The Citadel: An Ex-Cadet's View

Discussion in 'Publicly and Privately Funded Military Colleges' started by ExKnob107, Jun 9, 2014.

  1. ExKnob107

    ExKnob107 New Member

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    Hello,

    I wanted to give the people on this forum the full view of The Citadel. Like many of you I applied to service academies in high school and frequented this site.

    To give a very brief background, I received a Senator's nomination to West Point, but was not selected. I instead took a 4-year Army scholarship to The Citadel. A former JROTC cadet, I was very motivated towards the goal of commissioning and wanted nothing more than to be a successful officer with a quality education.

    I do not mean to bash any Citadel cadets; I met plenty of quality individuals after reporting as a knob with the class of 2016. Individuals. After Hell Week I learned the system was the opposite of how they advertised it, and I will outline this below.

    Academics: The Citadel boasts one of the best tutoring centers in the nation. While this is great, the attitude of the upperclassmen who will be controlling you is extremely un-academic. I took 19 credits as a first semester knob, but quickly learned I would have extremely little time to study due to the random, time-wasting assignments we were given by the sophomore class. We would spend close to an hour a day shining brass buckles and shoes, and would have to complete 'writing assignments' if we failed to meet the standard. Most of us got close to five hours of sleep a night, myself probably less because I was contracted and had PT at 0500 most mornings. 5 weekends a semester were SMI, which was an inspection we were forced to spend the entire night cleaning for. They would check. The sleep deprivation was so bad I hallucinated and collapsed. We could not use the barracks for studying without being sent on 'errands' or 'knob missions' by upperclassmen, and yet we were punished for using the library. Unofficially, of course.

    Athletics: If you are an athlete, you will be hated. The upperclassmen do not like the idea of anyone having special privileges, even if earned. They will teach your class to look down on you.

    Training: The ROTC unit was great. I learned a lot and enjoyed training with them. As to Cadet life, this is where it gets strange. Since the school came under scrutiny for hazing, the upperclassmen have been officially unable to haze the knobs as a class. I recognize that in the past, certain practices were done to the class as a whole, in order to strengthen them and bring them together. Nothing like that happened in my company. We were divided into cliques and made to hate the weakest of the group. The upperclassmen selected the cadets who would not tell if hazed, and hazed them privately. They would be punished when one of us screwed up (i.e. not having uniform perfect at the three-per-day inspections). Eventually someone walked in on a hazing situation and two sophomores in my company got expelled.

    To give a sample of what they did do: Each Friday we would march in parade for an hour. Add the half hour of uniform prep before and the three hours of scrubbing the floor we did after. Before dinner we would have to sprint back and forth in the barracks or up the steps for twenty minutes. After dinner we once spun in place for half an hour, and I still have no idea why. We typically had weekend leave, except those with tours. A tour is a fifty minute period of walking back and forth on the quad, with a rifle. They usually give them ten at a time. I missed a guard shift and got ten. Ten hours of life, wasted. For drinking in the barracks, you would get 120. Yes. Close to 120 hours gone.

    The Future: Much change is currently taking place within the Citadel. But old habits die hard. The upperclassmen in my company still resented women, the religious, and (in other companies) certain races. You will likely face warring factions: the one is insane and will encourage/force you to sacrifice grades in order to have a better looking uniform. The other (TACs, the official rules, Human Affairs cadets) will be very friendly, but you will be hated by your class for following them.

    Conclusion: I finished knob year and was recognized. Note that even after recognition you will still have very little respect. Sophomores are despised within the corps. Luckily I avoided this as I transferred to the University of South Carolina, where I am continuing ROTC. I had to forfeit the ROTC Scholarship, however. I am now an SMP Cadet (ROTC and National Guard) and will still commission in 2016.

    Again, I had the pleasure of meeting some truly helpful people at The Citadel, both cadets and TACS, whom I could not have made it through without. I just want prospective cadets to know what it is like first so they do not end up giving away a full scholarship like I did.

    More info: I encourage prospective cadets to visit the Broken Gray Line on tumblr. I have written for them in the past.
     
  2. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Preface: I didn't go to the Citadel.

    What you're describing isn't that far off from my experience during my 4/c year at the Coast Guard Academy, but I think I view some of your situations differenly.

    Academics: This may be the biggest difference in my experience (different school). At CGA while academics weren't easy, tutoring WAS encouraged and upperclass would check in to make sure you were doing well (or if you weren't, that you were getting the help you needed). I think from everything you said, that's the biggest difference between my experience. But that does not mean we were given tons of dumb stuff to do. Often swabs were overloaded, but purely for the enjoyment of their upperclassmen, but because multitasting is a VERY real skill we had to learn before we got to the fleet (and the need to multitask increased exponentially when I got to my cutter).

    Athletics: I have trouble understanding how privledges are earned that early and I'm not surprised people are hated for taking advantage of it. It eats away at "we're all in the same boat" mentality... and this isn't unique to the Citadel.

    Training: Some of it feels stupid (and some of it really is) but a lot of that training has importance.... you just don't realize it until farther down that road (especially when it's your turn to train new folks). Honestly, I tried to forget most of my first year. But at the same time, when you screw up, you should pay for it. Missing duty? Drinking where you can't drink? Sure, you should lose some hours.... in the service the punishment is worse.... and in the private sector you could easily lose your job.

    Your first year at a service academy or senior military college is NOT going to be fun. You will have little reason to praise it, the reality of each school will hit you (that it's not a shining beacon and your classmates aren't all "the best and the brightest" and neither are you) but after you get through it, life improves a bit. It's still worse than your high school days, but it's better than that first year. And then each year it gets better. Not GOOD, but better. And then, eventually, it feels a little normal.... and then you leave.
     
  3. glen

    glen Member

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    ExKnob107

    Sorry you had the experience you did, but glad for your sake you made a quick decision to move on and have no regrets. What you describe sounds not too different than 40 years ago or the experience of several relatives who attended USNA. You are not alone in feeling sorry for yourself during the first year at a military college. Military college is not for everyone. If you stick with the ROTC at USC, I hope your military service will be rewarding. I am also a Gamecock (Law 75). At South Carolina you will want to attend football and basketball games instead of being required to attend!

    Indeed, the Cadet experience is full of seemingly meaningless tasks. However, the common experience of overcoming adversity is what builds the class bonds that last a life time. The 4th Class system is not perfect, because it is administered by imperfect young men and women, barely a year or two older than first year cadets. But it is a system in which to learn how to lead (and how not to lead), and more importantly about yourself. As far as the academics being a challenge on top of the ROTC and Cadet training, well this is the point of time and organizational management. Trust me, life outside of The Citadel (or USC) does not get any easier unless you win the lottery. Best of luck to you.
     
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  4. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe Member

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    ExKnob107,

    Very little is written from your point of view, I hope your post is taken how it was meant.

    As others have said, Academies and SMC's are not for everyone, and that's ok. There are those that will thrive in that environment and those that want nothing to do with it. Your post shows a different side of things, or at least a different perspective. I think it's a good idea for everyone considering a SMC to explore all sides and hear different perspectives so they have a better idea of what they're getting into.

    Best of luck at U of South Carolina and with ROTC.
     
  5. ExKnob107

    ExKnob107 New Member

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    afterword

    Thank you all for weighing in. I entered the Citadel in a transitioning phase. My experience was much different from Pat Conroy's account in Lords of Discipline. Oddly, I read the book before matriculating, and that did not in any way deter me. I think this is because the ordeals the knobs/plebes in the book faced were shared by the class. Maybe this is because what hazing occurred then was a group experience. In my company it did more to divide the knobs into factions (mo-tards and s***-outs) than to unify them.

    My hope for the future is that there can be some kind of balance. I have nothing against a tough system. But grades are a priority too, and there are better ways to implement it. I'm sure my time in the military will give me a better view.

    And by the way USC is phenomenal! Go Cocks!
     
  6. Lot115

    Lot115 Member

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    To the Ex- Cadet/ Anyone planning on attending El Cid:

    I am a current cadet. I am a female, Marine contract, and athlete. It is true that females are frowned upon by many, if not most. The same is true of athletes. As you said we are singled out and athletes/ females/ minorities (in some companies) are looked down on by upperclassmen and that attitude is passed on the knobs in each class.

    In order to address the poster who was confused about athletes/ privileges at The Citadel-
    Athletes are SEEN to have "privileges" due to the fact that we have afternoon practice and are therefore not in the barracks when our classmates are for upperclassmen to find and send on errands. In addition, athletes often have to leave campus for competitions/ matches/ games. Cadets that are not athletes see the buses/ vans leaving and only consider the fact that the cadets are leaving, not that they are going away to represent our institution. There are of course many different sides to this argument and many more facts but my goal is to not start a discussion about athletes! :)

    While I am glad that you made the decision that was correct for you, I wish you could have stayed. There is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes that we do not often see as knobs. Individuals within companies are making an effort to promote a better system. Often you can set a good example by just doing the right thing yourself- eventually others do notice. Next year the Corps is planning more unit PT events in order to promote the unity and fitness of all cadets. It may not seem like it now, but the system is getting better. I urge all prospective cadets to enter The Citadel ready to take on the challenge of building together a class that will be the best yet. The school changes every year, but with this change is the opportunity to change for the better.

    From the concerns that you shared about El Cid it is my humble opinion that you will make a great Army officer and I am sure that you will do your best to promote positive leadership throughout your unit. I am glad that your experience at The Citadel did not deter you from the military- because it is nothing like the armed forces. Best of luck in your future endeavors.
     

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