Welcome to the Parents of the Class of 2016

In less than a month The Citadel Class of 2016 will report for Matriculation Day. If I didn’t own a calendar I could tell the day was approaching by the search terms used to find this blog. Various takes on knob year populate the search terms. The questions asked by parents of the Class of 2016 are becoming more focused as the big day approaches.

Matriculation Day, 2010. The Bravo Company cadre lead the knobs to lunch.

A few parents of graduates started a Facebook group to support new families. Only parents of graduates are on the group page along with parents of the entering class. The group is a great resource for new parents. Some of the new parents are graduates of The Citadel, some of the parents of graduates are alums too.

One of my big frustrations was finding out basic information about the school because my son rarely told me much and my ex-husband was the one who received official information from the school. This blog is the result of  years of research and study of both The Citadel and the 4th Class System. My hope is that new families will feel just a little better prepare than I was to send my son off to this leadership school.

I’ve written about this before, but one of the biggest surprises for me in the whole experiences was that ended up with many very good friends. These friends are now helping me as I learn about being the mom of an officer in the U.S. Army.

Recently, through a connection made through an alum of The Citadel, I began a correspondence with a 1LT in the Army who is now serving in Afghanistan. When I asked him if I could send anything he replied, “We need sunscreen, hard to come by. I have about 15 soldiers who pull 12 hr. shifts in the sun. If it could be sent to me I’ll distribute out.”

Walgreen’s in Roswell gave me a 25% discount on sunscreen. We also purchased some from Dollar Tree and Big Lots.

I promptly posted a note to my Facebook page asking if anyone would like to help out by either purchasing sunscreen or sending funds to defray the postage. Within a few minutes one Facebook friend who is a military reporter sent $25. A high school friend sent a generous check as did several Citadel parents and a few church friends. Right now I have $105 in checks. A few Citadel parents are sending boxes directly to the 1LT. A few of these parents have children who haven’t even started their first year as a cadet.

The first boxes of sunscreen are in the mail. A few more will go out this week.

To the parents of the Class of 2016 WELCOME. You are about to join a tremendously supportive group of people.

LDAC Information for Family and Friends

A platoon photo purchased from the SmugMug site from LDAC 2010.

LDAC has moved to Fort Knox in 2014. For updated information see the following website. Be sure to click on all the links: clc.futurearmyofficers.com

For the address at Ft. Knox: ciet.futurearmyofficers.com/contacts

follow the Facebook page: U.S. Army ROTC Cadet Summer Training. They are using the hashtag #LDAC

There is a SmugMug site for photos linked on the Facebook page under “About.”

My son went through LDAC in 2010. I’ve been following the web sites listed above. They seem to try and fit information on all summer activities for cadets. The information provided about LDAC is not as thorough as in years past. For instance, I could not easily find a schedule for the regiments. In years past a grid of the training schedule was easily available. I have found that whomever is moderating the Facebook page is not answering questions in a timely manner.

***Updated with links for 2013***

Each June  Army ROTC cadets from across the country attend the Leadership Development Assessment Course (LDAC) at Joint Base Lewis McChord, just outside of the Seattle, Washington area. I wrote a blog post about LDAC a while back and it is beginning to get a few hits from anxious friends and family eager to find out whatever they can about the experience.

For some cadets and their families it is the first time they will experience and information void for a month. Within a day or so of reporting to LDAC they surrender their phones. I have learned not to complain too much about these small inconveniences. For families of enlisted soldiers they often go a few months with little or no phone calls. The calls they get a are a couple of minutes long. All that said they can have a calling card to make calls on a land line when they are at the main base and not in the field. In 2010 most moms who received calls said they came in after 11:00 PM EST. Bringing stamps is a good idea too.

A photo by LDAC 2010 PAO. I couldn’t find my son in any photos so I decided to select a photo and pretend he was in it;)

Cadets at LDAC can receive mail during their time away. Any food they receive must be consumed on the spot. They have no place to store food sent from home. I heard many stories from fellow moms that their cadet opened a package and promptly shared its contents with his or her platoon members.

The Public Affairs Office does a terrific job of updating family members through their Facebook page, the Warrior Forge blog and Flickr photo site.  Just about anything you want to know can be found on one of these sites. The Facebook group is posted each year around May or June. Just put LDAC then the year your cadet will attend in the Facebook search window. WarriorForge blog is a wealth of information. Enter the search term in the blog search window to find an entry on the topic. I’ll include some top links below.

If you check the Facebook page, WarriorForge blog and the base website and still have a question you can email the very helpful Public Affairs Office staff by email: warriorforge.pao@gmail.com

Mailing address and Contact info:

To send snail mail to Cadets:

Cadet Lastname, Firstname
Warrior Forge xPLT, xCo, xRegt
PO Box 339543, JBLM, WA 98433

(x=the respective regiment, company, and platoon designator. If you don’t know this, just leave it blank.)

What do they do while at LDAC?

Graduation Details

Candid Photos of Flickr

More Formal photos on SmugMug

FINALLY. The day after graduation I found a photo of my son. He’s the one on the far right carrying the Guidon. photo by Joint Base Lewis McChord PAO

Social Media for Military Families

Army ROTC cadets at The Citadel take their oath at the commissioning ceremony the day before graduation, May 2011. photo by Stanley Leary

I am still learning about being the mom of a new second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Since my son is so busy in his new role, and because he has never been one to provide a lot of details, much of what I learn comes from web searches. The past few years I have also cultivated friends who are veterans of various branches of the U.S. Army.

One friend who is a fellow Citadel parent and a retired Army officer suggested I subscribe to a news source called Stand-To!: A daily compendium of news, information, and context for Army leaders. This site is helpful for getting a glimpse into the latest updates from the U.S. Army.

For general information and support several web sites are helpful. Goarmyparents. com was started as a personal blog of an Army mom. The site features forums, articles, pay charts, military lingo and a weekly chat.

The closed Facebook group, Army Moms, is a terrific place to connect with other Army moms to receive support and learn from the members there. You need to send a request to join the group.

Army Officers Friends and Family Support is a group that formed after LDAC 2010 (Leader Development Assessment Course). Each year the Public Affairs Office at Joint Base Lewis McCord do a great job of keeping friends and family updated about what happens at LDAC, including the address to send letters, scheduling of the exercises, etc. The LDAC 2012 Facebook page is here. Check the About page for links to their blog, photos and Twitter account.

I found the Airborne School Facebook page very helpful while our son was there. They post updates on the jumps and graduation information. Maps area available on their photo page.

Dorie and her daughter congratulate Citadel cadet, soon to be Air Force officer, Justin Wilson, right before his commissioning ceremony. May 2011 photo by Stanley Leary

Milblogging.com  is an internet database for organizing military blogs. a great place to spend time to learn from the contributors about their experiences.

An extensive list of Facebook groups for the U.S. military can be found on their official pages:

U.S. Air Force Social Media

U.S. Army on Social Media

U.S. Coast Guard Media Outlets

U.S. Marine Corps Social Media

U.S. Navy Social Media Directory

You can also go to the Topics section of WordPress and enter the military topic you are interested in to find blog posts. I’ve contributed to the military blog site, Off the Base for over a year. The site is maintained by Bobbie O’Brien of WUSF Public Media in Tampa, FL.

Armor BOLC graduation at the Maneuver Center of Excellence Building at Ft. Benning. photo by Stanley Leary.

Please take a minute and post links to the military social media groups you find helpful.

Airborne School graduation. November 2011. photo by Stanley Leary


I listened the other day as a young mom called after her son to, “WALK PLEASE!”

Christmas 1993

In that instant I was brought back to a time when my boys were 4 and 6 years old. I was convinced I’d go to my grave yelling Walk! If there was a puddle in an acre of land, my two sons were in the middle of it.

Nelson in the rain.

Years later, when my oldest son decided to apply for an Army ROTC scholarship, and to attend The Citadel, I reminded myself of these two mud covered boys and the times when they would play soldier.

Taylor loved to run.

It really is in their DNA.

Not much has changed.

Muddy 2011 BVA's

The Citadel: Tips from One Parent for Graduation Weekend

The Long Grey Line, 2011 photo by Stanley LearyIt won’t be long until your senior cadet will be graduating. The cadets wait four years for this weekend, then spend the rest of their lives wishing they could return.

In some cases the cadets will be commissioned into a branch of the military, graduate and report for duty. Other cadets will graduate and begin their careers in the business world or go on to graduate school.

The events of commencement weekend begin on Thursday with an awards ceremony and the baccalaureate service. The Star of the West competition is also held Thursday.

Cadet Nelson Lalli receives his lieutenant bars from his father, Blake Lalli and his uncle, LTC (Ret.) John Lalli photo by Stanley Leary
LT Lalli receives his first salute from SFC Polidoro photo by Stanley Leary

The commissioning services are held Friday morning. The Army usually goes first. Check with your cadet and/or the ROTC office if you have questions about the ceremony.We were told to arrive an hour early to secure the best seat. Two family members may pin the bars on the new lieutenant and may sit with him or her. The rest of the family and friends sit behind them. After the ceremony in the chapel the lieutenants go out to the parade field to receive their first salute from a non-commissioned officer (NCO). It is customary for the new officer to give the NCO a silver dollar at this time.

We gave our cadet a Lifetime Membership in the Citadel Alumni Association. All new Lifetime members and up to 3 other guests may attend a gathering in their honor at the alumni building. A cadet miniature ring or pendant is a nice gift idea for a cadet to give their mother. Since they are expensive it may be a gift for later, after the graduate has worked for a few years. Other scheduled events Friday include instructions and photos of alumni and their graduate son or daughters or grandsons and daughters.

The Summerall Guards perform for the graduating class prior to the final graduation parade. The schedule states that in the case of inclement weather the parade will be canceled. In May of 2011 President Rosa told us the only reason they would cancel the parade was if there was lightning. True to his word, the parade took place in the pouring rain. We were soaked, but happy.

You will want to find a spot across from your cadets company during the parade. At the designated time the seniors are called out of their companies and from the Long Grey Line, standing shoulder to shoulder the length the parade field. They then march toward the review stands and away from their companies. When they reach the other side the graduating seniors turn around and wave to their companies. Be sure to have your cameras, and tissues, handy!

I was warned by a friend whose son graduated a year before mine not to be surprised if my son didn’t spend a lot of time with us. The seniors begin to realize that the closer they get to graduation the closer they get to saying good-bye to their close friends. They have lived for the day when they no longer had to worry about an SMI or a Friday parade, but graduating also means they will never again live with all these good friends again. As an observer throughout the weekend I could see this realization hit the new graduates one by one.

May of 2011 it poured throughout the parade. We were soaked and decided to skip the reception at the president’s home. I’m sure most years it is a lovely event to attend.

McAlister Fieldhouse fills up quickly on graduation day. photo by Stanley Leary

Graduation on Saturday is pretty typical of most college graduations. Each cadet is given up to 8 tickets to use. If you need more tickets your cadet is told to resource with friends who may not use the allotment. The Cadet Activities office handles the ticket process. The tickets are assigned to you and can be any where in the field house. I am not sure of the procedure for accessible seating. When in doubt check with the Cadet Activities office directly.

Like the parades when the companies are in alphabetical order, the cadets sit in alphabetical order. Once you spot one or two you know you can then start to narrow down where your cadet is seated. We played a modified game of “Where’s Waldo” to keep my daughter occupied. If you have you ger family members I suggest packing quiet activities like coloring books since the ceremony will last at least 3 hours.

We played "Where's Waldo" while waiting to hear our cadet's name called. photo by Stanley Leary

At the very end of the graduation ceremony the president will dismiss the cadets for the last time. Be sure to have your camera ready. The photos with all their covers in the air are really fun!

It helps to have a plan after the ceremony of where you will meet. Many families met on the floor. Others met outside.

DISMISSED!!! photo by Stanley Leary


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General information regarding commencement weekend tickets and handicap access, see the FAQ link above for more information.

Many seniors never want to see their uniforms again. If you want to have it, make sure you let your cadet know prior to graduation week. Many of them leave their uniforms behind. The underclassmen then through the rooms of abandoned clothes and pick up what they will need for the next year.

Rental houses and condos book up quickly. Get yours as soon as you can. We stayed in a hotel and had no trouble getting reservations a few months ahead.

Each company and group of friends have their own traditions at graduation. We were invited to a luncheon by the family of one of our sons friends. I’ve heard of others who rented homes and hosted beach parties.

Dress for the weekend events – See FAQ link above. Most people dress up a little more for the commencement weekend events than for regular parades during the year. Graduation and the Commissioning ceremonies especially. You will see a wide variety of outfits though. The general rule of thumb is to match the uniform of the day for the cadets which for graduation and the parade is their most formal. For the commissioning ceremony, the Lifetime Membership Luncheon and graduation my daughter and I wore dresses and my husband wore a tie. If it is a sunny weekend, you may want to wear a hat with a wide brim to help shield you from the sun during the parade.

The Citadel, Bravo Company 2011, photo by Stanley Leary

The Citadel: Learning About LDAC and Branch Assignments

***Updated LDAC links for 2013***

The summer before our son started his senior year I had a lot of questions about how the transition from ROTC cadet to an active duty Army second lieutenant would happen. That summer my husband was peaking at a conference in Charleston. My daughter and I went along and I made an appointment with a Major in the Army ROTC department at The Citadel to ask a few questions. I was clear that I wasn’t there to ask about my son in particular but rather I wanted to learn what steps are involved in going from a cadet to an officer. I didn’t tell my son about the meeting either;)

LDAC 2010 Graduation
Graduation from LDAC 2010. photo from LDAC

The Major was very helpful.  He gave me a chart. I’ll explain the system as I understand it, but I encourage you to do your own research. Just like cadet life each persons path is different.

Our son was on a 4 year Army ROTC scholarship. That meant while I was in Charleston the summer of 2010, he was in the Seattle area at Joint Base Lewis McChord going through the Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC).  The chart we reviewed dealt with the LDAC process too.

The summer before senior year, for 4 year cadets, or after senior year for 3 year cadets, they attend LDAC. They enter the course with a grade from their sending school’s ROTC department. During the 29 day course they are graded on various tasks including the Army Physical Fitness Test. They accumulate points for each task. If they do really well in each task they can earn RECONDO status, which gives them an extra point. If they are the top several cadets in a platoon they earn an extra half a point. The Major said the extra point for RECONDO status can bump a cadet up on the point list over 1,000 names.

A note for parents: The Public Affairs office at Joint Base Lewis McChord does a terrific job of keeping family members posted. The cadets have to give up their cell phones a few days into their time there. You can send packages but they have to eat what ever is sent when the package is opened. They usually share with the people in their platoon. Be sure to ask your cadet to tell you their company and platoon. You can then know how to mail them letters and packages and also will know what group of photos my contain a glimpse of your cadet. The LDAC Facebook group is usually posted a month or so before the first group reports. the Warrior Forge blog has links to the Flickr photo site and other helpful information like training schedules. They  broadcast the graduation online for each class. The cadets who have just graduated from their college are commissioned at the end of this graduation. The Citadel rising seniors (4 year ROTC cadets) are commissioned the day before commencement

At the end of the summer, early in the first semester, the Army looks at where they need to fill positions. The cadets have already filled out forms indicating which branch of the U.S. Army they would like to serve. Three of their choices must be combat arms related branches. At some point in the fall the assignments are given.

At the Citadel they have what is called the branch meeting. All the graduating Army ROTC contract cadets are gathered in a seminar classroom and each receives an envelope with their assigned branch. The cadet is not guaranteed a spot in their choice of branch. Our son listed Armor as his first choice and that is where he was assigned. I heard from others who were assigned branches far lower on their list.

Some cadets will know their duty station, or where they will be based after training, before graduation. Some will find out at their Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC). Each branch of the service trains at a different base. Armor and Infantry are at Ft. Benning, GA. Our son was in the Armor branch so this is where his training in the Armor BOLC took place. A quick Google search for the branch and  BOLC should turn up the base website and Facebook groups they may have.

Army ROTC cadets take their oath in Summerall Chapel. photo by Stanley Leary

The school will post the details of the commissioning service on the main website or the page that lists the various commencement weekend events. The Army is usually the largest group to be commissioned and the service is held early Friday morning. Plan to get to the chapel an hour early for the best selection of seats for the service. Two family members can go forward during the service to pin the bars on the new officer. After the ceremony inside, the new officers go outside to the parade field to receive their first salute, usually from a friend who is a non-commissioned officer (NCO). It is customary for the new second lieutenant to give the NCO a silver dollar after the salute when they shake hands.

Report dates for each new second lieutenant will vary greatly. some may need to report right away and for others it could be months before they start their new job in the Army.

The first salute. photo by Stanley Leary
The new second lieutenants, friends and family. photo by Stanley Leary

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

Previous posts from Off the Base

As a little background, I thought it might be helpful to post links to the entries I’ve written for Off the Base, a blog by Bobbie O’Brien of WUSF.  Most of my entries for Off the Base have to do with being the mom of a cadet at The Citadel.  Future entries on this blog will be on a variety of topics.

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

The 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

The Citadel Bond Renews Parents’ Long Time Friendships

The Citadel: Unofficial Tips for Families of Incoming Knobs

The Citadel: Saying Good-Bye, But Always Connected

A Sister, a Mom, A Family Prepares for Military Life

Dorie, Nelson and Leslie. Ring Ceremony 2010

Survival Skills to Succeed as a Citadel Mom

A New Blue Star Mom Shows Supports for Fallen Soldier

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Gray Li

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual

Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet

A Letter to The Citadel Class of 2015

Citadel Mom Cycle Completed – A Blue Star Mom Emerges

A Military Mom Meets Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, IV

An Army Mom Transitions from The Citadel to Ft. Benning

A Seminary Student, Now an Army Mom Reflects on 9/11

Welcome to my new blog


For the past 9 months I’ve contributed to the blog, Off the Base, a project of Bobbie O’Brien of WUSF.  Bobbie and I met at the Carter Center in 2010 at a series of meetings focusing on our returning veterans and Mental health issues. Bobbie is a Fellow with the Rosalyn Carter Mental Health Journalism Program. I attend the meetings as an observer.

Since graduating from Columbia Theological Seminary in 2002 I’ve research traumatic stress. When I met Bobbie my oldest son was a junior at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, and an Army ROTC cadet. She asked me to contribute to Off the Base as the mom of a cadet at a military college and the mom of a future officer in the U.S. Army.

I turned her down at first because as I told Bobbie at the time, “I’m not a writer.” I majored in public speaking at the University of Richmond and would rather speak to a thousand people than write an article. I thought about her offer overnight and agreed to do it the next day. To grow you really have to push yourself into uncomfortable positions.

While I will still contribute to Off the Base, there are topics that are of particular interest to me that won’t fit into their mission. I’m glad you visited the site and hope to hear form you.