The Citadel: End of the Year Tips for Parents

2015 ready to say good bye
Members of the Class of 2015 turn to face the Corps of Cadets.

Each year about this time I receive an interesting mix of questions. Families of seniors write with graduation questions. Sophomore and junior parents have fewer questions but the ones they do have revolve around either the BVA process for junior year or early questions about Ring Weekend for rising seniors. The knob families are gearing up for Recognition Day, and the parents of high school seniors have matriculation Day questions.

Senior families:

The graduation schedule is posted on the school web site and should answer most of your questions. You only get 8 tickets per family. some large families set up a computer/TV combination in a rental home so the people who are not at graduation can see the live stream.

The school posts a link to the Balfour graduation announcements. They did not have the site updated early enough for many families so many have used a different company that offer better prices and plenty of options: Signature Announcements

I refer parents to the link to Emily Post Graduation Etiquette for an explanation about the difference between announcements and an invitation. Since the tickets are limited it is customary to send announcements a day to 2 weeks after the graduation to let friends and family know of the milestone reached by your graduate.

On graduation day be sure to ask your graduate where they want to meet you when the ceremony is over. The place is packed and if you have a designated place to meet it can cut down on the time it takes to find your grad is a sea of people.

For more tips and photos just enter Graduation in the search window of this blog page. Here is the post I wrote after graduation last year: Graduation for the Class of 2015

Class of 2015 Dismissed!

Junior families:

The biggest question that I’m asked is about the ring payment.The Citadel Alumni Association will send a bill in late August once the registrar lets them know who is qualified to receive their rings in October. Hopefully you or your cadet have been saving up. The cost of the ring has been in the $1,000 range the past several years. The payment is due before Ring Weekend.

BV and Summerall Guards with Jason
A few 2014 Summerall Guards, 2015 Bond Volunteers pose with ’89 grad, Jason Perakis, before their run Friday of Corps Day Weekend.

It is customary for the cadet to escort their mother through the giant replica of the ring the Friday evening of Ring Weekend. The schedule of when each company goes through the ring is posted early in the new school year by the cadet activities office.

For photos of dresses and other activities of the weekend, see this post: Parents’ Weekend at The Citadel, 2015

Sophomore families:

There isn’t much parents need to know before junior year. If your son has plans to become a Bond Volunteer Aspirant, you can expect them to spend a good part of their summer physically preparing. I’ve posted several entries about the process you might find helpful.

Knob families:

It won’t be long until your son or daughter will cease being a knob and become a regular 4th Class cadet. Recognition Day is coming up. If you attend, remember it is not a day to interact with your cadet. If you go, watch from the sidelines, take photos and be in awe of how they have grown as a class in one short academic year. This year I am looking forward to being on campus and joining some 2019 families for lunch that day.

Tire Flip
Cadets work together to flip a tire during the “Gauntlet.” photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

A heads up about sophomore year: It is a different type of tough.They aren’t knobs but if they have rank they are the lowest ranking officers. Many refer to it as knobmore year because it doesn’t seem a whole lot different than the year before. Parents like to call it knob-no-more, but I’m told by many cadets and grads that knobmore is a better description.

A few words of caution. . . It is a year when they do get a little bit a power. It can be a time when they will run into the discipline system a bit more. Grades can slip sophomore year because they don’t have anyone telling them what to do like they did the year before.

Families of high school seniors:

Congratulations! You are about to embark on quite a rollercoaster ride called Knob Year. Please join the Facebook group called, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2020. Please send me an email to let me know you are the parent of an incoming knob. The group is only for parents of knobs, not extended family. You’ll meet other parents who will become your friends. A few parents of grads are in the group to help answer questions. We have a variety of different backgrounds.The Citadel Family Association also has a Facebook group you can join. The Area Reps are parents throughout the country who volunteer to be a support to knew parents. Once you know your son or daughters company (on Matriculation Day) you will have a CFA parent volunteer you can also contact for help and support.

Knobs and Mark Clark statue
Knobs line up after getting their heads shaved Monday of Challenge Week, 2015

Welcome to the Parents of the Class of 2020

Knobs and Guidons
Knobs in the class of 2019 study their Guidons.

For the past four years each January I post a group for parents with high school seniors about to enter The Citadel in August. The group for the parents of the Class of 2020 is now live.

If you are the parent of a high school senior, or a transfer student, entering The Citadel in the summer of 2016, please request to join the group. I do ask that everyone send me an email to verify they are the parent of an incoming knob. That email address is: dorie (at) dorielgriggs (dot) com

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2020

Parents' Weekend at The Citadel, 2015

The Class of 2018 lines the street to cheer on the Class of 2015 as they march to the field house to receive their rings. Oct. 2014
The Class of 2018 lines the street to cheer on the Class of 2015 as they march to the field house to receive their rings. Oct. 2014

In just a few short weeks scores of families will head to Charleston and the campus of The Citadel for Parents’ Weekend. The class of 2016 will receive their rings (THE Ring) Friday afternoon and the Class of 2019 will go through a promotion ceremony Saturday morning. They will move from being cadet recruits to cadet privates. While it is a fun weekend for all classes the focus is really on the seniors and freshman, or knobs as they are called. I am very excited to attend the events this year at the invitation of a few friends.

The school has posted the schedule for the weekend. I’ve copied the times down and made some notes on each event.

Friday, October 9: (Note: Parking begins to fill up before noon on Friday. Allow extra time to walk to your destination on campus if you arrive closer or after noon.)

10:30 amReport to Parents by the President and Senior Staff:  If you are in town early and can attend, these talks are always informative.

The Class of 2015 ready to receive their rings.
The Class of 2015 ready to receive their rings.

12:55 pm – The seniors process from 2nd battalion to McAlister Field house as the knobs cheer them on. If you are on campus, this is a fun tradition to watch. The knobs in the class of 2019 line both sides of the street and cheer on the seniors as they process by. It is a great time to take photos and video.

For families of seniors: Families of the seniors really should be seated inside before the processional. If you really want to see them march in and you have a large party have someone save your seat, or designate one person to take photos. We had our seats staked out on the middle aisle part way up the stands my son’s senior year. My husband is a photographer and found this was the best place to get photos of the ring being presented. The seniors are divided in two groups by company then in alpha order. Be sure to ask your cadet which side their company will be on to make it easier for you to spot them when they are seated. Each company invites a special person to their class to give them their rings. It can be a former cadet officer TAC officer, alumnus or other person special to the class. Ask  your cadet who they selected. The school will have a video of the presentation after the ceremony. See this link for a video from a previous year.

Our extended family: Dorie Cadet Lucas, Dorothy Lucas, Chelle Leary. Oct. 2014 photo by Stanley Leary
Our extended family: Dorie Cadet Lucas, Dorothy Lucas, Chelle Leary
photo by Stanley Leary

After the presentation ceremony is over the seniors run out of the field house, across the parade field to the chapel. This began after the presentation was moved to the field house. cadets used to receive their rings in the chapel years ago. The past several years the seniors began to run to the chapel and knock on the memorial plaques and chapel door with their ring. They then run to their company letter. Junior cadets form an arch that the senior run through, grab a glass of sparkling cider then throw the glass at the company letter. If you position yourself at the sallyport with a view of the company letter you can see this ritual play out. I wrote about my son’s senior year here.

The seniors will spend a little time inside the company then will join you outside the barracks for photos and to show off their ring. Have your camera ready! The seniors smile more this weekend than they have for the previous three years.

The Summerall Guards have a practice Friday afternoon. Others will have free time before the ring ceremony Friday night. (See this video from 1991 to see the tradition hasn’t changed much over the years.)

For families of knobs: If you can get to campus to see the march into the field house it will give you a glimpse into the pride the seniors feel. The knobs will cheer on the seniors and then will be able to leave campus fairly soon after the seniors go into the field house. As with everything else this first year the knobs are not in control of their time. Let them know when you will get to campus and ask them where they want to meet you. Be aware that some families will not be able to visit their son or daughter this weekend. If you can, invite your knob’s friends without family in town to join you. You will have the entire afternoon and evening together. Ask your son or daughter when they wan to return. Many go back a little early to get their rooms ready for open barracks in the morning.

1:00 – 3:30 pm – Information reception Various vendors and cadet clubs have display tables set up in Mark Clark Hall. Bring cash and your check book. In the past, some vendors have not taken credit cards. If you see something you want get it this weekend. There is no guarantee they will have it at a later big weekend.

6:00 pm – Ring Ceremony and Family Photos The evening begins with the Junior Sword Arch (JSA) opening the event by performing their silent drill. You are not required to be there for this, but it is a very neat performance to watch. Some families/groups who go through the ring later in the evening opt to go out to dinner rather than watch the JSA. Each company and group of cadets are given the time to go through the ring.

My son invited a good friend to join us as we went through the ring. 2010 photo by Stanley Leary
My son invited a good friend to join us as we went through the ring. 2010
photo by Stanley Leary

Traditionally the cadet escorts their mother through the ring. Over time this tradition has broadened to other significant people to the cadet. It is also traditional for the women to wear a formal dress since the cadets are in their most formal uniform. You will see cocktail length or evening slacks suits on some in attendance, but the majority still wear formal dresses. A video of the presentation from a previous year.

Gentleman going through the ring wear either a dark suit or a tuxedo. If the men are not walking through the ring they dress for the dinner plans the family has that evening. The cadet and whomever they escort are to be on line at least 15 minutes before their scheduled time. Be sure you wear comfortable shoes if you are walking through the ring as you may be waiting a while to walk through. The rest of the party not going through the ring go to the stands to sit and wait for them to walk through.

A note about dinner. Since the companies go through at different times each family/or group of families will decide when they need to have dinner. Reservations are important since it is a Friday night and a big weekend in Charleston. As a side note, many seniors reserve Friday night for family then will go out with their classmates Saturday night. Of course that too varies with each cadet/family.

Saturday, October 10:

8:00 am Buyer Auditorium, Mark Clark Hall – Coffee and juice is available for parents. Vendors of various types including the photographer who takes the company photos are available.

Parents of Regimental Band Company guests may enter Padgett-Thomas barracks at 8:00. Band company has other duties this morning.

The Class of 2018 receive their company letter.
The Class of 2018 receive their company letter.

8:30 – 10:15 Open Barracks Families and their guests can visit their cadet in their room. Some parents use this time to bring food items to their cadets. For many it is the first time to see the barracks room fully made up and inspection ready. The knobs have spent a lot of time on the company banner. Be sure to make a special note of the banner. There are various bulletin boards that are painted by the cadets in each company.

8:45- 9:15 am Kelly Cup Competition The Kelly Cup is a competition between squads made up of knobs from each company. The final four squads compete Saturday morning for the Kelly Cup. Your son or daughter will have told you if they are participating. If they are not you have more time to spend with them before their promotion ceremony.

9:30 – 10:00 Regimental Band and Pipes Concert Held on the parade field this is a nice concert to attend while the knobs prepare for their promotion ceremony.

10:10 – 10:20 am Fourth Class Promotion Ceremonies A very moving ceremony for the knobs and their families. The knobs are lined up in front of the company letter. Family and friends can watch from around the group. The company commander and the company 1st Sgt present the knobs with their company letter. Afterward they do push ups together. This ceremony marks the end of the cadre period.

Bravo Company knobs receive their company letter. October 2014
Bravo Company knobs receive their company letter. October 2014

Once the ceremony is over the cadets get ready for the parade and families move to the parade field to wait for the parade to start.

Each year various groups of parents use this time to meet somewhere on the parade field to say hello to friends they have made through the various Facebook groups. This year I’ll be watching the promotion ceremony for Bravo Company then will be by the jet, “Annette” outside of 1st battalion.

11:00 – 11:45 am Review Dress Parade and Awards. Get your spot on the parade field or in the stands for the parade. Some people bring their own folding chairs and place them along the ropes before the parade to save a place. You’ll soon learn the best viewing spot for the company you want to see. It is nice to watch from the stands, but we enjoyed watching first battalion some on to the field from in front of Mark Clark Hall for some parades.

12:00 – 12:45 pm Lunch You have several option for lunch as outlined in the printed schedule. I think every family should eat in the mess hall at least once during the four years at the school. You’ll need to have reservations for the mess hall or a boxed lunch. Many families pack a picnic lunch, or bring food for their cadet then tailgate for their lunch. You will not be able to take your cadet off campus for lunch. The Citadel Alumni Association has a great BBQ lunch in the Holliday Alumni Center from 12 – 2:00 for $12 per person. It is good food and served int eh nice air conditioned room on the first floor. This is where I usually eat before the game.

The 2015 Summerall Guards prepare to perform The Citadel Series at halftime. Oct 2014
The 2015 Summerall Guards prepare to perform The Citadel Series at halftime. Oct 2014

2:00 Football Game The cadets march to the stadium from the barracks as fans line the street. The Summerall Guards perform at halftime. The cadets have to stay together in the stands during the game. The knobs will be able to get something to eat and drink at half time. Many families go ahead before half time and get them something to eat and drink and have it waiting for the knobs. If you haven’t already you can get tickets to the game through the ticket office. You can also buy tickets the day of the game.

Many families tailgate before and after the game. The families of knobs usually try to leave campus as soon as the football game is over and the knobs are released to leave. This first year knobs usually want to sleep, eat and sleep some more when they get off campus.

Sunday, October 11

9:00 Worship services in the chapel and Buyer Auditorium

The cadets have the day to be with family and friends.


Dress: For families of cadets from knob year to junior year the dress for the weekend is casual.

Senior families Friday afternoon is business casual. The evening is formal (see notes above). Saturday is a typical football day.

Watch the weather forecast and pack accordingly. You cannot bring umbrellas into the football stadium but you can wear a rain poncho.

Parking: Like all big weekends, parking is tight. The earlier you arrive the better selection of parking spots you will have. See  the official weekend information for details

See the previous posts about Parents Weekend/Ring Weekend for more photos of the events:

Our Ring Weekend Adventure, Part 1

Our Ring Weekend Adventure, Part 2

The Citadel: Parents weekend Notes for the Class of 2014 and 2017

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Special Weekends: Parents Weekend, Homecoming, Corps Day, Recognition Day

The Citadel: Parents Weekend and Ring Weekend Tips

Senior Parent notes

The Citadel: Parents/Ring Weekend 2012 + Hotel Info

Matriculation Day at The Citadel, 2015

Cars begin to line up at the alumni center in the early morning hours of Matriculation Day.
Cars begin to line up at the alumni center in the early morning hours of Matriculation Day.

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.

Entering knobs place their belongings on the side walk outside the barracks and go to check in. Family members wait by the belongings.
Entering knobs place their belongings on the side walk outside the barracks and go to check in. Family members wait by the belongings.

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.

On Matriculation Day the "Blue Shirt" volunteers are parents of cadets who volunteer to help the new cadets get settled in. Here you can see a group carrying items into 1st Battalion.
On Matriculation Day the “Blue Shirt” volunteers are parents of cadets who volunteer to help the new cadets get settled in. Here you can see a group carrying items into 1st Battalion.

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.

Caitlyn Lees, 2012 grad, sits at the sign in table with a cadet on Matriculation Day.
Caitlyn Lees, 2012 grad, sits at the sign in table with a cadet on Matriculation Day.

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.

Sunday morning chapel service.
Sunday morning chapel service.

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.

Best wishes to the

Class of 2019!

The Class of 2014 reports in on Matriculation Day and receives their "knobbie" clothes inside the barracks.
The Class of 2014 reports in on Matriculation Day and receives their “knobbie” clothes inside the barracks.
Knobs line up in 3rd battalion to get their PT clothes. On matriculation Day.
Knobs line up in 3rd battalion to get their PT clothes. On matriculation Day.
Citadel Family Association, "Blue Shirt" volunteers wait with parents of the Class of 2015.
Citadel Family Association, “Blue Shirt” volunteers wait with parents of the Class of 2015.
Bravo knobs meet the cadre right after the sallyport gates are closed, Matriculation Day, 2010
Bravo knobs meet the cadre right after the sallyport gates are closed, Matriculation Day, 2010
The Bravo Co. cadre lead the Class of 2014 to lunch on Matriculation Day.
The Bravo Co. cadre lead the Class of 2014 to lunch on Matriculation Day.
Class of 2015 knobs head to lunch on Matriculation Day.
Class of 2015 knobs head to lunch on Matriculation Day.

Transitions and Letting Go

On Matriculation Day the "Blue Shirt" volunteers are parents of cadets who volunteer to help the new cadets get settled in. Here you can see a group carrying items into 1st Battalion.
On Matriculation Day the “Blue Shirt” volunteers are parents of cadets who volunteer to help the new cadets get settled in. Here you can see a group carrying items into 1st Battalion.

I am just days away from a major shift in the way I’ve been living for the past ten years. On Monday, June 2, I begin a year-long stint as a resident in the chaplain’s office at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. I haven’t commuted daily to a job since 2004.

For the past ten years I have had contract positions where most of the work was done by computer and phone with occasional face to face meetings. I will now work 7:30 – 4:30 each day with on call duty one weekend a month.

For the past four years I’ve also contributed to this blog and maintain several Facebook groups for parents of cadets and graduates of The Citadel. How this activity will change is not clear right now. I assume I’ll still check in on the group sat the end of the day and contribute to the blog as I find the time. If you are a new Citadel parent, remember to use the search window on this blog and also on the school website. Just about every thing you need to know as a parent can be found on the school website or in previous posts to this blog or the Off the Base blog.

In previous years I’ve been on Facebook throughout the day to help answer questions in the parent groups. Fortunately I am not the only one in the groups a GREAT group of parents of graduates help answer questions in the groups. A few parents in the groups have multiple children at the school and they help answer questions too. Once I start working full-time I’m sure I’ll be able to check the group pages most evenings and on the weekend.

The Facebook group search window will appear when you click on the magnifying glass icon.
The Facebook group search window will appear when you click on the magnifying glass icon.

A tip to new parents: Join the The Citadel: Parents of  the Class of 2018 (email me to let me know your student will be a knob my address is in the About section of this blog). Being part of the group means you’ll learn about the 4th Class system together. You will find you are not alone in your questions. A BIG reason I started this group is to help parents learn about the system and learn to empower their knob/cadet to take control of their process. When you are missing your knob the first week, visit the group page.

Letting go of the control you’ve had as a parent is the toughest part of sending a child to The Citadel. It is a leadership school. That means your cadet will learn to take control of their future. For that to happen the cadet has to take the lead in advocating for them self.

Between cell phones, email and Skype families are more connected than ever. Technology can be a good thing, but it also means that for many parents of knobs, this first year can be very traumatic as you adjust to not being able to talk to your child whenever you would like to talk to them. Use the next few months as a transition period to prepare for scant communication.

Knobs do not have control over their time. They WILL NOT be able to reply to an email or text right away, much less a phone call. This is particularly tough on parents who are used to talking to their child throughout the day. It is really tough on the girlfriends or boyfriends of cadets. They too need to understand that knobs do not have control of much of anything other than their reactions this first year.

One way to cope with the separation with your knob is to learn to use the school website. Reading about the school and the training the cadets go through can help you feel connected when you can’t see or hear from them. I suggest this each year, NOT for you to tell your son or daughter what to do, but to help you understand the system at The Citadel. If you know the terminology and a little about the campus it means you can spend the little time you do have on the phone visiting and not asking for explanations of terms. A good book to read to help you understand knob year is, “In the Company of Men,” by Nancy Mace.

The Guidon is online and has a section with photos of the various uniforms and terminology. It also tells you a bit about the history. Your cadet will get a copy in the mail before Matriculation Day and will need to memorize and internalize much of this book. For parents it is just a helpful reference book to have on hand.

Caitlyn Lees, 2012 grad, sits at he sign in table with a cadet on Matriculation Day.
Caitlyn Lees, 2012 grad, sits at he sign in table with a cadet on Matriculation Day.

Once school gets started you can get an idea of what their day is like by reading the weekly training schedules that are online. Visit the Office of the Commandant page, then select Operations and Training, then select Training Schedules. If you want to read through what they will learn click on Training to see the various training modules.

Remember just a few short years ago when the rising seniors were knobs their parents did not have the benefit of Facebook groups or blog posts to help them through. The groups for classes started with the Class of 2016. The tips I am passing along I learned during my sons knob year. I hardly heard from him that year and used the time to read through the web site as well as reading books like In the Company of Men, The Boo, In Glory’s Shadow, Sword Drill and yes, Lords of Discipline. The volunteers of the Citadel Family Association are a great resource too. Once school starts you can also reach out to the company and battalion parent representatives.

Two blog entries you’ll want to visit in August:

Matriculation Day: The Hardest Part for Parents is Letting Go

Hell Week and Knob Year Survival Tips for Parents 

I am heading into my first week as a chaplain resident at the VA. I’m feeling a bit like getting ready for the first day of school. I’m not sure how often I will be contributing here in the months to come. My hope is that I’ve written enough about the school and the process that parents visiting this site will be able to use the search window above right on the page and find the information they need.



Winter Furlough and First Year Cadets

Carolina Cadet Nutcracker and an Army Nutcracker purchased at Target.
Carolina Cadet Nutcracker and an Army Nutcracker purchased at Target.

Winter Furlough for first year Citadel cadets can  bring with it a mixed bag of emotions. While they are very happy to be home and away from the 4th Class system, they also miss their fellow knobs. The friends from high school who went on to non-military colleges can’t relate to the regimented life of a cadet. The process of moving into adulthood and the life of a Citadel cadet is in place by December of knob year.

The downside of Winter Furlough is the news that comes from friends who have decided they want a different college experience and will not return to The Citadel for second semester. While I am sure it is a tough decision not to return, in some ways hearing a good buddy won’t be there second semester can really upset the most devoted knob. I bring this up in case anyone reading this thinks they are alone so they will know they are not.

Some cadets don’t return because of grades. For others, they do not return because of financial reasons. Others decide that they want to attend a non-military college. Whatever the reason, it is hard to leave good friends.

For the knobs who face second semester without a friend, returning in January can be even more difficult. The beginning of second semester is tough for many cadets of all classes. They have spent a month with friends and family, enjoying good food lots of sleep and long hot showers. They return to the cold dark barracks, early morning PT in the damp cold temperatures of the winter. Many first year cadets who haven’t questioned their sanity of choosing this type of college experience, will have their doubts in January and February.

I mention this now as a heads up to parents of first year cadets so you’ll know that if you get a call in January complaining about the school, you’ll be aware that this is normal. As I’ve written in several posts, you know your child the best. If at anytime you have concerns about them and their experience at The Citadel, call the ombudspersons office. They will keep the call confidential and hear your concerns.

How a cadet did academically first semester can be a cause for celebration or concern. Congratulations if your cadet made the Dean’s List (3.2) or Gold Stars (3.7 or higher). The school will publish a list of the cadets on each list. There will also be the announcement of the Commandant’s List and President’s List cadets sometime in January. The President’s List cadets and Gold Star recipients are recognized during the awards parade in January and are invited to a reception at the President’s home after the parade.

If your cadet did not do well first semester it can be a wake up call to reorder priorities. I’ve heard plenty of stories of cadets who didn’t do well their first semester and went on to earn Gold Stars. The academic support office and the individual academic departments can be a great help to cadets, but they must seek the assistance. The sooner they ask for help in a semester the better.

No matter how they did academically, they have made it through the toughest challenge a college freshman can go through and that is cause for celebration!

For now, enjoy your cadet and their stories.

Best wishes to everyone for a wonderful Holiday.

Navigating The Citadel Website

A beautiful Fall day at The Citadel
A beautiful Fall day at The Citadel

This blog began in the Fall of 2011. My oldest son graduated from The Citadel in May of 2011. After chairing the Georgia Citadel Parents Group for three years as well as serving as the Area Rep coordinator for the Citadel Family Association for a couple of years, I accumulated quite a bit of helpful information for parents. A blog seemed like a great place to post this information so any searching for Citadel related topics could find the information. The initial information was taken form the document I used to share with Georgia parents which is also on the CFA website under CFA Benefits titled “Survival Tips.”

After I posted the initial information I did not visit the blog site for about six months. When I did check on the stats for the site, it turned out some days the blog had over 300 hits. Then emails began coming in from parents of incoming cadets. That is when I posted a Facebook group for Parents of the Class of 2016. There is now a group for Parents of the Class of 2017.

The intent of these groups is to help families prepare for knob year and teach them how to find information on the school website. Ideally, after knob year, each parent will learn the ins and outs of the cadet year. After knob year the groups for parents become a place for the parents to post photos, and share stories.

As with many sites that post information, some readers would rather request the answers from a fellow parent instead of learning how to find the answers. The groups are manned by parents of graduates. It is important to note these parents volunteer their time. All of the parents of graduates had to learn about the 4th class system on their own. There were no Facebook groups in 2007 and most of 2008. The goal of these groups is to teach new parents how to find information on their own so they will no longer need help from the volunteers.

The first tip for new parents is this, The Citadel is a military college. The cadets are to learn to handle their own affairs. Parents are needed for support, but should not try to “fix” any problems.

Parents should encourage the cadet to seek solutions on their own. If a problem arises a knob should use their chain of command to find answers. If it is an academic problem, speaking to their professor, then the academic support office is what they should be encouraged to do.

If it is a matter a cadet does not want to share with their chain of command several resources on campus exist and can be found on the H.E.L.P. web page.

The second big tip for new parents is to use the search window on the web site. Just about everything you need to know as a parent can be found in this way. I will list the top web pages parents should read below.

Remember, the links may change from year to year. If you enter the name of what you are looking for into the search window on the main web site you should find the current link.

You can also go to the webpage the school put together called simply, Parents.

A-Z Sitemap – Use this link to see an alphabetical listing of various departments on campus.

Annual Events page – includes information for the big weekends including Matriculation Day

Cadet Activities – This office handles the details for the knob’s trip tot he beach, Ring Ceremony schedule, Cookies for knobs program, Host families.

Citadel Family Association – A volunteer group of parents that help with Matriuclaiton Day. They also have company and area reps as well as the Nice to Have List for knobs

Information Technology – this page includes computer recommendations and IT support information

New Cadet Information – Part of the Academic Affairs page – lists helpful informaitn for new cadets and includes links for Parents

Office of the Commandant – a great page to book mark.

Parade schedule is listed under the Visitor tab on the home page

People Search – Enter the name of your cadet, faculty or staff member to see their contact information, including their campus mailing address.

Success Packet – Includes the items each incoming knob must ring with them on Matriculation Day.

You can also use the search window on this blog to find information I’ve posted on a variety of subjects, including what moms should wear for the Ring Ceremony.

Cadets during an October parade at The Citadel
Cadets during an October parade at The Citadel


A Few Tips for Parents of the Class of 2017


Caitlyn Lees, 2012 grad, sits at he sign in table with a cadet on Matriculation Day.
Caitlyn Lees, 2012 grad, sits at he sign in table with a cadet on Matriculation Day.

Congratulations!  The journey has started.

The Citadel is definitely different from other non-military colleges. There are a  few tips for new parents to help your cadet recruit, or knob, and you this next year.

Two Citadel Family Association volunteers at 1st Battalion.
Two Citadel Family Association volunteers at 1st Battalion.

The Citadel is a Leadership school. That means now that your knob has reported it is up to them to navigate the system. parents should not call the school and make requests like special leave, talk to their professors like you did with high school teachers. Being a “Helicopter Parent” will not help your knob.

Knobs line up in 3rd battalion to get their pT clothes.
Knobs line up in 3rd battalion to get their pT clothes.

The school does a great job of posting updates to various social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, and YouTube. They will also post photos you can browse through and purchase. The goal of every knob is to be invisible, or a “Ghost knob.” If you see your knob in a photo of the site, share it on your own Facebook page but Do Not post any comments to the page. Set all your privacy settings to Friends only. That includes your photos too.

If you have friends who are the parents of upperclass cadets don’t post questions specific to their walls. Send a private message instead.

Email the Citadel Family Association Company and/or the Battalion rep for you knobs company or battalion. They can be a great resource for traditions specific to your knobs company.

Do Not have your knob as your profile pic or cover photo.

You will not hear from your knob until next week. When you talk to them do remind them this is a military COLLEGE. If they don’t pass their classes they won’t stay in school, no matter how shiny their shoes and brass looks. Knobs tend to try to do everything and skip sleep. That is not a sustainable plan. School work must be a priority. Sleep is necessary. Fit the polishing in where they can. Budget 20 – 30 minutes a night. Your role as parents should be to encourage them to get these priorities straight right away. The knob has to be the one to implement the plan.

The sooner a knob learns to pull together with their classmates the better.

Charlie Company knobs report.
Charlie Company knobs report.

Do not listen to rumors. Go to a primary source for clarification. If it didn’t happen to your cadet or to you don’t repeat a story you’ve heard. I covered some of this advice in a previous post about the Rumor Mill after rumors began to fly last fall.

Learn the school website. I’ve added the most frequently accessed pages to an entry called Helpful Web Links. Bookmark the entry for future use.

Do send encouraging letters and small boxes of goodies.

The Cadet Activities website is a great resource and they will post photos too.

Use your time this week learning how to read the training schedules. If you’d like to see the training modules they will be shown check out the Training page on the Office of the Commandant page under Operations and Training.

Join the Facebook groups for parents, but do not post to the ones with cadets in them. The group for 2017 parents only has new parents and a few parents of graduates who volunteer their time to answer questions. To join the group email me and let me know your knobs name and company. My email address is in the About section of the group page. See the entry on Facebook groups or direct links to other groups.

The Commandant of Cadets, Col. Mercado oversees the morning activities.
The Commandant of Cadets, Col. Mercado oversees the morning activities.

To tide you over as you wait to see more photos from the school See these albums of photos I took this weekend.

Saturday photos

Sunday Chapel

Sunday after chapel

Make plans to attend Parents Weekend. Hotels book quickly. See this entry for information of Parents Weekend.


A few other photos from Sunday Morning.


Personal attentionKnobs line up


The Hospitality Committee

The Citadel: A Few Words about Christmas Break and Second Semester

Bravo Company, 2007
Facebook photo

The Citadel cadets are making their way back to campus today for the final push toward their winter furlough. I went through some old emails today and found one I had sent to the parents in Georgia when my son was a senior. A couple of paragraphs from that letter about the furlough and returning second semester still apply today. . .

“It will be hard for them to leave home to report back to school after a week at home, but Christmas Furlough will only be a few weeks off.  In the few weeks leading up to the Christmas Furlough the cadets have other traditions like decorating the Barracks, “borrowing” the trees from other companies (cadets don’t steal) and singing Christmas Carols. See this link for a Christmas Carol video.

And just a heads up about second semester. . . After a month at home it is very hard, even for the most dedicated knob, to return to The Citadel.  It is cold, dark, and they just had several weeks of comforts at home.  If your cadet calls home and seems particularly down and questions their choice of school, this is totally normal.  Encourage them to remember why they decided to attend this school and encourage them to do their best.  It won’t be long before the weather gets better and they are that much closer to the biggest day in the life of a cadet, Recognition Day.”

Video: Putting up the Charlie Company Christmas tree

Christmas on campus in photos: Christmas decorations

A Note to Knob Parents About Thanksgiving

Can you believe you have made it this far in the semester? By now your vocabulary should include quite a few new terms specific to The Citadel. You should have a level of comfort with your new normal as parents of a cadet.

In the next week your knob will experience their first Thanksgiving dinner Citadel style. The cadets will gather in the mess hall for a family style Thanksgiving dinner. The highlights of the night are the hats made for upperclass cadets by their mentees. Juniors are given hats made of a sheet of poster board and resemble a stove-pipe decorated with the upperclass cadet in mind. The seniors hats can be very elaborate. My sons senior year his mentee made a hat that looked like a tank in honor of his news of being in the Armor branch of the Army. Knobs wear an Indian style head-dress with one construction paper feather and the sophomores wear a similar head-dress with two feathers. Watch for the photos. Each company has a few other traditions that evening. The stories and photos are a lot of fun to hear when they get home.

The tank hat had a working gun in the front that shot out fireworks.

Speaking of home. . . usually parents of knobs are very anxious to have their son or daughter home for a whole week. The knobs are anxious to be home too. Just remember they will also be looking forward to seeing their friends from home. The experience varies for each cadet. Many enjoy seeing their friends, but begin to see just how different their college experience is from their friends. Some feel very different and can’t relate as well to friends who went right to work or are attending a non-military school.

While they have to keep their rooms at The Citadel in decent order those organizational skills don’t always transfer home with them. Don’t be surprised if their room at home looks like a small bomb exploded.

This can also be a time when they begin to question their choice of school, if they haven’t yet. If this happens with your cadet remind them they are almost done with the first semester and they can make it to the Christmas break. Some cadets decide that after first semester they do not want to continue at a military school for the rest of their college career. Others are more determined than ever to stick it out to prove to themselves they can make it. You know your child better than anyone and will have to decide how to proceed if they bring up the subject of changing schools.

If you need help with transportation post a notice to one of the many parent groups on Facebook. You can also call the Cadet Activities office to see if they can help with ride share requests.

Above all else, enjoy your time together. You’ve all accomplished quite a bit in a few short months.

Happy Thanksgiving!