I put together photos from last summer’s Matriculation Day, and Sunday and Monday of Challenge Week and included them in an iMovie. It’s a little long, almost 15 minutes. I suggest you read the explanation below then watch the video. Click here to view the video
While the photography isn’t the greatest, they are my snap shots not my husband’s professional images, I hope they will give new parent a little insight into the beginning of Challenge Week. You’ll see how the knobs are led around campus from meeting to meeting task to task. This is The Citadel’s version of freshman orientation.
Last summer (2015) I was in town and ended up dropping off a knob who flew in from LA on his own. The photos start with the line at the check in at the alumni center and proceed to pulling up at the battalion, unloading the car, and moving into the barracks. You’ll see the knobs checking in at the first sergeant table and picking up their new “knobbie” clothes.
The photos then move to the cadre, dressed in gray duty uniforms, lining up to “Welcome” the knobs, then on to knobs lining up to “be introduced” to the cadre. After they meet the cadre marches them to lunch.
The next group of photos you’ll see knobs lined up on the parade field to be divided into various faith groups to go to Sunday morning worship or ethics seminar. As they wait to move you’ll see photos of knobs reading their Guidon, a book they must learn and memorize, at least parts of it. Parents can attend chapel Sunday, but they do not interact with the knobs. After chapel the knobs reconstitute with their cadre from their companies and they are marched off to meetings.
At the 8:48 mark the photos are from Monday morning when the knobs get their hair cut, get their mail box keys and laundry bags. They then go on to the Cadet Store to get uniform items and carry the very full bags to the barracks, studying the Guidon when they wait for their classmates.
By the 14:18 mark the photos are of the knobs in their gray duty uniforms marching to the parade field to take the cadet oath. The knob in the golf cart had an infected foot and was allowed to leave the infirmary for the ceremony. He healed and had a very successful knob year.
I’ve included photos of upperclass cadets. Many of whom I met their knob year and I know their parents.
Since 2008 I’ve been supporting parents of cadets as a volunteer. First through The Citadel Family Association and since 2011 on my own through this blog and a few Facebook groups I started for new parents. In the past 7-8 years I’ve noticed a pattern emerge to the questions, problems and concerns that are raised by parents of first year cadets, or knobs as they are called.
The week after Matriculation Day the parents are aching for a glimpse of their son or daughter through photos posted on the school web site or related Facebook groups. This year I was on campus until Tuesday after Matriculation Day and managed to take quite a few photos.(see links below) A few academic offices and cadet activities in addition to the Citadel Photography Facebook page posted quite a few photos.
The next stage is right after the knobs get their phone and computer access. This stage is when various concerns come up with the parents, usually around food and sleep issues. Some knobs contact their parents requesting items they didn’t bring with them. Related questions revolve around how best to ship care packages.
We are entering the period of time, a week into classes when the academic concerns begin to surface. Some knobs struggle with time management and feel over whelmed. It can be very hard for parents to hear the stress in their son or daughter’s voice. The stress for many parents is the adjustment from being the person who helped their student through high school navigate their class schedule and assignments through conferences with teachers and counselors, to now empowering their cadet recruit to seek their own support by using their chain of command, their academic advisor, and the academic support office on campus.
As I pointed out in the blog entry, Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel, the essence of being a leadership school is empowering students to take control of their experience. They will learn through a series of trials and triumphs. The temptation for many parents to assist is great. But parents must remember their child is at a school that values taking responsibility for ones actions. The best thing for parents to do is be their sounding board, not to take on their worries and concerns. The four years at the school will be filled with a rollercoaster of emotions. The key for parents is not to get on the rollercoaster with their child. You can serve as an observer offering tips of how to proceed, but not doing it for them.
Several years ago a former ombudsperson on campus told me how he helped cadets who came to him for advice. He said he would ask the cadet, who in their chain of command did they feel they could talk to about the problem/situation. If they didn’t feel they could trust the advise from the chain of command what about the company TAC officer, then an academic advisor, academic support center, or professor and so forth. The cadets are taught the roles of each cadet officer. They also learn the steps to resolve a problem. The best thing a parent can do is walk them through the problem solving by asking the same type of questions.
I spent this past year as a chaplain resident at the Atlanta VA Medical Center in their clinical pastoral education (CPE) program. CPE is training for chaplaincy or pastoral care. The program is tough by design. You are forced to look at your own issues so you can fully be present for others in their time of stress.
This past week was Challenge Week at The Citadel. The first year cadets, or knobs as they are referred to went through an intense period of training. The upperclass cadets charged with their training are called cadre. For the past week the cadre have taught them about the military system. The knobs are marched to and from a series of meetings. It is a tough week. Last night the knobs were given their phones back. From what I am hearing from their parents, they have had a mixed bag of experiences.
The conversations with the parents of knobs this morning made me remember my first time preaching at the Sunday nondenominational chapel service at the VA. The text for that Sunday included Psalm 13, “How Long, O LORD.”
As I field questions and comments from the parents of the knobs I found myself visiting the text of Psalm 13 and reflecting on how appropriate it is for knob year. (If you are interested you can listen to my sermon from last year here.)
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me Forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
Each of us has our own story of feeling isolated and alone. The feeling that everyone, even God has abandoned us. Some days it feels like everything is against us and everyone else is enjoying success. The key is in verse 2, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” In just about every situation our thoughts are what we wrestle with, more than the actual situation. This is especially the case with knobs. They may internalize what their cadre is saying.
The beginning of my residency I had so many doubts about my abilities that I was my own worse enemy. It was only after I realized that fact that my entire experience changed to a positive one. I had been so caught up with what other people said or thought, I forgot to own my strengths. I’ve learned knobs go through a similar experience, each on their own time frame.
From what I’ve seen at The Citadel the knobs that come in with their eyes wide open to the process, the ones who attended the pre-knob overnight visit and attended CSI, have a realistic view of the process. The ones who enter knowing it is a game and do not internalize what is being yelled at them seem to adjust the best. It is a thinking game. The knobs who maintain their sense of humor and do not internalize negative comments fair the best. For some it takes a while to adjust.
The ones with a sense of humor and a good outlook will hear the yelling but not take it to heart. One cadet friend said he used to stare at a spot on the wall and when the cadre yelled he’d pretend he was in a Peanuts comic and hear, “Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah “Shine your shoes” Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah.” I am told there is usually a nugget of information the knob needs to listen for like, shine your shoes, polish your brass, etc.
The parents of the knobs need to remember that for their son or daughter Challenge Week is the toughest experience most of them have ever been through. When the knob calls home they need someone to vent their emotions to, someone who won’t yell at them. Listen and encourage this first year. If you are ever concerned about your cadet you can contact the staff peoplelisted on this page.
Knob year, and the following three years, are a rollercoaster for the cadets. As I wrote earlier, parents should not get on that rollercoaster with their cadet. Yes, it is hard to hear your child struggle, but if it was their decision to go to The Citadel you need to remind them that they knew what they were signing up for. Remind them of the inner strength they have to get through this experience. Help them draw on their faith system, whatever that may be to get through the tough times.
The whole year isn’t like the first week. Once classes start and the extra activities they will have opportunities to socialize and have fun. There are faith groups on campus, club sports, and special interest groups. They will each eventually find their niche.
Parents need to keep the larger picture in view for them. Help them break it down to small goals. Get to Friday, enjoy the weekend, get to the next Friday, etc. Hold on until Parents Weekend. After that, Thanksgiving is around the corner. Winter furlough comes quickly after Thanksgiving.
It won’t be long until they will be preparing for their sophomore year and telling stories about their knob year experiences.
In just a few more days the Class of 2019 will report to The Citadel for Matriculation Day. The nerves of the future knobs are probably running pretty high right now. If you notice your son or daughter withdrawing a bit, and being a little more quiet than normal don’t worry. Just like athletes who withdraw to get mentally ready for the big game, future knobs begin their own pre-game ritual. Parents begin to feel a bit nervous too. Allow yourself to feel these feelings Sending a child off to college is a big transition. Sending them to a military college is even tougher.
It is important that the future knob take ownership in getting everything together before Matriculation Day. Once their families say good-bye Saturday morning it is the knob who must navigate the 4th Class system while family and friends move to a support role.
Before reporting in make sure you’ve packed everything on the Success packet list, on page 6 and 7, and what they want to bring from the Citadel Family Association’s Nice to have List. Each year someone forgets their wallet and ID (Driver’s license). Be sure to add that to your packing check list. Be sure to pack in containers so that one person can easily carry each of them. Some families use disposable boxes and bags in addition to the 2 plastic bins so the knob will not have to go to the storage warehouse.
Each family makes their own plans to get to campus on either Friday or just Saturday. There are some meetings that are good to attend on Friday if you can be in town. The Army ROTC cadets have a meeting Friday afternoon. A few families have decided to meet at the canteen for lunch on Friday at 11:30 before the meeting. If you are on campus then stop by. The canteen is in the Mark Clark Hall building. The same building that houses the Bookstore and the post office. Other groups have their own special meetings. If these gathering apply to you and your student you would have gotten an invitation/notice.
Many families take the opportunity to go out for a nice dinner the night before the student reports in. Charleston is noted for wonderful restaurants. The Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau has a guide if you need help deciding where to go for dinner. If you are staying in a local hotel chances are several other families will be there too. I encourage families to say hello to other families that look like they have a college freshman aged student with them. Chances are they will be future classmates.
Saturday morning be sure your student has a good breakfast then get to the Holliday Alumni Center by 7:00 am. The soon to be knob should wear their white crew socks(ankle socks for the Class of 2020), athletic shoes, shorts/pants and a shirt (ticked in). The first thing they will do once they get to their barracks is change into their “knobbie clothes.” If they already have the socks and sneakers on it is just easier. It is also a good idea to say your real good-byes at the hotel. Things move pretty quickly once you get to campus.
Some families find it helpful to do a dry run from the hotel the night before. If it rains Saturday morning allow extra time to get to the campus. Charleston roads do flood when it rains. The traffic diagram is on the Matriculation Information page of the Office of the Commandant page online. You will visit the Office of the Commandant page all four years so you may want to bookmark it in your computer. Print out and bring the Traffic Diagram, FERPA form that must be completed and signed by the student, and the schedule for the day.
Once you arrive at the Holliday Alumni Center you’ll drive up in your car and the cadets there will give you the letter for your son or daughter’s company. Follow the map to the appropriate barracks. You’ll be instructed by the “Blue Shirt” volunteers and cadets at the barracks where to unload the car and put the things. You’ll also be told where to move your car. The Blue Shirt volunteers are parents of current cadets who volunteer to help the new families each year. Some travel quite a distance just to help out on this big day.
Once outside the barracks your son or daughter will be told what to do. Usually they report to the admissions representative at a table in the sallyport (entry way to the barracks). This is when the parents, and anyone with the families, just wait. Bring a folding chair with you if someone in your party has trouble standing for long periods of time. Once inside the barracks the cadet recruit will follow directions. They will eventually come out and let you know when it is alright to carry their things to their room. Once everything is in the room the parents and family leave. Do take time to get a photo of all of you either outside the barracks or inside the room. You’ll cherish them.
Parent must leave the barracks by 10:00am. Once the parents leave the gates of the sallyport will close and the introduction of the cadre will begin. This can be a very tough things for some families to watch because it signifies the beginning of a week long period when you will not hear form your son or daughter. It is best to move onto the fieldhouse for the information fair and president’s address.
There is an information fair in the McAlister Fieldhouse right next to 1st Battalion. It is good to go by there and visit the various tables. The Citadel Family Association will have representatives there serving some refreshments to. It is air conditioned, there are restrooms and you can have a seat for the President’s Address.
Once the address is over you are free to leave the campus. Some families stay Saturday night. Others want to go straight home. If you are in town Sunday you can attend the Sunday morning chapel service. You will not see or be able to talk to your son or daughter. Many families find they enjoy the time in the chapel after a stressful day Saturday. Monday evening is when the knobs take their cadet oath. The past several years the school has provided a live stream of the event online. Watch the school web site to see if they will do it again this year. It is not an event to stay for. It begins at 7:00 pm and only lasts 15 minutes or so. You won’t be able to talk to your son or daughter. Many local parents who stayed said they couldn’t tell where their child was. They have their hair cut and all in the same uniform.
Once you know your child’s company, reach out to the CFA company rep. you can find a list on their website. If you haven’t already, join the Facebook group for 2019 parents. I ask that you send me a private message on Facebook or an email to verify that you are a parent before I will confirm your request to join the group. The group is a great way to share photos and get information on the big weekends and events on campus.
My son started in 2007, before Facebook. Fortunately the Atlanta Citadel Club has had a group for parents for years. I am still in touch with a few parents I met at that first send off dinner the summer of 2007. While I didn’t have Facebook groups to help me I did correspond with The parents of cadets I met at the dinner and also the Citadel Family Association (CFA) volunteers. The CFA is for parents of current cadets and is a great resource for all parents. In the time leading up to matriculation day you can look up your area representative. After matriculation day, when you find out what company and battalion your cadet is in, there are company and battalion reps who will be very good resources for you.
Right now the incoming knobs, or pre-knobs, should be breaking in their shoes. This year it has been tough to find the proper shoes as some styles are changing and brands some cadets have bought in the past are no longer being made. The Bates brand plain toe black leather oxford with rubber heel is the one the school recommends. As long as the shoes meet the published criteria on the Matriculation Headquarters page the shoes and boots will be fine. Pay particular attention to each link on the Matriculation Headquarters page, including the Commandant’s Matriculation Information page. In addition to the list of required items in the Success Packet which is listed in the Matriculation Headquarters page, parents and their pre-knobs should review the Citadel Family Association’s “Nice to Have List.”
The items to bring hasn’t changed much over the past few years. The clear plastic boxes seem to cause some amount of stress for moms looking for the exact sizes listed. Please don’t stress over these. You do need to be sure they are no larger than the sizes listed, but it really isn’t something to lose sleep over.
I am going to repeat myself here, but it can’t be stressed enough, you and your pre-knob should read the Matriculation Headquarters page and click on ALL the links on the page, and all the links on the pages you will navigate to. Before arriving on campus I suggest you print out the Matriculation Day schedule from the Matriculation Headquarters page and also the Traffic Diagram from the Matriculation Information page.
This year I have plans to be on campus over the matriculation day weekend for meetings with various staff members. I look forward to meeting some of the parent sI’ve corresponded with as well.
You may find the following entry, located on the left hand side of this blog page, helpful as you get ready to report:
The Class of 2019 will report to The Citadel in August. The Facebook group for the parents of the Class of 2019 already has over 170 members. I met several families and incoming knobs this past week at the annual send off dinner hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club. I began to ponder the unique experience parents of cadets at The Citadel go through their son or daughter’s first year. I decided to write down a few of my observations about being the parent of a cadet who used to be a knob. Feel free to add your insights in the comments section.
Signs you were the parent of a knob at The Citadel:
You know the best places on campus to wait for your knob without their cadre seeing them.
The Matriculation Headquarters page of the citadel.edu website is updated for the class of 2019, with more updates to come throughout the summer. For the soon-to-be knobs and their parents it is a time of mixed emotions. If you are both feeling a mixture anxious and excited you are in good company.
Take some time to read through the Success Packet. The list of required, and optional items, is in this document on pages 6 – 7. The packet includes details about other rules. Take time to absorb all the information. Also visit the Citadel Family Association page for the “Nice to Have List”
Last year I wrote a post about transitions. Parents you may want to review that entry. The toughest part of knob year for many parents is the transition you must make. The Citadel is a leadership school. Your student will need to navigate the 4th class system on their own. Parents move to a support role. Moving out of the decision-making role is tough for many parents.
The next two months the rising knob should be working out daily. If they arrive able to meet or exceed the physical training (PT) requirements it will help with their transition. The PT requirements are very important. Each year some knobs report in poor physical shape. That just makes the transition for them harder.
Breaking in the black leather Oxfords is another thing that should be started as soon as possible. Wear the shoes often throughout the summer. Blistered feet is a major cause of problems for knobs in the first month.
Parents of the Class of 2019 are invited to join the Facebook page for parents (please email me to verify you are a parent of a knob. See the “About Dorie” section here for my email). The entering knobs should keep a low profile on social media. It is a good idea for everyone, but especially for knobs, to set the security settings on Facebook and other social media to Friends only. To keep a low profile do not use hashtags related to The Citadel on posts to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or any other medium. The goal is to blend in and not call attention to yourself. If your profile lists that you are a cadet when you . haven’t even started knob year, you are inviting unwanted attention from cadets and alumni.
Many alumni chapters host cadet send off events. The Atlanta Citadel Club has a very nice dinner planned for June 18. If you are not sure if your area has an event, contact the admissions office at The Citadel. They can let you know if an event is planned for your area. The Georgia Citadel Parents Group has an orientation for parents scheduled June 14 at the Dekalb Library in Decatur. Margaret Landry is the chair this year. If you’d like her contact information just let me know.
It is an exciting time. Do yourself a favor and study up!
Visit the following sites for tips on getting ready and for reporting on Matriculation Day:
I had the honor of attending the graduation of the Class of 2015 last weekend. A young man I’ve known since before his Matriculation Day, Sadarius Lucas, invited me to be there for his big day. I arrived early in the afternoon Thursday before the Saturday graduation. It was fun to see cadets and families in the bookstore and on campus getting ready for the big weekend.
Friday morning I took my time getting to campus but had the opportunity to watch as the newly commissioned officers in the Air Force, Navy and Marines were rendered their first salute. While standing outside Summerall Chapel I was thrilled to see my long time friend, Gwen and her extended family. I wrote about Gwen a while back. We went to the same high school in New Jersey and ran around with the same friend group. When Gwen’s oldest was a knob she found my name in the Citadel Family Association list of volunteer and emailed. We picked up right where we left off 30 years before. It is just one story of many of the friendships that have been renewed between the parents of cadets. I say it often, I never expected that I would end up with so many new friends because my son chose to attend The Citadel. In this case it was a true gift to reconnect with Gwen.
I had the opportunity to finally meet a few people in the administration that I had not met before. We were all outside the chapel at the same time. I was floored to find out they all were familiar with this blog and also that I administer Facebook groups for parents of cadets, but not as surprised as I would be the next day after graduation.
As the afternoon went on the weather was looking pretty iffy. Rain was in the forecast. The Summerall Guards began their performance and got through the entire series before the rain began. I noticed that the Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Mr. Bob McDonald was sitting next to President and Mrs. Rosa. I had met him briefly after a Town Hall meeting he held at the Atlanta VA in the fall. I went over to say hello. He continues to impress me with the work he is doing for our veterans. Right after he introduced me to his wife and his sister, who is the mother of a 2015 graduate, the rain began. Out of no where secret service men appeared with large black umbrellas. I’ve decided having “people” in the midst of a rain storm is a very nice perk.
I scooted to my car to wait out the rain. Fortunately after a 30 minute delay the rain died down and the final parade of the year, the Long Gray Line began. If you are ever in Charleston on the Friday before graduation, you owe it to yourself to be on campus for this parade. The rising cadet officers take their command and then the senior cadets leave their companies and stand shoulder to shoulder the length of the parade field to form a long gray line. At the designated time they march forward to the families and friends at the other side of the field and away from the Corps of Cadets. The seniors are grinning ear to ear as they march forward. They turn around and as their companies pass them on their way off the field they give a final salute. It is a very moving experience just to watch. You can catch a glimpse of the long gray line parade and the other events of the weekend in this video produced by the school.
Saturday, the BIG day, began early. Seating is first come first served so we arrived at 7:30 am to secure decent seats close to the podium and not too high up. It turned out we were only three rows behind Cadet Lucas. The commencement speaker, Keller Kissam, did an outstanding job of delivering an inspirational address to the Class of 2015. Take the time to listen to his address. You’ll be glad you took the time.
A highlight of graduation at a military college or academy is the final announcement by the president, Class of 2015 Dismissed! last Saturday we were not disappointed. The white covers were high in the air and the graduates were busy hugging and shaking hands. They were all heading out to points around the globe. Some will meet while deployed others may run into each other while doing business. After tolerating quite a few photos Sadarius and his mom and friend were off to Columbia, SC because he had to get to a 3:00 job interview! He is such a gifted young man I expect to see wonderful things from him in the years to come.
My final gift came as I was walking to my car near Mark Clark Hall. A golf cart approached and driving it was Captain Geno Paluso, commandant of the Corps of Cadets. He stopped his cart and said hello to me by name. We only met once before, briefly last fall at a football game. He went on to thank me for the help I provide to parents of cadets. I was floored that he knew my name. I was shocked to find out he knew that I do any type of volunteer work with parents. He ended up giving me a ride to my car. I like to tell folks he was my chauffeur for the afternoon. Fortunately a friend was right there to take a photo.
I made one last stop at the boat house and the dock before leaving campus to head to Savannah to see my oldest son. It was a wonderful weekend. I am now very busy screening the requests to join the Facebook group for parents of the Class of 2019. If you know someone with a student who will be a knob this fall, please pass along this link. And please ask them to email me for message me to confirm they are a parent of an incoming knob. My email address is in the “About Dorie” section of this blog.
The past two months have been filled with activity, some good some difficult. My health and the demands of my chaplain residency have kept me from writing as often. I hope to be back on a regular posting schedule with the start of 2015.
The Monday before Thanksgiving while at work at the VA hospital I began to feel funny. To make a long story a bit shorter, it turns out I was experiencing atrial fibrillation. My heart raced up to 160+ beats per minute and stayed that way for 4 hours. Since that day I’ve had a few other trips to the emergency room, several tests and I meet with the cardiologist this coming Tuesday, which also happens to be our 19th anniversary. While I am still learning what all this means, it does appear that it is a fairly commonly condition. One that can be managed fairly easily.
I am now looking to the next six months and starting to explore what will be next for me when I complete this residency. The path for many people after finishing a year of clinical pastoral education is to become staff of a congregation or to go into full-time chaplaincy. My stated goal at the beginning of this year was to start a nonprofit and continue my call to be a supportive presence for journalists and also for parents of cadets at The Citadel. I am not ordained, and do not plan to pursue ordination, in any denomination so full-time chaplaincy with an established organization is not a possibility.
The first step in starting a nonprofit is to find who else is meeting a need. There are several organizations that provide training and professional support for journalists. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma being the leader in that area, and the Ochberg Society provides peer-to-peer support. I’d like to see a network of clergy, all faiths, and therapists, who are trained in the particularities of the world of journalism so that they can be an effective, caring presence, when a journalist needs support. I’m not sure how that will pan out. I’ve learned that by me stating an intention or an idea, it may spark an idea in someone else and before you know it, a team is formed. I may end up pursuing guest lecturing to journalism programs and newsrooms.
The same idea applies supporting new parents at The Citadel. This next academic year will be my 8th year of supporting a new class of parents of knobs. The first three years I was the chair of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group and also the Cadet Retention and Recruitment Chair for the Citadel Family Association. Since my son graduated in 2011 I’ve continued to help new parents, but not as a CFA volunteer. Once your cadet graduates you are no longer a CFA member. I posted the information I shared with parents in Georgia to this blog site the fall of 2011. I began getting a lot of emails with questions and decided to start a Facebook group for the Class of 2016 parents to make it easy to answer questions in one place. Three years and three Facebook groups later, for the Classes of 2017 and 2018, I’ve just added one for the parents of the class of 2019.
While I do feel a call to do this type of support for new parents, it is very time-consuming and completely unpaid. I’ve begun to wonder if I could make this a nonprofit venture and ask for some financial support from the parents who join the groups. Since I am still in the investigative stage I welcome any feedback my readers have on this matter. I’m not looking to make tons of money from this venture, but at least enough to make it a part-time venture and cover some of my expenses. In simple terms if each member of the Facebook groups donates $10, I’d have a decent part-time income. Let me know what you think in the comments section or send me an email with your thoughts on starting a nonprofit. If I do go the nonprofit route, I will be looking for potential board members with expertise in nonprofit law, fundraising, and other areas.
Please join me the next several months as I explore the next steps in my journey. I’ll continue to post helpful tips for parents of cadets at The Citadel, but will add entries about my own journey as well.