Leaving the Academy

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by momkoll, May 15, 2015.

  1. momkoll

    momkoll New Member

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    This time of year is thrilling for parents and those about to inprocess! I remember it well just 12 short months ago. After a full year my DS feels USAFA is not for him. Along with this heavy heart decision comes a list of questions. He has soul searched for weeks now and does not seem to "see the light". In essence, he just doesn't seem to feel as though he fits in. He made it through all the hardships of the first year and feels more detached from the place than ever after even after recognition. (The opposite of what most say) Its not the fact that he is missing his freedom or that he wants to "party" like his friends in normal schools. He has handled all the academics and is on the Dean's list. He just doesn't feel a shared sense of purpose that he says so many there have. He also feels like he just doesn't have much in common with his squadron members who for some reason he has not made good bonds with. In fact he feels very lonely there. He does not feel the "USAFA spirit" in his blood. Sad right? I have tried every angle with him and the idea of going back to give it a try for another year fills him with a sense of dread. It is not for everyone... In any event, does anyone have any idea what the process looks like to "outprocess?" I can't find much info online about it. I am sure when he returns to campus next week he will figure it out. I suspect he'll have to wait until after graduation. It is his BIG decision and I am at peace with it. I just want to be as supportive as possible.
     
  2. MedB

    MedB Parent

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    Momkoll,

    If your DS wants to go he would seek out his AOC or AMT to "Form 34". There is a process the will guide him through that includes counseling, etc.

    But I have a question/suggestion... Has he spoken to anyone outside his peer group yet? A chaplain? Someone else? If he wants to leave, he will have to do some of that anyways as part of the process. So why not do so now and see if there aren't options available. Perhaps a change of squadron might be in order so he can re-bond with peers.

    In fact to me, this that is the most troubling aspect of his story...
    There are lots of reasons that people leave SA's. But if there is ANYTHING that typically happens there, it's the incredible bonds that are formed through shared experience, sacrifice, and triumph. These are the kinds of bonds that form for life. If he can hack the discipline, the academics, the head games and all the rest, but can't bond with his squad mates.... that would give me pause.

    Sometimes it's hard for young people to see options when they are down so they fixate on what is perceived in the moment as the only option. He can always quit, but there may be other choices (eg a change of squadron) that he will deeply regret not at least exploring. Instead of trying to reason him out of quitting, encourage him to talk to someone other than his squad mates about how he's feeling. He might be surprised what comes out of it.
     
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  3. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    It probably won't even hurt to talk to his squad mates. He might be surprised by what he learns there as well and it could be useful information.
     
  4. dream19

    dream19 Member

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    My eyes got wet reading your post. This is so sad, and my heart goes out to your son as well as to you. As I am preparing DS for his first year to USMA, I have mixed feelings of thrill and worries, leaving halfway being the biggest. Having been through the lengthy process, I know how competitive and how hard it must be for him to get to where he is. It's like one sets out to run a marathon and has got everything it takes to succeed, but decides to quit voluntarily before finish, after having gone through all the hardships of the the first part. Unfortunate as it seems, only he knows how it feels. It is not mentally healthy to remain unhappy. I feel for him, but completely agree with what MedB has advised to explore other options before making a decision that he will never regret. May courage and strength be with him, and all the best!
     
  5. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    This is indeed quite sad but also not uncommon. Its all a matter of perspective and goals. Many cadets, while they were applying, mention how they've wanted to go to the academy for such a long time. That it's been their "GOAL". Of all the applicants I've worked with here or personally and as an ALO, the first thing I have to remind them of and instill in them, is to not make the "Academy" a goal. Time at the academy, no matter how good or bad someone believes it is, is finite. It is such a short period of time. (Obviously, there's a lot of C4C and C3C who will say that time isn't going by that fast). But the truth is, the academy NEEDS to simply be a tool or a means of helping you reach your goals. Your goals have to be much greater than the 4 years at the academy.

    Some will debate that you can have many goals and the academy can be one of them. If we're talking semantics, then yes. But the reality is, there's a difference between the individual who is looking at the "Military" with the academy as being the first stage of that; and those who are simply looking at the academy and not much beyond that.

    While I understand the question is about the "Out processing" procedures, while there is time, I would ask your son, or mostly have your son ask himself, a very important question.

    What is it he is wanting to do with his life? What is it he was wanting to get from the academy? Remember, the academy is such a short period of time and such a small part of his future. If he thinks "THE MILITARY" isn't for him; then that's fine. It definitely isn't for everyone. If he still has any ambition or "Dreams" about the military, being an officer, the military lifestyle, traveling the world, etc. Then he needs to re-evaluate himself. NONE of the C4C freshman there have a "SENSE OF PURPOSE". Up through and including recognition, they barely had any "Senses". The last 9 months for them was total "BRAIN DEAD". If he still sees the grandeur of the military, then he needs to realize that the academy is just a means of getting there. The academy isn't the "REAL" military. It's also not "REAL" college either. In life, we all have to sometimes do things we don't like. The key is to determine if what we are doing is a "PATH" to reaching one of our goals. Hell, most people's JOBS aren't even a goal. Most don't do what they really want to do. They do it because it provides them the resources to reach some of their goals. Yes, some people work in the job they've always dreamed of their whole lives. But many don't. If money, benefits, health care, etc. weren't something to consider, there would probably be a lot more artists, poets, Radio DJ's, etc. in the world. Many people would rather be doing something else and someplace else.

    So, it comes down to: If the "MILITARY" is not what he is passionate about any longer; then yes, it's probably a good idea to move on. On the other hand, if the military is still a desire, but the "academy" isn't a passion because it's lost it's infatuation, then he needs to look at the academy for what it is, and not what he wanted it to be. It's simply a tool.... a path..... to getting to what he wants. In this case, a military lifestyle and possibly career.

    P.S. There's a lot of individuals who become commissioned officers who don't go the route of the academies. There's nothing wrong with this at all. But if your son is still passionate about the academy, it is my opinion that he would be better off learning how to deal with the academy and making it through, than trying to start all over again via ROTC or getting his degree and coming in via OTS. Coming out of high school, it's easy to choose any commissioning method. Dropping out of the academy and going a different route is not that simple. If the military still holds passion with him, then work through the academy. BTW: It gets much easier "Mentally" after the first complete year is over.
     
  6. MombaBomba

    MombaBomba Member

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    I am sorry to hear this. I know there are those who don't form deep friendships and connections till after recognition, because they don't feel connected to their squad mates and can't hang out in other squads with friends from class or clubs till after recognition. Unfortunately, some squads can be dysfunctional for whatever reason, and the kids in those squads feel isolated and alone. These cadets need to seek out friends through class and clubs. I heard from previous grads that some of them didn't make their closest friends until sophomore year when they had the freedom to go visit and hang outside their squadron. Good luck to your son on which ever path his journey takes him. I wish both him and you much happiness and success in the future.
     
  7. ParkMom

    ParkMom Member

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    momkoll, I hope you find a way to be supportive to your DS in any decision he makes. I hope your DS in turn, takes the advice of those here to look beyond these 4 short years, if military service is still his goal.

    My DS is one of those who always wanted the Academy, since he was old enough to comprehend what the Academy was. He has embraced the life as fully as any college aged student can, and is making the most of the opportunites offered. He is going into his firstie year full of excitement about his future. When we were discussing his path during his high school years, my DH ('81 - Second to None) stressed that he should give the Academy 2 years minimum. There should be no decision about any changes until after your first two years. If after those years he would decide that the Academy wasn't a good fit for his future path, he was under no obligation to stay and he would have our full support. (of course, he would have had our support either way) My DH has been approached by many high school kids about the military academies and that is always his approach with them. Yes the first year is difficult, but make no decision about leaving until AFTER the second year. It helped our DS to look at this as a two year commitment with a two year follow on. There's a reason the cadets don't commit until their C2C year.
     
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  8. momkoll

    momkoll New Member

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    Thank you all for those great words of advice. I will do my best to share them with my DS and I really hope he will do his due diligence and seek out someone there to talk to. The hardest part is seeing him so down (not his usual state of mind). I can't help but feel I am missing something. There are piece of the puzzle that just don't add up. I wish I could talk to someone there who knows him but also realize this is his decision and I don't want to be a hovering mother. Having said that he was only 5 doors down from the poor young man who died in April and his best friend there had to leave a week before finals due to a family death and may not come back. What will be will be. I know, no matter what he will be successful and ok but this "in between place" is not fun at all. Thanks again and God Bless and Good Luck to all the new ones about to embark on this most strange yet exciting journey.
     
  9. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    I was a female in the early days of women at SAs. I didn't feel a great bond with my squad-mates after plebe year. However, I did feel tied to USNA and I was determined to stick it out. Over the next three years, I found a greater bond with my classmates and the school.

    Your DS has another "free" year -- meaning a year before he makes his commitment. Life as a 3/C is infinitely better. That said, some folks will never be happy at SAs . . . and most will go on to extremely successful lives outside the military. However, you never want to look back and say, "What if. . . ."

    I agree with ScoutPilot that your DS needs to be heading FOR something vs. just wanting to leave USAFA. This is the same thing that confronts officers who are considering leaving the military. In my many years post-graduation, I've found that those who leave to do something specific are inevitably more satisfied than those who say "anything else must be better than this."

    As my father sagely said . . . "Wherever you are is the worst. Wherever you're going is the best. And wherever you came from isn't as bad as you thought it was when you were there." Words to live by.
     
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  10. billyb

    billyb Member

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    Very, very good advice.
     
  11. Usafamom2016

    Usafamom2016 Member

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    Momkoll, tried to send you a message and it won't let me. I think you need to post a few more times. My son sounds like he is near your son and would be happy to help with perspective.
     
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  12. BlahuKahuna

    BlahuKahuna Member

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    I'd encourage your son to talk to usafamom2016's son as well. He's an awesome person to talk to.
     
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  13. momkoll

    momkoll New Member

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    Thanks I am not sure how to get a hold of you as I am not a great forum user! Thanks for helping I am truly at a loss...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 19, 2015
  14. momkoll

    momkoll New Member

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    Again. These are all great words of wisdom and I really appreciate being able to process this with people who understand the situation. It has been a rough weekend..
     
  15. USAFA83GradWife

    USAFA83GradWife Member

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    I think Christcorp has the best advice. If your son is leaving because he doesn't feel connected to his squadmates, he may regret the decision. If he's leaving because the AF isn't for him, then I can think of no better reason to find a new course.

    Although I have no personal experience at USAFA, I have 2 points of reference. My DH said that he did not connect with his doolie year squadmates - ever. He joined clubs and got involved in other activities. This is where he made life long friends; a group he gets together with at least once a year. These life long friends were made after doolie year.

    My DD is probably in what I consider the most dysfunction squad (haha!) It happens. She just did not click with anyone. She also got involved with clubs & other activities and now spends all her free time with friends "out of squad." She's rarely in her squad.

    Has your son joined any clubs to meet like minded cadets?
     
  16. momkoll

    momkoll New Member

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    He did in the fall and seemed so much happier then. Now he just seems like he is in shut down mode. He seems incredibly angry and cynical. He is a pilot and isn't even interested in flying right now. Truth be told, I fear he is depressed. I have urged him to contact a counselor there before he decides but he just keeps telling me he needs to get out asap. As hard as it is for me to see him walk away from all the opportunities he would have there I think I need to let go. He's a fun loving , kind and talented kid who has amazing potential. He has supportive friends at home but truly feels he will not be missed once he is gone from the Academy. I find this hard to believe but it might just go back to the fact that the military is not for everyone. I still feel like something happened over the last few months that I don't understand. I'll keep you posted as to what transpires after he returns tomorrow. Thanks again. I really appreciate all your supportive words.


    Sent using the Service Academy Forums® mobile app
     
  17. Usafamom2016

    Usafamom2016 Member

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    Momkoll, Got the PM through, recommend you delete you phone number from here.
     
  18. zampstamp

    zampstamp Member

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    To be honest, as a fellow classmate, I feel the same way as your son is. Unlike your son, I am not on Dean's List, and struggling academically. I put out in academics and stay up all hours of the night to get my work done, but the math based classes don't come to me easy (sadly that entails most classes at USAFA). I am in the process of contacting colleges for a late transfer and go ROTC, and most all are very very helpful. I already have one offer for the fall of 2015, and I started last week. I love the academy, well parts of it, but academically it isn't for me, and I would rather go out on my own, rather than have them kick me out for deficient grades, especially once I committed. The military is for me, and I plan on continuing, just not through USAFA. Can you PM me your sons name? I might be able to talk to him, or know of him, because I know his squadron
     
  19. zampstamp

    zampstamp Member

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    How ironic that I got the 18th post
     
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  20. skismuggs

    skismuggs Member

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    You might be right, he sounds depressed and probably isolated too? I'm sorry that he is feeling this way, it is very hard to get out of that "haze" when you are in it. That's why many people deny they are clinically depressed and blame it on everything else but that. My advice is maybe seek the help of his AOC or chaplain, I know there are many layers of help available there. Kids will most times not listen to their parents because they feel they are being "talked to" but will listen to a third party. And it sounds like something/someone might have triggered this and he is reacting to it. We all know how much stress they all have had over there since January. I personally do not know how to get in touch with the people that can help but I'm sure someone can point you in their direction.

    I told mine a long time ago that if you decide to quit/decide to leave, do it on a good day; a day when everything is going well, when your grades are good and the sun is shining. But never quit on a bad day; when your grades are crappy, everyone's yelling at you and everything seems lost. If you can walk away on a good day, then there is nothing else that will make you stay or hold you back, and the decision to leave is the right thing. However, if you walk away on a bad day, you are just reacting to the stress and your mind is not thinking clearly and is under duress. The chances are those things/events are short lived and really no big deals in the grand scheme of things (a day, a month, four years, 20 years later.) That would be the wrong time to leave because when things get better and the sun shines again, the regret sets in. And I am sure the academy is not too keen on giving second chances for those reasons. I'm sure that there are a lot of cadets, former and current, at one point in time thought the same way as your son.

    The military is not for everyone, but like most people have already said, does he not want to be at the academy, or does he not want to be in the military? He is a doolie and doolie life sucks and is not representative of the upper three years and it will just get better, so I am told. Life is full of "what ifs", some good and some regretful, I hope he doesn't make it the latter. Good luck and God bless. PM me if you need to talk.
     

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