Negativity at the USAFA?

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by aglages, Jan 7, 2011.

  1. aglages

    aglages Parent

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    I had assumed that the cadets at any SA were well motivated and overall very enthusiastic about being in a military college that required so much work to get accepted. Certainly life is not always (often) easy at a SA but why would someone continue to voluntarily attend if they have lost motivation and stopped trying? While I understand that everyone has emotional ups and downs and good and bad days, I am curious about how prevalent the following issue is specifically at the USAFA (or any SA). Thanks in advance for your insight.

     
  2. katamonk

    katamonk USAFA 2015 Appointee

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    Sometimes candidates may be applying based on their parents' will. I'm not personally under this category, but I know the pressure that a child feels to keep their parent(s) happy. And, if they grew up in a military family they may feel like they need to continue the tradition. This is just my opinion, so it may not be completely accurate.
     
  3. sd4421

    sd4421 New Member

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    I think the negativity mostly starts after you get here. Before a cadet gets to the academy, they are almost all very excited to get there. The negativity is mostly because of the rules and the academics.

    I don't think most people have stopped trying altogether, but there is a lot of complaining about how tough it can be.

    In short, negativity happens but at the same time if you look at the big picture its really obvious how the academy is actually pretty great.
     
  4. Stealth_81

    Stealth_81 Super Moderator Moderator Founding Member

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    Aglages,

    I'll try to answer this from the perspective of a parent who has heard about this stuff for 4 years.

    I think there is a difference between what PDub said, and what you asked.

    He stated that there are dismal attitudes and cadets who will try to convince you to achieve low performance. You asked about cadets who have lost motivation and stopped trying. There is a difference. Cadets who have lost motivation and stopped trying will certainly be better off separating from the Academy. Those with dismal attitudes will keep trying, just not quite as hard as they could. Those cadets will still graduate, albeit possibly with a 2.01GPA.

    As far as the cadet who tries to convince others to be mediocre, I think that happens more as a peer pressure situation where one cadet tries to convince another to go up to Boulder and party for the weekend instead of working on the 12 page paper that they have due on Monday. Nothing different than what happens at any other college.

    Here is my draw of the cadet population at USAFA. Strictly from my learnings from my cadet, his friends, and other parents: There is roughly a 25-50-25 split in cadets. 25% are the go-getters, the strict military and academics who strive for Wing/Group leadership positions, who invest their souls into USAFA and bleed blue. The middle 50% (majority) who are average cadets. They work hard, but enjoy some time off occassionally. They usually excel in one area, be it sports, academics, or leadership, and are adequate in other areas. They are the squadron training officers, MWR officers, or other mid-level positions. They love the Air Force, but are sometimes cynical about the Academy itself. The last 25% are the ones who struggle through. Either by choice or talent, they make minimal grades and do just enough to stay at USAFA. Some work very hard to maintain academics at a minimally acceptable level and have no time for other activities. Others know just where the line is and do just enough to stay above it. They tend to be stealth cadets.

    Like I said, this is totally my opinion based on what I have seen since my son has been at USAFA. Take it for what it's worth.

    Stealth_81
     
  5. Don

    Don Member

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    It is all part of the process.

    TEAM building necessitates an “us versus them” environment. It allows for strong bonding of those who experience the “persecution” together and helps one acclimate into the heavy bureaucracy of military life.

    By the way the only place that bureaucracy is necessary is Military life. Methods, procedure, protocol, systems, redundancies, emergencies (real and manufactured) did I say redundancies yet? All that saves lives, wins battles, trains officers and enlisted alike and oh yeah - aggravates everyone involved.
    If you’re in a large institution you complain about food, conditions, dumb decisions made by the faceless people running the place. It does not matter what college, hospital, large company, summer camp, or prison, to be a complaining member of the masses is just human nature.

    There are no 4Cs that like it … (YET) but they know they will like it and they know they are in the “crucible”; the dross will be skimmed and if they make it, they will be like silver and gold.
     
  6. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    I am sure that it is as prevalent at the AFA as it is in the AF AD world.

    There are always pilots beaccching about how horrible the AF life is even though people would sell their soul to fly a 15/15E or 16.

    The way I see it those who go negative are just ticked at the pact they made with the AF.

    It also becomes even worse for them because they become isolated amongst their peers.

    Everybody gets it, you didn't get that "career field", "job" or "assignment". Life stinks and we all had to suck it up at one point or another. Droning on and on will alienate you with everyone.

    With that alienation comes more antagnostic opinions and more isolation. It is a negative spin.

    What you will see is that the outside world plays big in motivation. Good sponsors, strong family support, and seeing the finish line will allow the cadet on their bad days to say, "I will survive"

    ALOs look at family support for many reasons and probably the biggest one is they know that 1st yr is hard for any and every cadet. Family support to tell that cadet "you can do it", or "you will look back in 4 yrs from now as you pin on you will laugh at this conversation" is something that is an invaluable asset to the cadet when they are 2nd questioning their decision to go this route.

    Family members who never wanted the cadet to go in the 1st place creates a hurdle when times get tough. AND THEY WILL GET TOUGH! Don't fool yourself. Nobody in their right mind wants to recite 3 news articles a day, sit 7 inches from the table while chewing only 7 times and never looking down as they pour their glass of milk when it comes to eating...heck, that is the easy crap!

    For candidates with parents who are not on the same page, this is the time to be mature and honest with them. This is the time to say, you always wanted me to achieve my dream, and this is my dream. You need them to accept and support you because for the next 9 yrs (4 AFA and 5 AD) this will be your life.

    AG, I know you are one of those parents that relishes watching their child fly. Your DS will be just fine because emotionally he will have a parent who will tell him, life stinks sometimes, BUT, it always is a small amount of time when you look at the big picture.

    No 18 yo wants to sleep on top of their bed linen or G forbid have their cell phone taken away. That is when as parents we need to step in and say it is a short pain like ripping off a band aid....for Mom's we usually use child birth as an example because we know as bad as the pain is, it is a limited amount of time and the result was worth the pain!

    If you as a parent get in the trenches with them and start kvetching about the fact for 6 weeks they can't talk to you, or for the next 4 yrs you will only see them 6-9 weeks out of the yr, than when they start to feel dismal nobody can pull them out. It will be a done deal about how they feel when being 500, 1000, 2000 miles away from you.

    Parents you are going to be one of the biggest aspects regarding their success as a C4C. They need you to be their cheerleader, they need you to motivate them when it comes to their dismal times, and that includes being homesick or getting their 1st C.

    The AF may cut you out of their military career because they are over 18, but that doesn't mean you can't still impact their life.

    My running joke is now is the time to cut one of the apron strings. When they get commissioned that is the time to cut the 2nd.

    It is easy to say and hard to do, but it is what you need to do as a child and a parent.

    G Bless.

    AIM HIGH
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2011
  7. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    I would say that in my experience, that 99%+ of all "Appointees" are MORE than excited to attend a military academy. They all have different reasons for applying and accepting an appointment. Some/many because they want to serve. Some because of the quasi free education. Some because of the prestige. But overall, the 99%+ of appointees are excited about attending.

    Now; realize that about 95% of these appointees have absolutely no idea what they are getting into. Sorry, but JrROTC, CAP, and Scouts in no way at all prepares you for life at a military academy. I would say that the "Closest" appointee to knowing what they "Might" be getting themselves into, are BRATS. "Children of Military Parent(s)". Even they don't have a total understanding. You can explain the team concept; the need for learning discipline; how discipline translates to doing perceived "Silly or Stupid" tasks; the reason for very restrictive rules; etc... But no matter how much you explain it to them, they still won't truly understand until they actually attend.

    The ones who tend to excel, are the ones who realize that the academy is NOT a goal. The academy is a "Means" of "Reaching your goals". These individuals tend to keep the bigger picture and true goals in perspective. They learn to accept the "Restrictive Lifestyle", similar to how they learned to accept that their parents controlled them in a manner they didn't always agree with.

    The average appointee may focus more on the negatives. If they don't envision the "Ultimate Goals" or the "Method behind the madness", they tend to either quit early or put up with it, with the full intention of taking their free education and "Paying back" with a "5 and Dive". Now, once out of the academy, things will change again. Some who envisioned a 20+ year career may find that they really don't want to put up with that lifestyle, and they'll do their minimum time and get out. Some who thought all along that they would do a 5 and dive, come to like and appreciate military service, and they stay much longer. Some an entire career.

    So, I have found that those who complain "Continuously", tend to be those who don't understand the "Why's", they don't have the "Real Goals" in perspective, and that's because they really had no idea what they got themselves into. If you have one of these appointees/cadets, the best thing you can do, is to help them put the academy into perspective. Play devil's advocate and explain how difficult it is to take thousands of "Individuals" with so many diverse backgrounds, and get them "On the Same Page". And why it's important that in a military environment, that all the team members are "On the same page". Get these individuals how all of this leads eventually to reaching their true goals. If they can't correlate how it helps get them to their ultimate goals, then maybe attending a military academy was a bad choice; and they SHOULD consider quitting. But most individuals realize that ANY education will assist in reaching their goals; therefor, there shouldn't be too many that can't find the benefit of a military academy education and military service. later... mike....
     
  8. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    I think Pima and CC are definitely on to something here. Having the career goal in mind, not just the Academy as a goal, will certainly help cadets to accept and even be transformed by restrictions of a service academy.

    I do feel, too, there is a "misery loves company" aspect to this feeling, and that is certainly not reserved for service academies. We've all seen, in work, school, sports, etc. the one whiner who accumulates other whiners, who then form a little posse of whiners. Thankfully, they usually just whine!

    Sometimes, too, there is a certain amount of jealousy involved. Kids who are #1 in every aspect of their high schools, top academically, team captain, community accolades, etc. who is now, perhaps, barely average among his/her peers. I can imagine the pressure they are under, and instead of admitting their averageness and striving to be the best they can, it could become easier to just say, " I hate this class and I don't care if I get a D" especially because a) teacher doesn't like me, b) it's at o-dark-hundred in the bleeping morning c) my friends aren't in there with me... you know all the excuses.

    Occasionally, I think some of the older cadets are just itching to get going with their careers, and that leads to a certain indifference and even distain for "all those rules."
     
  9. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    This is a pretty common phenomenon at all of the service academies and certainly was/is at VMI. But it's for internal consumption- it's Cadet chic to ***** and be cynical about EVERYTHING- (the food; the uniforms; the barbershop; parades; the class ahead of you and behind you; the Tac staff; your ring figure date:eek: etc....) You name it-it is fair game. It literally is something where there is a certain amount of perverse pride in how lousy they can frame their existence.
    But it's for internal consumption- you have to be an insider to comment- which I guess is the dynamic driving it. The same guys who scream about how miserable their lives are, would, about 90% of the time, tear out the throat of anybody from another school who made the assumption that those complaints allowed them to comment on how screwed up their institution is.
    It's funny- almost everyone shows up motivated as all get out and convinced that they will be a Ranker, but a fair number go out of their way by the end of 4th class year to be exactly the opposite. Some of the absolute biggest, grossest slobs I ever knew were "grub privates" as Cadets- yet on active duty they were really stellar soldiers. (I believe that a friend told me that Gen Odierno fit that description). Sometimes it's really puzzling- my son literally lives on the edge with the Tacstaff- he marches more Penalty tours every semester than my roomates and I got combined in our whole cadetship. Yet he is far better prepared mentally and physically to be a 2LT than I was. I have the benefit of knowing as an alum as well as a dad, that all of whining and complaining has to be taken with a lot of grains of salt and i know enough about the system that I can ask questions which allow me to piece together reality
     
  10. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Yrs back when I 1st joined this site I was criticized for what we put our DS through as a SR in hs.

    We made him get up every day by 6, have his bed made, room straightened, and forced him to eat 7" inches from the table, chewing 7 bites and recite to us the school lunch menu while pouring his glass of milk and never looking. That was on top of working out physically daily.

    We made him look at the AFA curriculum that is mandated for every cadet.

    We were hard on him. We are thankful we were. He decided by Feb.1st before the board closed, that this was not the life he wanted for himself.

    That cruelty IMHPO helped him. To us it was better to get a small taste of life before he had to call the ball. He got the small taste and determined that after 18 yrs of an AD dependent he wanted to be a college kid, with the AF in his life, thus, ROTC was best for him.

    We played Devil's Advocate. We were willing to accept however it fell out because we knew we pushed him. By pushing him we knew he would be able to survive.

    When he said ROTC over the AFA, we were gung ho AFA. When he said AFA over AFROTC we were gung ho ROTC.

    CC is right, all of you raised great kids, but now is the time to play devils advocate. Don't get wrapped up in the SA apptmt from a stature point.

    Ask them, talk to them. discuss with them everything as one adult to another. Pose questions, and LISTEN to what they are saying, not what you want to HEAR.

    ~~~ Why the AFA?

    I.E. you are applying to MIT, Duke and UMich, what makes you want to go to the AFA over these schools.

    ~~~ If money was not an issue, would you still go AFA?

    ~~~ If you want UPT and you could be guaranteed a UPT slot no matter where you attended would you still go AFA?

    ~~~ What is your intended major, have you looked at their required curriculum?

    ~~~What if you don't get that career dream goal, would you still want to serve?


    I will never forget when Bullet and I sat down our DS and asked him those questions...honestly, after that conversation we were all relieved. Our son was relieved because he was creating an image in his mind of what we expected from him. We were relieved because we knew it was all about him and not following Dad's footsteps of flying fighters.

    He opted the AFROTC route. He score 720 on his Math SAT, and had all of the Math/Science APs, but we knew his heart was never into the Math/Science world, it was always govt. We knew the AFA was not a good fit for him academically and we were happy to hear him say...

    "If money was not an issue, and I could be guaranteed a UPT slot I would go to X and not the AFA."

    The minute he said that to us was the minute we called the ball. 5 days later we accepted the AFROTC scholarship, removed his name from the AFA and paid the bursar at his college.

    Again we were criticized for our actions.

    However, here is how we saw it, there is no guarantee at the AFA you will get a UPT slot, break your leg and it could be over.

    Fail out and it is over.

    We saw that taking ROTC over the AFA for our child was the best of both worlds.

    Before anyone flames me. I am discussing our child. I will be the 1st to say that from an overall perspective the AFA is the best route. However, if your child shows doubt than as CC stated it is best to play devil's advocate because you don't know what will shake out.

    This was my polish way of saying TALK TO YOUR KID. Remove the illusion of the AFA and discuss reality.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2011
  11. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    2 things I want to briefly mention. One to piggy back on fencingmama; the other, my personal experience.

    1. Big Fish in a little pond: As Cindy pointed out, most of these cadets were the big kahuna in High School. Now, they're just average. My son, like many cadets, had a 4.0gpa in high school. When he received his 1st Non-"A" at the academy, it was a little bit of a shock to him. He quickly got over it, and fortunately he didn't get the attitude of "Screw it; I'm going to be a "C" student". But he did realize that "This isn't high school any more". Little bit of a wake up.

    2. Another thing is: Academy cadet, enlisted E-1, or traditional college student; 18 year old's are SUPPOSE TO BIOTCH, PISS, and MOAN!!! Especially in the military. That's the legacy that has been given to them since the beginning of time. I had a staff sergeant working for me once who came INTO the military at 26 or 27 years old. She had been out of school for almost 10 years; had had jobs; was now married; had kids. She continually came to me about 2 of her "Airman" who she believed at "Attitude Problems". She wanted disciplinary actions taken. After a number of times coming to me, I had to tell her that the "Airmen" actually weren't the problem. It was that she couldn't empathize with them. She didn't know what it was like to be an 18 year old who moved away from home and basically on their own. Responsible for their own actions; wanting to be an adult; but not knowing how to be one. Trying to grow up. Peer pressure. Having very high expectations put upon them. etc... I explained to her that an Airman is SUPPOSE to go back to the dorm and complain and biotch to their "Buddies" about work, supervisors, the air force, etc... They are SUPPOSE TO DO THIS. Then, when they've been in a couple/three years and are now E-3/4, and they see E-1/2 coming in and acting like THEY did, they understand. They become very good junior supervisors and trainers. They understand. Unfortunately, this staff sergeant never went through any of that. She thought they should be "MILITARY" with all the "Yes ma'am, No ma'am" attitude. Sorry, but that's not normal human behavior. Especially when taken out of your 17 year environment, and thrown into the military, academy, or college.

    So while we're talking about the negative attitude among a certain sector of cadets, let me reiterate that it's PERFECTLY NORMAL!!! And contrary to what anyone wants to think of their child, even the best 3.9-4.0gpa academy student, ranked in the top 10% of the class, ALSO BIOTCH, Piss, and Moan. They may not do it at much, but they do it. Usually to their peers. "Although I've heard my son complain about some things at the academy". It's called growing up. If they lived at home, and went to the local community college, the "Growing up" process would be more gradual. Moving away to college, and more so joining the military, is a much more drastic "Growing up" process. And because of them not understanding all the WHY's, they tend to vent more. But it is perfectly normal.
     
  12. aglages

    aglages Parent

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    Thanks everyone for the replies!
    I can understand why 18/19/20 year olds complain, but how prevalent is the pressuring of others to achieve low performance and how can any cadet survive after they lose motivation and stop trying? I realize that approximately 25% of the entering class do not graduate but I thought the majority of those left during BCT or before Recognition.
     
  13. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    Perhaps the best analogy I've seen. :thumb:

    Another good one!

    CC made one of the best point about the age group!

    All in all, there are a multitude of reasons cadets act as cynical as they do. In the end, it will be what that person makes of it. If they choose to whine and beatch, it won't be good. If they try hard, accept the reality of the place, and enjoy the little things, life will be ok. Since I graduated, I've noticed the peers most like me - those that went skiing, loved our friendships, whined in good spirit, and worked hard are all happy, doing well, and enjoying the AF. The biggest whiners are getting drunk every night, still have poor attitudes and are struggling. They thought the military life only happened at USAFA.

    Bottom line: made it good and it will be!
     
  14. bandit

    bandit Member

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    This is not true at all.

    I don't know the exact numbers off the top of my head, but I could probably go back and piece them together from the years of newsletters that usafa sends out.

    You can look at them here btw: http://www.usafa.edu/superintendent/cma/newsletters.cfm


    Ok, I was curious so I looked up the numbers.

    Here are some key checkpoints for class of 2011.

    As of:

    7/31/07 - 1211
    8/31/07 - 1214 (probably some prior cadets returned from missions)
    12/31/07 - 1192 (end of first semester - lost 22)
    1/31/08 - 1181 (after xmas break - lost 11)
    5/31/08 - 1166 (end of 4 dig year - lost 15)
    8/31/08 - 1132 (end of 4 dig summer - lost 34)
    5/31/09 - 1100 (end of 3 dig year - lost 32)
    8/31/09 - 1066 (after commitment - lost 34)
    11/30/10 - 1045 (latest number available - lost 21)

    So, from this you can subtract etc... and see that from beginning to end of 4 dig year, they lost 45. but from that point to now, they have lost an additional 121. Almost 3 times what they lost the first year. Hopefully my math is accurate. Pretty tired at the moment...

    As you can see. Once they go through commitment. You don't lose hardly any because the ramifications of leaving after commitment are much bigger than if you leave before. Those would likely not be voluntary separations.
     
  15. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    Apart from the aspects already described, I think a huge factor in negativity is the "Pedestal Factor." Appointees often enter thinking that cadets are practically superhuman and the staff/admin have everything planned down to the smallest detail. Reality proceeds to hit them VERY hard at an early stage of their cadet career (BCT/1st semester). Suddenly, they realize that the reality of USAFA is different from their dreams of USAFA.

    Your old 3.8GPA has turned into a 2.6. You are trying hard to keep passing averages in 2 classes, and might succeed. The roommate can't seem to keep his stuff tidy, so you both take hits on inspections. Your element leader is angry at you because your room failed an AMI (your roommate left his computer unlocked). Training staff just restricted all the 4 digs because two of the ICs keep failing knowledge tests. Several of your fellow 4 digs are in terrible shape and keep holding the class back at training sessions. Your 3 dig coach is always off somewhere else, so you can never find him when you need him. Your flight commander is "too busy" to plan anything fun for the flight. Wing staff just released a policy punishing everyone in an element for any Alcohol hits. (How would you stop a 3 dig from drinking in Boulder? You are a restricted 4dig!) Your AOC just gave you a Form 10 for being late to a meeting you didn't even know was happening ("It was on the PDF schedule on the third tab of the cadet home page.").

    See how cadets can get cynical? The only problems this hypothetical cadet had direct control over are his GPA and knowing that the most up to date schedule was on tab 3, rather than the routine order that was e-mailed to them.


    Off topic:
    PIMA, just to let you know, the 7 chew rule has not existed at the academy since the late 1990s or early 2000s.
     
  16. aglages

    aglages Parent

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    I had thought that for the the last 5 years or more most classes started at 1300+. Clearly your beginning number for the class of 2011 and the following link are different. Perhaps 100 of the 1304 cadets that had accepted appointments by June 26th didn't show up for I day?
    http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123058742
    The following link indicates that the goal is 1300 for the class of 2011.
    http://www.usafa.org/zoomienews/stories/2-142011Applicants.aspx
    If 1304 cadets actually reported on I day then it would seem that the class lost about 170 cadets before the beginning of their second year with more than half (90) leaving before the end of BCT. If the class of 2011 doesn't lose any more cadets they are at about 20%. So I guess you're correct...."approximately 25%" isn't true at all....it's actually approximately 20%. Thanks for the correction.
     
  17. PDub

    PDub Prospective

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    Great explanation of what goes on in the cadet wing. Couldn't have said it better myself. And the last post by raimius is so true. It brought a smile to my face because it summarizes so well the type of issues cadets deal with.
     
  18. bandit

    bandit Member

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    @aglages - I don't know what the starting number was because I can't find the demographics anywhere for the class of 2011. Usually there is a really nice, detailed demographics page put out that has all the information about the class.

    For example, here is the link to the class of 2013

    https://admissions.usafa.edu/RRC/Class_of_2013_profile.pdf

    If indeed 1304 started, then I suppose they lost 93 before the end of the first month, since that is the first number I found.

    However, that was not even the point I was trying to make. You posted

    So if we assume that they actually started with 1304. At the end of recognition, they had 1167. So a total of 137 left. Since then another 122 have left. So you would be correct that a majority do leave before Recognition. But since I didn't have the 1304 number and was using the lower number of 1211, that meant only 44 would have left before recognition and that certainly wouldn't be a majority. I do think 1304 seems like a more accurate number though.

    Also, and maybe I am wrong. It seemed you were trying to say that you thought most of the cadets left before Recognition and not too many after. The real point I was trying to make was that there is a pretty constant stream of them dropping out all the way up until commitment is all.
     
  19. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    I remember my kids had to do the 7 chew thing at BCT. maybe it was just for a few days? But it was still there.
     
  20. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    * Looking for something inexpensive, highly useful and appreciated, and easy to slip into a package? Get your cadet those hand and foot warmer chemical packs, especially for feet. Those shoes they wear are not exactly well insulated and their feet do get cold. They're cheap, maybe a dollar or two, and sold at Kmart, Walmart, Home Depot, all over the place.

    * Make sure your cadet has chap-stick!

    * Don't be too shocked if your cadet doesn't want to spend hours with his/her high school friends as time goes by. Of course, this is natural with every college student, somewhat, but for kids in the service academies, their experiences are often so divorced from their friends', they can have some trouble relating.

    * Remind your cadet that if s/he wrecks another student's car, he has to pay for damages! Most of them are good with this, and it is a good reminder to be careful with others' property.

    *A cadet simply cannot get too much mail. Ever. Even if they don't read it.
     

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