Random advice for incoming NCs and parents

Discussion in 'Military Academy - USMA' started by parentalunit2, May 12, 2010.

  1. parentalunit2

    parentalunit2 Parent

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    I started this with a small list, and my, how it has grown! I began writing to parents, but even candidates can learn from this advice. If you are an information hound like me, you can never get enough! FWIW, here is some random advice as you begin, simply put, the most amazing journey of your life.

    1. Do not try to force your candidate to eat breakfast the morning of R-Day. You may read advice that they must eat, or they will faint. But some eat, and may throw up due to nerves. That would be a really, really bad way to begin on R-Day. Don’t push the issue of breakfast either way, as it’s really not worth it.

    2. You will see many, many suggestions of additional items that may come in handy during Beast. Parents clubs, online forums, and listservs will offer up all sorts of lists. If you brought everything ‘suggested’, you would need an additional suitcase or two and perhaps a valet to carry them for you. As this would be frowned upon by the cadre, stick to the list USMA provides. Anything else can be sent later at the request of your NC (New Cadet). Parents often become overzealous about these lists, as getting the boots, shoes, and socks is really their sole involvement in sending their offspring off into adulthood. There is no dorm room to decorate, so a Leatherman and a stick of Body Glide must suffice. These few items take on great importance. Parents, go ahead and stress over the list. Candidates, please try to be understanding.

    3. The infamous 90-second goodbye. Say your real goodbyes a long time before you reach Ike Hall. You will know what needs to be said, and you will have the time to do so. Some of your goodbyes will take place at airports, for those flying unaccompanied. Each family will handle R-Day however is best for them. Ok, now I’m getting teary just typing this. New topic.

    4. The “sponsors” referred to during the “ice cream social” (funny name, as we always served pizza and lasagna) that occurs at the half-way point of Beast are typically not the “sponsors” that will be assigned during plebe year. Officers may open their homes to a couple of NC’s during this date as a one-time thing. The sign-ups for the participating on-post families are different for the “ice cream social” and the regular sponsor program. Think about it, some families will be PCS-ing (Permanent Change of Station, that’s army-speak for moving) between the July date of the social and the start of academics. Some folks wish to do this one-time sponsorship of cadets, but cannot commit to the year-round sposorship program. (This was our case at one time. We sponsored cadets at WP for many years, but when we lived in Annapolis we felt we could not successfully sponsor mids due to current demands on our time. Nothing against Navy, we love all of our nautical friends!)

    5. If your NC has a prior service or prepster squadmate or roommate during Beast, this is a very, very good thing. These individuals have been through the drill before and receiving tips on things like how to properly fold a t-shirt from them will become a lifesaver. When a prior or prepster speaks, listen. Carefully.

    6. Speaking of priors, please be aware that your child will be attending the academy with a wide, wide spectrum of people. Yes, all will tend to be freakishly smart. Most will be direct admits from high school, but certainly not all. The number of priors has risen in recent years, and a few even arrive at the academy on R-Day having earned a Purple Heart in combat. I’ve always wondered how in the world does a firstie, on R-Day, get in the face of a prior who has earned a Purple Heart? Simple: there is no indication that this New Cadet has earned a Purple Heart, as all NC’s are equal on Day 1. Part of the ‘hidden beauty’ of R-Day. You all start out the same. Economic differences will be vast as well. There will be NC’s who receive seemingly limitless funds from home, and others who send part of their cadet pay home to support family. I have heard many cadets express surprise that it was a few years before they knew that a fellow cadet came from money or from poverty. Some NCs will have a year of civilian college or prep school under their belt. A few years ago there was even an NC who had already earned a bachelor’s degree. (Hey, he met all the requirements, including age.) One of our current swimmers even transferred from USNA! So you may be surprised at the breadth of individuals who become cadets. I like that everyone starts off equal on R-Day. It is a clean slate, stars will be earned, the cream will rise to the top, and each class will immediately begin to form their unique identity. Whether you’ve been around it for as long as I have, or you are totally new to the academy experience, it is really amazing to watch.

    I will end here, for now. A year from now, you will be looking back at this time and laughing. It may be hard to imagine now, but it’s true! Best of luck to you all!
     
  2. BeatNavy

    BeatNavy USMA Cadet

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    Thanks for the post!
     
  3. Gray Hog

    Gray Hog USMA Alumnus

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    My advice is much simpler: You will fail.

    No, I don't mean that in the larger sense, but, task after task, you will be confronted by personal failure. It doesn't matter how smart you are, how strong you are, or how much you prepare, there will be plenty of things that you get wrong or do wrong. For those who are over-achievers, who are used to not only succeeding, but excelling in just about everything they do (which is pretty much everyone who gets accepted to a SA), this can be the hardest thing to get over.

    Here is the secret: Many tasks are designed so that you will fail (or at least are likely to fail).

    In order to improve your mental toughness and teach you to recover quickly from setbacks, regroup, reengage, and push yourself beyond what you think your limits are, tasks are often deliberately ambiguous, overly complex, and/or under resourced (insufficient time being the most common). Do not let failure, even repeated failure, get you down. Each time you fail, shake it off, move on to the next task, and try again...even harder.

    Another aspect of making tasks overly difficult is to teach you the value of teamwork. Though most cadets have been members of many teams before coming to a SA, believe it or not, many never truly learned the value of teamwork. Often, they were the stand-out star on their previous teams and the rest of the team just supported them. At a SA, everyone was a star, which means that, relative to each other, no one is a star. Together you will go farther and fail less by helping each other, than any one of you will on his/her own.

    Still, you will fail...repeatedly...often. Get ready for it. If you can accept that mentally, you will do far better emotionally.
     
  4. Ken2012

    Ken2012 Prospective

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    I would definitely recommend at least drinking water throughout the day. It is a pretty stressful day.
     
  5. parentalunit2

    parentalunit2 Parent

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    Insurance

    Another bit of advice: insurance, both medical and auto. This comes up every year. Knowing that there are 50 different states, each with their own laws, and many, many insurers within those 50 states, each with their own rules, here is the general advice I have gleaned over the years. Your experience may vary.

    If fiscally feasible for you and if your insurer will allow it, keep your cadet on your personal medical insurance. Not just for this summer, but until they graduate. Yes, on R-Day they join the army and will immediately be covered under Tricare, the military-wide health system. However, many unexpected things could happen where your child may suddenly not be in the military anymore, and Tricare coverage would end immediately.

    The following are simple, painful facts: A very small number of candidates will arrive the morning of R-Day, but not be raising their right hand to take the oath with the rest of their intended class at the end of the day. They will be going home. A slightly larger number of New Cadets will not complete Beast and will be back home before the end of summer, scrambling to get enrolled into civilian colleges. An even larger number will be back home at some point during or at the conclusion of the first semester. The same goes for the first year, and all other years moving forward. Granted, none of these numbers are really huge, but there *will* be cadets who for whatever reasons (medical, academic, honor, personal) depart the academy, thus the army. If they are not still covered under their family insurance and a certain amount of time goes by (I believe it is 60 days, do not quote me) that is considered a break in coverage, and it could be difficult to get them on to their own insurance policy. This is an especially harrowing situation if they had to leave due to a recently discovered medical condition. If at all possible, keep your cadet on your family insurance. Take it or leave it; I have seen too much over the years to offer any other advice.

    If you wish to keep your cadet on your auto insurance as a ‘guest’ or ‘out-of-state’ driver, call to make those arrangements. Sometimes you can save a few bucks with this.

    Explaining to any insurance company, except USAA, the ‘status’ of a service academy student can often be challenging. The USMA dean’s office can provide proof of enrollment for just this purpose. But often, the insurer still won’t understand. :rolleyes:

    Oh, and let’s add renter’s insurance to the list. Many cadets obtain renter’s insurance through USAA to cover their belongings while at the academy. Renter’s insurance is pretty cheap no matter where you get it. Riders can be added to the policy to cover their laptops and other electronic equipment, as well as the coveted class ring once they receive that firstie year.

    If anyone has any experience with the insurance issue, please feel free to chime in!
     
  6. cadetdad

    cadetdad Member

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    Priors

    If you are a prior enlisted you may want to bring any ribbons that you have earned. They will be very handy when ReOrgy week occurs. You are allowed to wear your ribbons on your uniforms and the ribbons will signal to everyone that you are a prior enlisted. It may help keep the firsties off your back.
     
  7. Gray Hog

    Gray Hog USMA Alumnus

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    Are prior service New Cadets not permitted to wear their fruit salad during Beast any more? They were in my day.
     
  8. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Our prior service new cadets were as well.

    Bottom line is this: it is one day. It's a hard day, but it's only one. You will have harder days in your career. Days when people die and things don't end right for the good guys. So take it for what it is: one day out of many.

    And laugh a little. It's really not that bad.
     
  9. Momof2cadets

    Momof2cadets Founding Member

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    They are allowed to, but many don't to avoid calling attention to themselves. Funny story my son witnessed as a cadre member. There was an "overenthusiastic" member of the cadre dressing down a new cadet for some infraction during the first days of beast. This cadre member said something along the lines of "... and while you've spent the last few years going to high school, playing video games, and screwing off with your friends, I have been training to lead soliders...". My son said the new cadet never changed expression and drove on. The next morning at formation the same new cadet was wearing quite a fruit salad on his chest along with a ranger tab and CIB. My son said the aforementioned cadre member took one look, blanched, and avoided this particular new cadet like the plague... :thumb:
     
  10. BeatNavy

    BeatNavy USMA Cadet

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    :yllol::yllol:
    That's awkward...
     
  11. vampsoul

    vampsoul Candidate

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    My attitdue going into Rday is to try and remember that it Rday is as much for training the cadre as it is the new cadets, and that two years ago they were the ones being yelled at.
     
  12. Chockstock

    Chockstock "Forever One Team"

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    Hmm...maybe I should've gone prior service before applying!
     
  13. parentalunit2

    parentalunit2 Parent

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    Just to clarify, as someone above already has, priors do wear all earned service ribbons starting on a certain date, just not on R-Day - as the funny story above demonstrates! I have always had a special place in my heart for priors. (And, no, I do not personally have one!) Meeting them as cadets has always been a joy. And you may notice that they tend to hold very high leadership positions within the corps. I think the brass smiles on them as well!

    Another clarification, from questions posed to me offline. The sponsorship program at West Point is only open to military members living on post. At Annapolis, sponsors can be civilians who live within a certain radius of the academy. If you live nearby, check it out! It is such a rewarding thing to do. And regarding the young man who transferred from Navy: Yes, he had to be a plebe all over again for a whole year. There really is no such thing as ‘transferring’ from one academy to another! Pardon my terminology.

    Also, proof of enrollment from the dean’s office is not available until academics begin in late August. They become serving members of the military on R-Day, but they do not become full-time students, which is what the insurance companies are interested in, until academics begin.

    So, does everyone have their Leatherman and Body Glide? :beer1:
     
  14. Dixieland

    Dixieland Member

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    There are so many Leathermans to pick from----do you have the name of a good model that would have everything a new cadet would need? Leatherman Charge TTi seems to be a model that we hear frequently.
     
  15. edhvoice

    edhvoice Founding Member

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    I have used a Gerber multi tool with bull nose pliers for years and years. I had a Leatherman but liked the Gerber better. I like having a "regular" pliers on it rather than a needle nose, and like the way the Gerber sharpens up. I actually skinned a bear with that little blade.:thumb:

    When I saw a suggestion for a short bladed knife a while back, I picked up another Gerber and put it in the zip lock bag for my son.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2010
  16. croc92

    croc92 Member

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    I'm a bit of a knife addict :) lol so I've had a whole bunch!

    By far, my best experience with a multi tool are made by SOG.

    http://sogknives.com/

    Most of their multi-tools run for about the same as a leatherman.

    I'm bringing my black oxide "Power-assist" with me on R-day.
     
  17. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Let's all take step back for a second. Your new cadets will not be using their knives for close combat or long-term survival or advanced fieldcraft. They're new cadets. They will be cutting 550 cord (type III nylon for you hooahs out there), opening MREs, and in rare cases they may need it for weapons cleaning. The takedown pins on an M-16/4 can require such a tool at times.

    They don't need to fight bears or perform expedient fixes on spacecraft. Believe it or not, a single blade folding knife will do just fine. You don't need to buy a crazy $150 knife. Hell, a Swiss army knife is great too. Don't get wrapped around the axle.

    There was a time when we didn't even use them. :)
     
  18. Ken2012

    Ken2012 Prospective

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    Wait, they're not? :frown:
     
  19. NV_USMA_Mom

    NV_USMA_Mom Member

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    For those of you who have suggested Body Glide, can you clarify which product?

    When I looked it up, Body Glide comes in multiple formulas.

    Thanks!!
     
  20. Momof2cadets

    Momof2cadets Founding Member

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    The ones my guys find the most user friendly come in a stick form (kind of like a small deodorant). They have used different brands without finding anything to complain about...
     

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