Anger Management and First Responders

My daughter and I had the opportunity to shoot the cannon at half time of a football game at The Citadel.
Anger can feel like your insides will explode.
Photo by Michael Givens

Anger management. Yes, it’s the title of a movie starring Adam Sadler and Jack Nicholson, but it is also a big problem in our society. Do a Google search for “Anger Management” and you’ll get over 262,000,000 hits. Most of these sites don’t have anything to do with the movie.

Anger is a natural emotion. It can be a healthy emotion to express. In the work environment however it is a hard emotion to process. Working in a time sensitive and at times dangerous industry only increases the likelihood of anger increasing on the job. Emergencies, equipment failures, and a variety of personalities on a scene can combine to make for one very frustrating and anger-filled environment.

Left unexpressed, anger can internalize and cause physical problems. Repressed anger can come out in passive aggressive behavior, depression, or in a negative outlook of life in general.

The key is to express anger in a constructive manner. Too many individuals channel their anger in destructive ways. When I was growing up we referred to it as the “kick the dog theory.” This theory basically said a person who gets in trouble with a boss in the work place can’t voice their anger at the boss. Instead they go home and for no reason kick the dog – definitely not the way to handle anger and frustration!

If you have an encounter in the work place and feel yourself getting angry you do have options in how you respond. We can’t always control what is happening around us, but we can control our reactions to what is happening.

Your options include learning how to express your anger in a manner that does not harm yourself or another person. These options take practice.

  • Count to ten. It sounds like a cliché, but there are studies to back this practice up. When we’re angry, we use the emotional side of our brain. This is where the “four letter words” reside. Taking a minute to count to ten before you speak will bring you back into the rational side of your brain. The counting method also gives us sometime to calm down and is a distraction from what we reacted to.
  • Sleep on it. While related to the first suggestion, this advice applies to situations when a decision is announced and your first reaction is anger. Allowing a little time between the announcement and your reaction can help by allowing all the facts to be presented. We often get angry first and discover later our fears never materialize.
  • Write out your response. Sometimes it helps to write everything down. All the things you want to say but don’t feel you can. This is the version you keep in a private place or shred later. Write down all your thoughts, including the things you’d never say out loud to someone, then move to a more rational approach. Write down why or what upset you. Then write down how you can resolve the problem (remember you can’t harm yourself or others!)
  • Exercise – We often feel an an adrenaline rush along with the feeling of anger. This is related to the fight or flight response. Taking a walk, or more strenuous exercise, can help your body process the rush you felt during the encounter,

In some cases the pattern of anger has gone on for so long, outside counseling is needed to help you live a healthier life. Your friends and family will also give you clues that you need help. Taking that first step can be scary, but well worth the rewards.

If you are a member of a faith community the clergy person may be a good resource for referrals. They can also offer practices within the framework of your faith system of how to work through anger. The American Psychological Association has a very helpful information on their web site about anger management, what it is, how to deal with it and when to seek outside help.

Additional reading:

What your Anger May be Hiding

Anger Management: Understanding Anger

Science of Anger: How Gender, Age and Personality Shape This Emotion

Naming that Awful Feeling as Grief

A view behind The Wreck in Charleston, SC. a peaceful scene in the midst of turmoil.

First responders deal with tragedies on a daily basis, and they must develop a level of emotional distance from the events to be professional. Although distance is a helpful coping mechanism in the short term, long term it can be harmful to the individual. Becoming emotionally distant from unfolding situations can cut off the grieving process.

We can grieve over any change, tragic or personal, it doesn’t just happen when someone dies. Changes in our daily routine, the loss of a friendship, the loss of what we thought was going to happen and suddenly cannot. Right now most of us are going through some sort of change to what was our “normal” way of life because of COVID-19 restrictions. We can name some of those uneasy feelings as grief.

Grief is an emotion many of us try to avoid or minimize. Grieving is not comfortable, so we try to move on quickly to more pleasant emotions. The truth is — we need to grieve as the emotion hits us. If we suppress the grief, other aspects of our lives can be affected.

Constant suppression of grief can lead to emotional distance in other relationships, physical symptoms of depression, as well as other physical ailments. Erich Fromm wrote, “To spare oneself from grief at all costs can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness.”

Certainly, a level of detachment is necessary when exposed to tragic or emotional events, but complete detachment from any pain or hurt is not desirable. It can lead to larger problems, physically and mentally. Naming the loss of activities and events as grief can help you move forward.

If you are grieving a loss of events, a person, after a tragic event:

  • Keep a personal journal of your feelings. Write about what you miss whether it is a person or event.
  • Find a friend or group of friends to talk to regularly and share your experiences.
  • Seek out a professional counselor/therapist who can help you move through the grief experience.
  • Give yourself permission to feel the emotion.
  • Consult one of the many resources available on grief.

It’s normal to be upset and feel down after a time of loss or tragedy. It can take up to five years to fully process the death of a loved one. We never “get over” the feeling of loss, but we do reach a point where the grief isn’t all consuming.

Grieving is a normal emotion. It is normal to feel lonely, cry and question the meaning of life. But, if you are experiencing lingering problems at work and/or at home, you may be experiencing depression.

Signs of depression include: a change in weight, difficulty sleeping, or a general sense of helplessness. Depression is treatable, but you must see a doctor.

During a time of loss and grief, treat yourself well. Don’t set unrealistic personal goals. Take time for yourself: Take a walk, work out, treat yourself to something that brings you joy, play a game of basketball, rent a funny movie, take a drive.

Remember, the people you care about want to help you through this time. Let them know how they can help. Above all, take care of yourself.

For further reading visit:

http://www.grief-recovery.com – A grief support blog

http://www.silentgrief.com – Support for all who have suffered miscarriage and later child loss

http://www.pet-loss.net – Support after the loss of a pet.

https://good-grief.org – Resources and programs

“On Death and Dying” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

**Part of this article originally appeared in the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association Newsletter in 2004

Disclaimer: This website is for information purposes only. By providing the information contained herein we are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before beginning any type of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.

Dealing with the Stress of COVID-19

The old dock behind the old boathouse on the campus of The Citadel, in Charleston, SC. My favorite spot on campus. I have a copy of this tranquil place by my desk.

We seem to be stuck in some strange combination of the movies Pandemic and Ground Hog Day. If you are like me, days of the week don’t mean anything any more. While I like my quiet time, I am really ready to get out and be social again.

I know quite a few people who are feeling very unsettled with what has become our new normal in the time of COVID-19 self-isolation. There are very good reasons to feel anxious and stressed right now. My friends and family in New Jersey have many friends who are very ill or who have died. Our news and social media feeds are filled with updates on confirmed cases and death tolls.

There was a time in my life where I experienced a lot of loss and change in a very short period of time. I began to show signs of heart trouble. My left arm would go numb and I had chest pains. After being thoroughly checked out by a cardiologist, the determination was I was experiencing a stress reaction to the events in my life. I began my quest to learn all I could about stress, anxiety and the affect on our bodies. If you find it hard to get out of a loop of worry and anxiety I am going to share a few coping strategies I learned that you may find helpful.

Our minds are amazing things. Our thoughts are very powerful. Have you ever had someone describe the taste of a lemon? The thought of the very sour taste of a lemon can lead you to pucker your lips. Have you noticed that after watching a commercial about a certain food or beverage you suddenly have a craving for that food or drink? You end up with a physical craving for something that started with your thoughts.

When we hold a concern or a worry in our mind we often experience a physical reaction. Unfortunately most of us do this and aren’t aware of where we are holding stress in our body. We go from one activity to another holding a worry in our mind and having a physical reaction in our body that we just ignore. For me I held a lot of stress in my gut, but also in my shoulders. To combat this stress I had to become more aware of when I felt it. Like many people, I would worry or get upset about things I had absolutely no control over. I had to slowly learn to control what I could and let go of what I couldn’t. I called this state of being stressed my “What if” side of my brain. My self dialogue would go something like this:

“What if my husband gets that job in Texas he is looking at? We would have to move. The kids would have to change schools. Will I fit in there? What if I can’t find a job?”

I would get worked up over something that may or may not happen. As it turned out my husband didn’t apply for the position. That was a lot of emotional energy spent on something that never happened. Most of our worries are that way. We get worked up over something that we have little control over.

So how to you live with ambiguity? Learn to live more in the moment and not in the “What if” side of your brain. Using a grounding exercise can help you learn how to live in the present. The following exercises help you get from the abstract “what if” the present situation using your senses to bring you into the present moment. So much of our anxiety and stress comes from how we think of something. Slowing down those abstract thoughts with concrete tactile exercises helps us realize we are actually OK.

A popular grounding exercise is the 54321 grounding exercise. You can find several methods online. The exercise involves using your 5 senses. The Mayo Clinic Health System website suggests the following method. Visit their website for additional tips:

Everyone feels anxious now and then. But there are things you can do to minimize those feelings. Mayo Clinic Health System staff suggest trying the exercise below the next time your mind is stuck on the worry setting.

Sit quietly. Look around you and notice:

  • 5 things you can see: Your hands, the sky, a plant on your colleague’s desk.
  • 4 things you can physically feel: Your feet on the ground, a ball, your friend’s hand.
  • 3 things you can hear: The wind blowing, children’s laughter, your breath.
  • 2 things you can smell: Fresh-cut grass, coffee, soap.
  • 1 thing you can taste: A mint, gum, the fresh air.

This exercise helps you shift your focus to your surroundings in the present moment and away from what is causing you to feel anxious. It can help interrupt unhealthy thought patterns.

See the blog post, “Stress Relief: The four A’s” by Alan Conway, MD for another helpful list of ideas to help you ease and reduce stress.

Most stress relief and anxiety relief methods involve being present in the moment. In moments of stress really helps me to take a quick safety inventory. I ask these questions, Am I physically safe? Am I getting the nutrition I need? Am I getting the sleep I need?If the answer is no to any of these questions, that is what needs to be addressed in the moment.

Some simple things you can do in your work space whether it is at home or at an office:

  • Keep a pretty landscape photo in your work area
  • Have a simple rhyming verse or poem nearby to read. See this link for a few options
  • If possible listen to calming music. My current favorite is Bach for the Brain!
  • Listening to the sound of water, like a fountain, river, ocean are shown to have a calming affect. If you don’t have natural water running near you, taking a shower can be helpful. To see this calming affect in action watch small children by an outdoor fountain. They are naturally drawn to them while their parents would walk right by.
  • Unless you are required to wear one, take off your watch. We often stress ourselves over the passage of time. If you want to know the time our phones, computers, and office space usually have clock functions. Glancing at your wrist every few minutes is not helpful. (I stopped wearing a watch in my early thirties.)

If sleep is hard for you, try keeping a journal. Each night before you go to bed, take out your notebook and write down everything you are thinking about. If you find you are caught in the same thought “loop” and can’t move on, write down what you are thinking about in detail. There is great relief in writing down your worries then tearing up the paper and throwing it away. If you have a safe way to do it going outside and burning the paper offers another great release. In the past I’ve had to do that a few times before my thoughts would no longer linger on a negative topic.

Physical exercise is a great release of tension. It can be as simple as talking a walk, outside if possible. Being outside in the sun is also very therapeutic. There is a very helpful organization called Yoga for First Responders. Yoga can help you physically and mentally. Practicing yoga can also help you sleep better.

Social nutrition is a term I learned from Dr. Jonathan Shay, a renown scholar and mental health practitioner. We were attending a conference and I heard him explain how one heals from a traumatic event is determined by the social nutrition a person has around them. He went on to say if a soldier has a mortar wound a big factor in healing that would is the nutrition that person takes into their body. He continued by saying when a person has a psychological wound a big factor in their healing is the social nutrition they have around them. Do they have a supportive family? A group of friend they can talk to? When we talk about our stressors it actually helps us heal the wounds, like intrusive thoughts, that we carry.

I hope you find this information helpful. If I may be of service to you or your organization by leading a workshop/didactic on stress relief, compassion fatigue, or self-care, please send an email to dorie (at) dorielgriggs (dot) com

For further study:

Basics of Compassion Fatigue – A helpful guide to teaching/learning about Compassion Fatigue. Available on the website for the Figley Institute

Gift From Within webcasts and resources on a variety of related issues.

Disclaimer: This website is for information purposes only. By providing the information contained herein we are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before beginning any type of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.

What is Traumatic Stress

Thanks to the public information campaigns of a number of organizations supporting veterans the term PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is now widely known. After almost 20 years of learning and lecturing about PTSD I have learned that while the name is well known there is still very little general understanding of the criteria a person has to meet to be given the diagnosis of PTSD.

Several years ago a chaplain friend of mine asked me to speak to the oncology department at his hospital. The topic was traumatic stress and self care. The nurses attended the didactic thinking they were there to learn how to care for their patients who may be traumatized. What my friend guessed and what I learned after this experience is that some of the nurses experience and struggle with the traumatic events they deal with in the course of their work.

What I wrongly assumed is that medical professionals would know and understand the toll their work takes on them personally, they did not. That lecture led to an invitation to another conference of medical professionals. In the three years I’ve served as a chaplain for the Roswell Fire Department I’ve had conversations about traumatic stress with our public safety employees in the fire, police and 911 dispatch areas. Many know their jobs expose them to trauma, but few know what it takes to meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis.

For a comprehensive explanation of PTSD you should read through the National Institute of Mental Health web page on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In summary there is a list of conditions that must be present to meet the criteria for a diagnosis. After experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event it is normal to feel unsettled, upset and have trouble processing the experience. If after a month or two after an event, or after responding to a number of disturbing events in the case of public safety personnel, you are struggling with symptoms that interrupt your normal ability to function, you should seek help from a professional trained to diagnose and help people who experience traumatic events.

Much has been done in this field the past 20 years. Therapies have shown to greatly reduce the symptoms of traumatic stress and allow the person with the diagnosis to function at a very high level. There is such a high success rate that professional in the field are working to change the name from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to Post Traumatic Stress Injury. The word disorder has a connotation that it is a pre-existing condition where as the word injury more correctly fits the symptoms since we now know people can recover and heal from their experiences. In a letter to the American Psychiatric Association, Drs. Frank Ochberg and Jonathan Shay outline their reasoning for the change from disorder to injury. I encourage you to go to the website, Post Traumatic Stress Injury, and read through the various links.

I do need to mention that I look to Dr. Ochberg and Dr. Shay as mentors in the field of traumatic stress. I had the opportunity to meet both in 2003 at the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies. Both are very generous with their time and knowledge and helped me learn early after I graduated from seminary about traumatic stress and related diagnosis. I have had the opportunity to attend a few other meetings over the years with both doctors, and others like Dr. Charles Figley who wrote the book on Compassion Fatique. You will note several resources on the Resources for First Responders entry are related to these three doctors.

For an easy to understand, and listen to, webcasts about PTSD and related topics, see this webpage from Gift From Within .

Resource List for First Responders

This list will be updated as I learn of other reputable resources for first responders and others interested in learning more about PTSD, traumatic stress, and related topics. Since the major research area for PTSD is the military many of the resources are under the VA, but the information is applicable to most people with a traumatic stress diagnosis.

NOTE: I receive no compensation from the following organizations. They are listed as a resource only. The information here is not meant to replace a diagnosis from a licensed mental health professional.

  • Helplines:
  • Fire/EMS Helpline: 1-888-731-3473
  • Safe Call Now: 1-206-459-3020
  • FBHA: 847-209-8208
  • COPLINE: 1-800-267-5463
  • Nat’l Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

National Center for PTSD – “The National Center for PTSD conducts research and provides education on the prevention, understanding and treatment of PTSD.”

On Facebook: National Center for PTSD – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

PTSD Decision Aid from the National Center for PTSD

VA screening tools (confidential) for PTSD, Depression, Substance Abuse, Alcohol Use

National Institute of Mental Health – Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder read the information on this link for a listing of signs and symptoms, risk factors, treatment and therapies.

Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance – Self Assessment – a self-screening for suicide ideations for firefighters/EMT

International Association of FirefightersIAFF Behavioral Health Program

Next Rung Website – “We are a nonprofit with a mission to combat mental health issues in First Responders by offering peer support and scholarships for licensed counseling.” Next Rung on Facebook

PTSD in Paramedics, EMTs, First Responders on Facebook – “You no longer have to suffer in silence, you are not alone. We are here to help.” Website: Project Hope: EMS

Compassion Fatigue: Figley Institute

Trauma support: Gift From Within – An international nonprofit organization for survivors of trauma and victimization. Gift From Within Free webcasts

Confidential online screening for mental health issues – from, The Summit Counseling Center, North Fulton County, GA

Mission FISH USA – “The Purpose of Mission FISH., FISHING, INTERACTING SHARING & HEALING  is to organize and plan fishing day trips and provide FISH therapy for PTSD and TBI for Veterans, Active duty service members, 1st responders and Gold Star families.”

Reboot Recovery – “REBOOT is different. Our courses are led by people who have been there, lived through it, learned from it, and want to help lead others out of it. We are a community of people committed to helping each other heal from the spiritual and emotional impact of daily stress and trauma. You won’t find shortcuts or easy answers but rather solutions that last. Families just like yours are experiencing healing at this very moment. Your healing can start today.”

Save a WarriorSave A Warrior has changed countless lives through our “War Detox” program, which supports the healing from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). We specialize in connecting Active Duty Military, Returning Veterans, and First Responders experiencing psychological trauma. 

Suicide prevention:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Suicide prevention workshops:

Soul Shop Movement

Armed Forces Mission – 911

Books:

Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character

Compassion Fatigue: Coping With Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder In Those Who Treat The Traumatized

Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming

Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges

Grieving in Community

The Georgia Fallen Firefighters Foundation caisson leaves Salem Baptist Church after the funeral for McDonough and Roswell Firefighter John Kevin Cash.
Photo by Stanley Leary

We recently experienced a line of duty death in our fire department. An experience unlike any I have lived through as a chaplain.

The fire department is a very close knit community often referred to as family. Not only do firefighters work together but every three days they live with their co-workers in the fire house for 24 hours. Firefighters work together, but they share meals, sleep under the same roof and share many of the same experiences.

When a member of the fire family dies the ripple effects are numerous. The spouses and partners of the firefighters may not know the deceased, but they may feel that they do through the stories they’ve heard. Older children and relatives of a firefighter may also feel the grief and uneasiness too. They fear on some level this could some day be their reality. It is a dynamic may people go through during a loss in their community circles.

In a time of grief and mourning it is important not to brush off uneasy feelings. Talk about your fallen friend. Spend time with your family and friends. Let them know how much they mean to you when you are together. Reach out to family and friends who may not be in your area. This will look different for each person. Some are great with words, others are great with acts of kindness, and still others “do” for others in small ways or participate in activities like playing a sport, hiking, fishing, hunting or other past time.

In our public safety department we have a joint peer support program. Members of public safety , police, fire and 911 communications can reach out to trained peer support team members to express their concerns and talk them through. Most public safety departments have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with trained counselors.

It is important to feel emotions when you have them instead of pushing them aside. If we suppress our feelings and emotions they can rear their head at times we least expect it.

I learned this through my own early grieving process over my high school friend. We were 20 years old when she was in an in air plane collision in her college town. I was with her parents when they received the news. I returned to my summer job at my college in another state after the funeral. No one there knew what I had been through and at first I didn’t talk about it. One night while watching a TV show with friends a character on the show died. It resonated with me and I cried for over an hour. Crying is completely normal after losing a friend, but my college friend thought my reaction was a bit extreme for TV character, which it was. After that night I began to tell my college friends what happened. I still grieved the loss of my friend, but sharing my pain with trusted friends helped to move through that awful time.

If you find you are struggling after a loss there are several places to turn. Your friends and family, a clergy person, a chaplain, a counselor, are all resources available to you.

For some it may be too big a step to contact and meet with a therapist. There are online support networks as well. Websites like Robert Neimeyer’s After Talk and the resources listed on the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation are great places to start.

Welcome to my updated site

Since 2011 I have maintained a blog. At first the entries dealt with topics of interest to parents of cadets at The Citadel, then they were my reflections as the mom of an Army officer. With this entry the focus is changing to reflections and essays of interest to first responders and others who, in the course of their work, are exposed to traumatic events.

I am entering my 4th year as the Chaplain for the Roswell (GA) Fire Department. It is a consulting position, but one I feel particularly called to. My study of traumatic stress began in the late 1990′ while I was a master of divinity student at Columbia Theological Seminary. While taking pastoral care classes learning about self-care for pastors, I realized my journalist friends could use the same advice.

My early professional career was spent in the press rooms/boxes of college sports. I worked in sports information which is the public relations office for college athletics. At the various games I’d hear stories, mainly from the photographers and videographers, about scenes they had covered before arriving to the game. Scenes that involved violence and sometimes death. A videographer for a local television station told me a stat that stayed with me. When the lists of most dangerous careers are published photographers and videographers are toward the top of the list. To do their jobs well they have to get close to the event. This fact stayed with me a propelled me on a course that gave me a purpose, supporting people who in the course of their work are exposed to traumatic experiences.

Since 2000 I have studied traumatic stress, attended several meetings of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies, and The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma where I met world renown experts in the field whom I now consider mentors and friends. You can read more about my background and training on my LinkedIn profile.

In the months and years to come I hope this site will be a source of information and support to first responders of all types. If you’d like to follow the blog, please submit your email through the link on this page. Please share any entries you find helpful.

If you began to follow my blog for information on The Citadel and you no longer want to follow the blog you can unsubscribe from the notices through the email notice you receive.

Cadet Packing List

***2/10/2019 Please note: I am no longer updating the blog posts for Citadel parents. See the official school website for the most up to date information***

Disclosure: Please note that links to merchants posted in this entry may be an affiliate link which means that I may receive a commission from any purchases made using the affiliate link. This is at no additional cost to you.

Each year the school posts a list of items that incoming cadets must bring. The list is published to the school web site and available in late May or June.

The official list for 2018 is now posted. See pages 6-7 and 13 – 16 of the Success Packet

Be sure to read all pages and links on the Matriculation Headquarters page

Always call the Commandant’s Office with questions about what to bring if it isn’t on the list: (843) 953-3020

PLEASE NOTE: In the past the Citadel Family Association posted a “Nice to Have List” there is NO list this year. The commandant’s office felt knobs reported with too many items. in the past. Just purchase what is on the Success Packet list.

Parents of incoming knobs in the Class of 2022 can join the Facebook group for 2022 parents to read other tips for new families. The group is for parents only. Extended family members can follow the public Facebook groups posted by the school.

The required items for 2018 are list below. I’ve added notes about the items in Blue. This advice is a result of talking to parents and cadets and just suggestions. You may find other brands and suppliers for the items on the list. The items listed and linked are just a suggestions.

Links are provided to items as an aid to help you see what types of items you can purchase. You can purchase these items through these underlined links or your preferred merchant.

You are sending your student to a military college with a strong leadership program. Since most students have to rely on their parents for financial support, it naturally follows that many parents are involved with the process.

When deciding what to purchase, is it best to ask your son or daughter what they want to purchase. The student is the one who will have to live with the decisions on the type items they bring. Throughout the first year the hardest thing for most parents of cadets to get used to is having their son or daughter make the decisions.

Many families find Amazon Prime for students is a great way for cadets to order what they need/want or to send items to your cadet.  Prime also gives access to streaming movies and video.

One pair of conservative style pajamas (optional) –

Most cadets sleep in their PT clothes or school sweat shirt and pants. Be sure to ask your student what they want to bring.

Here are a couple types that can be worn – there are many others:

Men’s X-Temp Short SleeveMen’s woven pajamasWomen’s shorts PJ’sWomen’s Pajama’s

Twelve white, cotton, crew-neck tee shirts

The cadets like to wear the t-shirts on the snug side so they will not bunch up under their uniform shirts. 

Men’s crew neck t-shirts

Twelve pairs of white cotton underwear – briefs, or boxer briefs (male)

Six white briefs will be folded and kept in their inspection drawer. Many cadets prefer to wear boxer briefs. The ones they wear do not have to be white but should be a solid color, like blue, it is always safe to start off with the white.

White men’s briefWhite Men’s Boxer briefs

Twelve pairs of white cotton panties (female) – NO thongs

Try to find breathable wicking fabric.

Women’s white briefs

One pair of “long johns”

These are worn with the wool uniform they will get in November.

Men’s Long UnderwearWomen’s Long Underwear

Twelve pairs of black crew length socks – cotton socks are recommended. [Experience has proven that socks made of synthetic material contribute to blistering and in some cases secondary infections.]

Technology has changed and many finding socks with wicking material help keep their feet dry. Some military and law enforcement supply stores also carry good socks. Preventing blisters is the biggest concern.

Hane’s Men’s X-Temp Comfort Cool Vent Socks;  Gold Toe Men’s Cotton Crew Athletic Socks;  Thorlo Wx Thick  Padded Walking Crew Socks

Twelve pairs of plain white cotton athletic ankle socks (Socks must be void of visible logos or color, and must cover the protruding ankle bone. Low cut quarter socks are permitted.)

Technology has improved and many cadets prefer socks with a wicking fabric to keep the feet dry and to help prevent blisters.

Hane’s Women’s Cool and Dry Ankle socksWynford Men/Women’s Athletic Socks

One bathing suit, solid black or navy blue (female: conservative one piece)

They don’t wear them often but at the end of the first week they do get to go swimming. There is a swimming test at some point as well. Many families have found suits at Target, Lands End and other retailers.

Black Men’s Swim TrunksBlack Women’s Swim Suit

One pair of shower shoes (black)

There are many options for black shower shoes. I’m listing just two here.

Men’s shower shoeWomen’s Shower shoe

Six white, cotton towels

Don’t spend too much money on the towels. Cadets are very hard on them and they may end up being used to clean too.

White Bath Towels

Six washcloths

Just like the towels don’t get expensive ones. Shop for bargain towels

White wash clothes

One standard sized pillow

A good pillow is one of the very few luxuries a first year cadet is allowed. There are many choices.

Select the one your student likes best.

Four white pillow cases

You can find them at most stores.

White Standard Pillow Cases

Four white, non-fitted sheets for a single bed

Cadets make their beds up for inspection then sleep on top of the made bed. Sheets are often used to make banners. For these reasons find the cheapest flat sheets you can find.

White flat sheets

Twelve white handkerchiefs

Get the least expensive ones you can find.

White Handkercheifs

Toilet articles

Pack their favorite toiletries, liquid body soap is a good option, shampoo, shaving kit, deodorant, etc.

A wide variety are offered on Amazon

One pair of good running shoes in a subdued color such as white, navy, or black (may have contrasting trim)

It is best to purchase the type and brand shoe that fits their foot in the least conspicuous color you can find.

Once your student finds a shoe that fits you can shop for a good price here.

Three pairs of black bike shorts (cotton spandex) for optional wear with physical training uniform

Compression shorts are what most cadets bring.

XGO Compression Shorts

One iron with ironing board (board can be full size or travel size)

A decent inexpensive steam iron will do. The cadet are rough on most items no need to spend a lot on an iron.

Black and Decker

Labeling clothes: As a time saving measure, though not mandatory, it would be helpful to write your last name and first two initials in your clothing using a permanent marker. The location of the name should be inconspicuous when the garment is worn (e.g., bottom of each sock, rear waistband of underwear, and the front shirt tail of t-shirts).

Some students find the stamp works well, others like iron on labels or sharpie

NOTE: Cleaning supplies are not listed, but when I asked the parent liaison on campus he said the commandant’s office said limited basic supplies can be brought on matriculation day. Pinesol, Clorox wipes, Comet, Swiffer wipes, Tide pen, Window cleaner, Febreeze are some basic supplies.

Basic school supplies like notebooks, paper, pens, pencils, etc. can be brought.

Shoes and Boots

For questions about the shoes and boots carried on campus contact the Cadet Store at 843-953-5166

Two [2] pairs of military style, plain toe, smooth leather, black oxford shoes with rubber heels. You will not be permitted to wear shoes that fail to meet these criteria. Shoes made of patent leather or poromeric material are not authorized.

Shoes

From page 15 of the Success Packet on the specs for shoes:

“MILITARY STYLE BLACK OXFORD, PLAIN TOE, PLAIN HEEL (no additional stitching on the heel), SMOOTH LEATHER, RUBBER HEEL AND SOLE HIGH GLOSS, POROMERIC, OR CORFAM SHOES ARE NOT PERMITTED FOR WEAR” “GO TO THE BATES FOOTWEAR WEB SITE, CLICK ON SEARCH PRODUCT ENTER STYLE NUMBER, E00932 FOR MALES, E00752 FOR FEMALES”

Bates E00932 on Amazon ;  On the Bates website

Bates E00752 on Amazon; On the Bates website

Some cadets like the Florsheim Lexington plain toe black oxford in polishable leather

You can find them online and at Kassis Bros in Charleston. They deliver to campus too.

Boots

“GO TO THE US PATRIOT TACTICAL WEBSITE SEARCH ENTER TR350 MEN’S 8” TACTICAL RESEARCH DESERT TAN COLORED BOOTS ARE THE ONLY AUTHORIZED COLOR. NO ZIPPERS”

 US Patriot Technical, Belleville Boots, style TR350

It is also available through AmazonThe approved Bates boots in Desert Tan are also on Amazon

This entry will be updated as new information becomes available like this note from June 13, 2017:From the Commandant’s office:The Admissions Office was working on an Addendum to address our concerns.Cleaning supplies-yes but in limited amounts- no bulk suppliesShoe polish/brass polish- yes but will be in box issued during first week-can send later for sureToiletries (whatever necessary for hygiene, including razors and nail clippers)-yesMedications-yesBug spray, sunscreen-yesT-pins, shirt stays- yes, but also in box provided- can send more laterExtra socks, t-shirts, underwear- yes but it all has to fit. Extras can be stored in warehouse in the required boxes.No -Sleeping bag/alternative bedding (to keep bunks in inspection state)Also, the box provided to cadets contains soap, brass and shoe polish, reflector belt, cuff links, a lock, and other items they will need.Helpful books and products: (The price is not $60. Click on the link for the much lower actual price)

Matriculation Day tips for the Parents of the Class of 2022

Class of 2021 knobs line up to “meet” the 1Sgt

***2/10/2019 Please note: I am no longer updating the blog posts for Citadel parents. See the official school website for the most up to date information***

NOTE: The Gathering Friday evening is at 5:30pm in the chapel. A previous schedule said it was at 5:00.

August 11, the Class of 2022 reports for Matriculation Day. The Parent page of The Citadel website has detailed information for families. I HIGHLY recommend you read the page and bookmark it for the weekend. Parents of incoming freshman knobs should take time and read all the links on the Freshman Parents page.

Citadel Family Association Blue Shirt volunteers help unload cars and carry items to the rooms.

The weather in Charleston in August is hot and very humid. Watch the weather forecast and prepare for the potential of rain. As of this writing (Saturday August 4) rain is in the forecast.

Since the cadets can no longer have plastic storage bins in their rooms we’ve been recommending that the knobs pack in disposable boxes and bags so they do not have to worry about storage of suitcases after their families have dropped them off. Since rain is likely, bring some large trash bags to protect the boxes from the rain Saturday morning. The Citadel Family Association “Blue Shirt Army” volunteers will help you unload your car and carry everything into the barracks. Since most knobs are housed on the 4th division (floor) of the barracks be sure to pack each container light enough for one person to carry each container.

A member of the Class of 2021 signs in at the 1Sgt table

A few more tips and reminders as  you prepare for Matriculation Day:

  • See this link for official information about Matriculation DayBy now the soon-to-be knobs, and their parents, should be checking the Matriculation Headquarters page each week for updates. Read EVERY link on the page and print out the schedule and traffic diagram in addition to the forms that must be turned in that morning.
    • If you will be in town the evening of August 11 make reservations for the 2022 parent BBQ HERE.
    • Put your knob’s name in the People Search window to find their mailing address.  Send letters to arrive the first week. Wait to send boxes until after the first week.  See this link for how to address mail to a cadet. DO NOT use nicknames.
    • Do attend “The Gathering” in the chapel Friday at 5:00 to hear about the various religious and fellowship groups on campus.
    • The knob should bring their wallet with state issued ID, like a driver’s license. It helps to have a little money, $20 or so with them in case they have an opportunity to buy snacks. Some years they have the chance to buy pizza as a fundraiser at the end of Challenge week.
    • The knob should wear a plain shirt (tucked in!), shorts, a belt if the shorts have belt loops, white ankle socks, and their athletic shoes. If they already have the white ankle socks and athletic shoes on they won’t have to search for them as soon as they have to change.
    • Drive to campus from your hotel the day before so you will know how to get to the Holliday Alumni Center. (See Traffic Diagram here and print it out for easy reference later) Getting lost Saturday morning can really add to the stress of the knob. (Ask me how I know)
    • Be sure you have a full tank of gas. You wait in your car in a long line Saturday morning. You won’t want to be the family that ran out of gas before you report.
    • They begin to process the line at 7:00am. The line begins to form before that time. It is best to report early and not wait until the last minute.
    • Say your real goodbye’s before you leave the hotel or your home. Once you arrive on campus things move quickly and the knob’s time will not be their own.
    • The knobs turn in their cell phones when they go into the barracks. They should be sure to have them fully charged and turn them off before they walk in. They won’t get them back for at least a week. Many knobs end up having to charge their phones before they can make their first call home.
    • Arrive on the early side. The line starts around 6:30am. Check-in begins at 7:00 am. It will be hot. Arriving early means it will be a chilly 85-90 versus 90-100.
    • Once you get to the barracks the Citadel Family Association volunteers will be there to help unload your car and let you know where to move your car. They have blue shirts on and all of them have been in your shoes.
    • Parents and family can go into the barracks, but you do not unpack your student.
    • Do take a photo behind closed doors, you’ll be glad you have that first day of knob year photo later. Do not make a fuss over your knob at all on campus that day.
    • Once the boxes are unloaded the knob reports in on their own. (With their FERPA form) Parents must wait with the boxes.
    • Once the knob comes out you’ll do what he or she tells you to do. How things happen from here can vary by company and each year the process is fine tuned based on the current cadet leadership.
    • Parents and family members SHOULD NOT approach the 1SGT table in the barracks in front of the company letter. Ask the CFA volunteers any question you’d like, but the uniformed cadets at the table are their to process the knobs.
    • All families must be out of the barracks by 10am. Many families leave earlier because their son or daughter is ready to start their process .
    • There is an information fair in the McAlister Fieldhouse. It is a great time to get your questions answered and meet people from various departments. The Fieldhouse is air-conditioned and there are restrooms, refreshments and water fountains.
    • The President, Commandant and the Citadel Family Association chair address parents after the information fair. It is a great place to visit to get information and cool off.

    FAQ

    • Your knob will find out their company the morning of Matriculation.
    • Legacy and Band Company knobs still must go through the check in process at the Holliday Alumni Center. It is how they keep track of who has reported.
    • Extended family members can come with you, but you should be aware there is a lot of standing and waiting around. Ask your son or daughter who they want to drop them off. One good option is to have everyone stay at the hotel and only a few go to campus that morning. No knob wants to call extra attention to themselves that day.
    • If you have young children, bring quiet toys, snacks and water.
    • If you have older family members or family with disabilities that make standing difficult, bring a folding chair.
    • The presentation in the Fieldhouse should be over by 11:45 the administration will be available to answer questions afterward.
    • You can attend Sunday worship (Christian students) at 9:00 am but you will not interact with your son or daughter. They are divided into groups for worship, Protestant, Catholic, Anglican.
    • The oath ceremony takes place Monday evening on Summerall Field. The school has live streamed it in the past. It is a short, less than 15 minute, ceremony. (See a previous years video here) Watch the school webpage and Facebook page for details. If you are in town you can attend. You will not interact with your son or daughter and may not be able to tell which knob is yours since they will be dressed alike and have no hair, or little hair in the case of the women knobs.
    • If you need to reach your knob’s company or battalion TAC officer after you leave the campus see this directory.
    • The Ombudsperson’s are a confidential resource for cadets, faculty staff and parents too.
    • The Parents resource page is very helpful throughout the year. Email parents@citadel.edu with your questions.

    NOTE: Parents of the Class of 2022, if you haven’t already, join the Facebook group, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2022. Go to the page request to join, then answer the 3 screening questions to let me know you are the parent of a knob. Email me with any questions. PLEASE note the group is for parents of knobs only. Please let your extended family members know they will not be approved to join the group.

    Once a knob checks in with the 1Sgt they are instructed to pick up their issued items

    Be sure you have made hotel reservations.

Previous posts about Matriculation Day:

The Citadel: A visual of the first view days

7 Days and Wake Up

Checking in at Holliday Alumni Center
Matriculation morning, 2015

We are one week away from the day Class of 2021 report to The Citadel on their Matriculation Day. Hopefully by now the incoming knobs have read the Matriculation Headquarters page, and completed the necessary tasks. Parents of the Class of 2021 should be aware of everything on the headquarters page, but should really read through everything on the Freshman Parent section of the school web site.

A mailing with helpful information for parents from the Citadel Family Association (CFA) will arrive in the mail soon. The CFA is made up of current parents who volunteer their time to support new families. Once your student learns their company you’ll have a company and battalion rep to support you. You can also find their contact information on the CFA web site.

Parents talk to the “Blue Shirt” volunteer as they wait with the boxes as their knob reports to the battalion.

I moderate a Facebook group called The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2021. We have a record number of parents in the group for this time of year. Membership is already over 630. The group is only for parents and guardians of knobs. Please let your extended family and friends know they cannot join the group, but they can follow the public pages the school runs to keep up with what is happening on campus.

This is the time of year I advise new parents to step away from the computer and spend time with their family. It can be a stressful time for many families, so much so that I end up writing a blog post about letting go each year around this time. I’ll add a few links at the end of this entry.

I do understand how scary it can feel to send a child to The Citadel, or any military college. The key to remember is your student has chosen this type of college experience. If this is what they really want to do they have the skills necessary to be successful.

Trust me, when my son went to The Citadel I was extremely nervous. What I learned that first year is that I didn’t have to understand why they do things the way they do. I was not a cadet my son was. He was the one that had to deal with the 4th Class system. To this day I can’t say I totally understand the “why” around much of the process, but I have come to appreciate the outcomes. The Citadel was exactly where my son, and most cadets who choose to take on the challenge, were supposed to be.

If you are a parent worried about this first year, you aren’t alone. A few words of advice. Try not to worry about things that haven’t even happened yet, because most of the things you worry about will never happen. If you feel you need to speak to someone on campus the Parent liaison is one place to start: parents@citadel.edu The company and battalion TAC officers and the Ombudspersons are also great resources for parents.

If you find you are nervous and obsessing over the parent’s Facebook page each day, walk away from the page for a while. Most likely by now your student has what they need to report on the 12th. Once you have read the Matriculation Headquarters , the Freshman Parent information page and the Citadel Family Association page you are set for next week. Read my previous post with matriculation day tips next week before you get to Charleston for a review.

I have walked your path as have scores of other families. We understand your fears, but also know how great the rewards are for those who stay and wear The Ring.

If you will be in Charleston the night of August 12, sign up for the 2021 Family BBQ dinner. It is a great way to meet other families.

On a personal note. . . this year our youngest is a college freshman. She moved into her dorm at Columbus State University yesterday. It was a completely different experience from her older brother’s matriculation day in 2007. We are slowly adjusting to our new normal as empty nesters while still missing our girl.

Blog posts about my son’s knob year and what I learned:

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

Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel

A few tips about knob year for parents:

Knob Year Notes for Parents

Posts about letting go:

Uniformity, Lists, and Letting Go

Citadel Parents: Let it Go!

Transitions and Letting Go

Matriculation Day: The Hardest Part for Parents is Letting Go

Preparing for Knob Year – Parents Edition

Advantages of being the Parent of a Citadel Cadet

Our family Matriculation Day morning at the hotel, 2007

Taylor, Chelle, and Nelson (Bravo, 11) May 2017

 

 

Parents Weekend, 2007

Chelle in her new dorm room. August 3, 2017