first year cadets report.  The CFA volunteers wear blue shirts that day.  They are there to help the new parents navigate the stressful morning when you drop off your son or daughter.  As the new families arrive, the CFA volunteers help unload vehicles and support the parents as they wait for their cadet to go into the barracks to report for the first time. 

The families and volunteers carry everything into the barracks.

Many volunteers can be seen giving hugs and offering a tissue or two.  Dropping a child off for college is difficult, leaving them at a military college is a notch or two above difficult. The training I received in seminary in chaplaincy work came in handy when listening to stressed parents.

The morning ends with the president addresses the new parents followed by a barbecue lunch for the parents and CFA volunteers.
 
The best thing about my son’s sophomore year was the friendships I formed with other parent volunteers. We had a particularly close group of friends who met and worked together that year. We are spread across the country. Our cadets often times didn’t know each other, but that doesn’t matter. We became very close out of our shared love for our cadets.

We call ourselves The Citadel Ya-Yas. (I’m sure I’ll write more about this group of friends later.) We met while supporting each other through the leadership training our sons and daughters went through at The Citadel.  We now support each other as our children graduate, are commissioned and go on to jobs or training in the U.S. Military.  A few of the graduates are now deployed.

A few of The Citadel “Ya Ya’s” (plus a son of a Ya Ya) gather for a reunion and to show off our new shirts thanks to Kaye (Not pictured) March 2010.

Our children decided to take the road less traveled and attend The Citadel.  We supported our children and each other along the way and found lifelong friends in the process.

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

 

 

%d bloggers like this: