A Parent's Guide to Year One at USAFA

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by Daretodream, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. Daretodream

    Daretodream Member

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    There are several parents of current or past Cadet's on this board. I have seen questions some several parents with upcoming Cadets. I thought it would be nice to start a thread with pieces of advice to those parents. Below are a few points that come to mind from this past year's experience with my Class of 2020 Cadet.

    Prior to I Day:
    Mail is a big thing to Cadets in BCT. I don't care how big and bad or independent your DS/DD thinks they are when it comes to BCT they will want mail.

    Consider signing up for write2them.org. It is a pay email site but you can subscribe monthly and it allows you to include 10 people on one subscription. Each email is printed daily and delivered to the Cadets. It is much quicker than snail mail.

    We also did thank you cards for graduation with our DS' address on them. Remember to give the correct label for BCT and then C4C after BCT. This made it easy for family and friends to reach out Cadet.

    BCT
    Don't expect much mail from your Cadet during BCT. They are very busy and lucky to get a few chances to write you. Also, mail is crazy and you will likely not receive the letters in the order they were written. Treasure the few letters and enjoy time (and a lot of it) perusing Webguy for photos of your DS/DD.

    Expect good and bad days from BCT. The best advice I saw was to always be supportive and stress not quitting. I have yet to meet one Cadet who said there wasn't at least one day they thought about leaving. Few leave but most will at least think about it. Survive the day and it will get better is what we stressed on bad days. I also included an inspirational quote and joke on my emails.

    If you go to A Day get there early. Do not panic when you see dozens of Cadets falling out if the weather is hot. It is expected and the Academy is well prepared for it. You will also read about bringing food for the entire squadron. We fell into that trap and spent $150 on Chick-fil-a and stood in line at 6AM with other parents to pick up our trays only to find out our DS' squad had other plans that included lunch for everyone. The food was enjoyed later by the upperclassman, but was a waste of time and energy.

    Academic Year
    Parent's Weekend was a blast. This weekend involves the entire Wing so book rooms early. You can pick up your Cadet on Friday and tour the school. You have to be back early on Saturday for the ball game. The tailgate is great and if the weather cooperates you will see all the activities on exhibit. Sunday they offered tours to Jack's Valley. My DS and his brothers really enjoyed this experience. He got to show them some skills and they got to try out some of the courses. We left afterwards and went a couple of hours away to the mountains. Our DS enjoyed just getting away and slept a lot. Each Cadet is different so I suggest asking your Cadet what they want to do and work around that instead of planning a weekend worth of activities for them.

    The academics and scheduling demands are tough to say the least. Do not be surprised to hear about your Cadet struggling in some classes. It is normal. Go back to your BCT mindset and give them support. These Cadets are not used to making poor grades and some struggle with the newfound concept of failure.

    Thanksgiving and Christmas
    Look to book flights early and really stress to your Cadet to book their travel plans to and from the airport when the reservations open (usually about a month out). Your Cadet will travel in uniform until after Recognition. Trips home are fun, but everyone seems to want time with your DS/DD so be prepared to share time.

    Dark Days
    After Christmas break Cadets return after almost 3 weeks of normal life to the dead of winter and really short days at USAFA. This is tough for a lot of Cadets. Be ready to again give support on the bad days. The good news is by mid-February the count down starts to Recognition and the C4Cs see light at the end of the tunnel.

    Recognition
    It is a mini BCT on steroids. Your DS/DD may want to talk about it as they get nervous as it nears. We let our DS dictate the conversation around Recognition, but the call on Sunday when he was a full member of the Wing was special.

    The main thing is prepare yourself for a special time. You will be learning a ton about SA life. There are great support groups like your state parent's club and private Facebook pages for parents. Take advantage of these as it will help you understand the processes. There will also be parents here to support you if needed. Best of luck.
     
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  2. xcmum

    xcmum Member

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    Thank you Daretodream- as a mom of a c/o 2021 cadet, I really appreciate this.

    Question regarding A-day food. How do we as parents know if we need to bring food(picnic) like you did or if the squad has the food taken care of?
     
  3. pa_ptmom

    pa_ptmom Member

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    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this!
    DH and I feel like we are in a whirlwind trying to figure out the months ahead.

    (The past 2 years have been so focused on DS applying, TWE and the emotions around that, Plan B, reapplying, waiting again , finally getting the appointment a week ago, it's definitely catch up time!)
     
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  4. Daretodream

    Daretodream Member

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    I am not sure there is a way to find out. We found out when we walked onto the field to meet our DS. I think his was an unusual, but it resonated that sometimes we jump in order to not leave anyone out. If you work with other parents in the squad then if you bring food for several Cadets then there will be enough for everyone.

    You can also ask your DS when they call after Jack's Valley if they know of any special plans for the shoulder boards. It is important to understand each squadron is given latitude to make rules so what applies to one squad may not apply to others. It took the A Day experience for us to understand it.
     
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  5. ebotterb3

    ebotterb3 Member

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    Mom of a 2019'er here, from my experience, a few extra Chick-fil-A sandwhiches or whatever you bring, will never go to waste!
     
  6. ebotterb3

    ebotterb3 Member

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    You covered alot @Daretodream ! The only thing I could think of is to fly them home with Southwest whenever possible. Plans seem to always change and they don't charge for changes.
     
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  7. parktrack

    parktrack "Target In Sight"

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    Just a few additions to Daretodream's comments.
    • Start writing your DD/DS before I-Day since there is a likely a delay from the time you send mail until it is received.
    • writetothem.org was great for sending a quick message. Well worth the $ and it gives others (who you authorize) the ability to write as well.
    • Consider numbering handwritten letters on the envelope. This will let your Basic know the order in which you wrote the letters and will allow them to better follow along.
    • Remember that Basics have very little contact with the outside world so include news and info in letters that may seem mundane. You may also want to include jokes or inspirational quotes.
    • Keep A-Day plans flexible with the focus on spending time with your DD/DS. And like ebotterb3 mentioned, extra food will not be wasted. We even gave some to the lady at the car rental agency.
    • Cadets fainting on A-Day WILL happen so prepare yourself for it. Even with advanced knowledge the sight of a cadet dropping to the ground can be disconcerting. But rest assured that USAFA is well prepared for this and cadets having trouble receive quick assistance.
    • Be prepared for any kind of weather during any visit to USAFA and COS.
    • Stalk flights continuously for all occasions.
    • Support, support and support! This can't be said enough. Much like Daretodream said there will be at least one moment when your DD/DS is homesick, wants to quit or is struggling with something. Encourage and support. Recognition does eventually come and that changes everything for the Doolie. It's just a matter of perserverance.
    • This may strike a nerve with some, but your DD/DS is no longer yours. As a parent your job is done (and quite successfully!) and it's their opportunity to shine. It's time for them to handle the decisions and challenges without your intervention. I'm definitely not saying this transition is easy but remember they are going to USAFA to become officers in the USAF.
     
  8. Capri120

    Capri120 Parent

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    One thing to remember about letters during BCT, whether they are handwritten or via write2them.org email...last year NO pictures were allowed, cards were OK. Any letter with pictures, even embedded, were confiscated from the basics. Luckily, they were returned to them after A-Day.

    Also, as eluded to above, there is delay in receiving mail at both ends. Especially for anxious parents, a letter you receive which may sound like your basic is exhausted (they will be) and depressed, is a few days old. So, their current mental state may be quite different, and hopefully improved, by the time you read the letter.
     
  9. Daretodream

    Daretodream Member

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    The above about letting go and not over parenting is really sound advice. It is hard to let go, but in our orientation one parent asked the Superintendent a question about getting information and they were quickly reminded their DS/DD is now an adult and member of the U.S. Military.

    You will see parents who struggle as much as Cadets. Give support. The early photos of BCT are hard. The Doolies are scared and exhausted and it shows. Within a couple of weeks you start seeing more smiles. The early intramural pics are best for smiles. The rodeo pics were good too.

    Looking back I can tell you the year has flown by for us.
     
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  10. Applestrander2021

    Applestrander2021 Member

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    Do you know if that includes little sisters drawing pictures for their big brother? Or is it just photographs that were confiscated?
     
  11. Daretodream

    Daretodream Member

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    They weren't that strict according to my DS on the photos (especially those drawn by siblings).
     
  12. Capri120

    Capri120 Parent

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    Seemed to be squadron dependent
     
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  13. Sam2018

    Sam2018 Member

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    A few comments. This is three years old so take that in account. Can't believe its almost ring dance time. It really does go by VERY quickly :)

    -Definitely Southwest whenever possible.
    -Join webguy and be prepared to be up half the night looking for a picture. I got to where I could find DDs ear :) This year will be harder, all the boys look the same with shaved heads :)
    -Girls do not need white underwear! It was very important for DD to have her girly underwear :)
    -Some will not want emailed letters. DD was certain she did not so they were all hand written. I mailed at least one very long (6-8 page) letter everyday. Her brothers wrote a couple times a week. Hand drawn pictures from her little brother were fine. Jokes were great. Youngest brother also included mad libs :)
    -Join FB group and when they know their squadron join that one too. It was great to connect on a smaller group and share news and pictures. And you can coordinate for A-day. We met for dinner the night before. That was great :)
    -I was lucky DD wrote a LOT. She went through several books of stamps and for doolie day out I sent more stationary. If you know their sponsor family you can send a box for doolie day out :)
    -They can bring an address book and a bible. Notes can be written in the bible :) Passages highlighted.
    -Church is a great weekly break. They can be at ease, cry, laugh, talk to the chaplains.
    -At the end of parent's weekend they will play "I'll be home for Christmas" through the dorms. Be prepared. :)
     
  14. parktrack

    parktrack "Target In Sight"

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    Didn't hear "I'll Be Home for Christmas" that Sam2018 eluded to but that is funny!:band: Ditto on church as being a time for Basics to get a break.

    Another tip on letters, you may want to send fill-in-the-blank letters to your DD/DS. That way it is easier for them to write back when they are tired. The questions can be serious, funy, inquisitive or whatever. There are even form letters out there to use. Include a SASE to make it even easier.
     
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  15. Daretodream

    Daretodream Member

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    Park - good call out on the fill in the blanks. We did it a couple of times to get answers to the questions we wanted to know.

    It was funny because at Parent's Weekend we were talking about how beautiful the scenery was around USAFA and our DS said yes he was just noticing it. Apparently, during the 6 weeks of BCT there isn't time or opportunity to take in the surroundings.

    One thing most do right after BCT is hike up Eagles Peak and watch a sunrise over the Academy. The photos were beautiful.
     
  16. Blackbird

    Blackbird Parent 5-Year Member

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    A Basic's exposure to their surroundings are limited during BCT. For example, DW went to A-Day and loved it. After a quick lunch, DS said "I need to go to the Cadet Store to get some school supplies". She said "Great, where is it?" Funny thing is that he didn't know how to get there after 6 weeks of BCT since his flight had always been taken to the Store by their Cadre. So DS starts asking his flight mates until they final find one Doolie that thinks they know how to get to the Cadet Store. No way any of them were going to ask an upper classmen for directions at that point in their USAFA experience. DW and DS did eventually find the Store which was actually just around the corner from his Basic dorm room, but he was clueless.
     
  17. jag3

    jag3 Member

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    I'm sure some will find me harsh or crash but I tend to have a bad habit of being matter of fact

    As a parent, you need to follow the rules! I see so many parents whining on FB about things from letters with photos imbedded at BCT being confiscated to the food at Mitchells or about their prefious cadet being punished aka trained to harshly.

    If you are a helicopter parent I will suggest you find a way to cease being one immediately.

    Do not call the academy, webguy, or about them having to do too many pushups, etc during BCT or after about your cadet especially if you dont find them in photos. You will make things much worse!

    Follow the rules. Do not read things into them or do as you please. Aka imbedding photos. Use plain envelopes and white sheets of paper. It's really not that hard to adhere to this and be safe. Your cadet will survive without photos, etc.

    At your grad party put envelopes and sheets of paper and pens out and make a station for attendees to write a letter while there. We did this and mailed a couple a week.

    If your cadet loses his or her bus pass etc let them figure it out. I am literally the last person our son would call if he lost his pass or didnt like the lack of ice on the tables because frankly I dont care. Not my problem. He is an adult and it's time to adult and to assist him or try to from 1200 miles away would not be doing him a favor.

    Our son literally flies back to Denver with absolutely no plan in place on how to get back to USAFA yet finds his way. I suspect that may be a bit more of a challenge now since they can all wear street clothes but I did find this comical that he does this


    Make your lodging reservations EARLY. Watch the car rental joints and USAFA FB pages as members will post hot deals.

    Join write2them, AOG(Webguy), and you can start a secret FB page for friends family etc to post about your cadet and their journey. I have done this since our return from i day. It works fantastic.

    I Day....if you can go, go, that is if your cadet wants you to go. Make sure to stay for the swearing in the next morning and get there EARLY and take binoculars!

    Packing for I day..... Adhere to the list. Last year you were able to sub compression shorts for underwear so we hit the under armour outlet and bought a bunch. Labelling all of that crap is a pain. We used a black sharpie and he had no issues. For stationary what we did was took 20 envelopes and put stamps on each of them and folded a sheet or two of white typing paper and placed them in each. That worked nicely for him. I would like to know who got about 10 of those. Lol

    PW is a MUST. A Day not so much if you arent close or money is an issue.

    While there make sure you go to Pikes Peak and have a donut at the peak and Garden of the Gods offhand. Our cadet loves Pikes Peak. Driving up is much better than the Cog IMO.

    Once school starts be supportive because your and my former honor students will find academics to be in a different league. I try not to text our cadet too much but will occasionally with some banter etc. Dont be mad or upset if once your cadet can use their phone that you really dont hear a lot from them or a week or two goes by. Normal! They are swamped, busy, and figuring out the academics.

    Join Carol the Cake Lady's facebook page and take advantage of her cupcake specials! We also had her do a birthday cake which she delivers. Our son said "she hugged me like she was my grandma that hadnt seen me in ten years" LOL!!! She will also email you photos from the delivery. Sweet lady.

    Good gifts for your cadets for graduation, etc would be Amazon GCs, Subway GCs, and Southwest GCs.

    I'm heading to bed or Id probably come up with more things. For those parents that are all new to this, dont worry! Our son is the first military in our families in probably 70 years or more so this was all Greek. You'll figure it out and if you can't someone on the parent FB page or the specific class page or your parents club page will be able to answer or direct you to someone that can!
     
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  18. Capri120

    Capri120 Parent

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    ^+1
    It is difficult, especially for those parents with no military background, to understand and accept the new way of life your DD or DS is about to start, but as jag3 said, they are transitioning into independent adults at a quicker pace than most high school grads...they have to. You will see this change probably most dramatically on A-Day or Parents' Weekend, the first time you see your son/daughter after you drop them off on I-Day. It is a GOOD thing.

    Last year about this time, our local parents' club and AOG hosted an appointee luncheon for the new 2020 appointees and their families that also included cadets and families currently at USAFA. When the group split into two - parents and family in one room, appointees and current cadets in another area - many parents started asking such questions as, "On my son's/daughter's birthday, can we pick them up for the evening from the Academy even if in the middle of the week? Can we go see them and/or get them for a weekend?", etc. etc.

    After a few minutes of this line of questioning, I finally said, "Your 'kids' (I use this term loosely since to me anyone under 30 is a kid) are not going off to college, they are joining the military." There was several moments of silence in the group, but the questions went a different direction after that.

    In a way, by saying this out loud, it also drove the fact home to me as well as to the path on which my DD was about to embark.

    Surprisingly, after the luncheon, a few parents (non-military background) came up to me and actually thanked me for that statement, saying they NEEDED to hear that.
     
  19. fencersmother

    fencersmother 5-Year Member Founding Member

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    My twins' little sister would draw a picture or copy a bunch of photos on the back side and then type in a letter. So, "technically" not a picture or photo, but still, they got something homey. One twin's squad confiscated them, one passed them around and everyone laughed at this basic & his little sister in a picture from the park when they were 6 & 5.

    I have posted many times an easy way for parents to get mail from their basic but will do so here again - and you can always pm me if you want more/better/longer examples.

    Basics need mail and also a slice of normal. Well, "normal" is occasionally in short supply in the fencerfamily so we opt for sarcasm and other fineries of society in our correspondence. So, send your a SASE and a form letter, which he'll return to you. It goes along these lines:

    1. My roommate's name is _____________________ and s/he is from ________________________________. S/he is:
    a. nice.
    b. a worse idiot that my little brother
    c. possible the greatest person I have ever met
    d. not human

    2. The food here is:
    a. best I have ever eaten! I love it!
    b. tolerable, but not Mom's
    c. possibly not fit for human consumption
    d. No one could possibly put flour and spam together and call this food.
    e. ____________________

    3. My cadre is/are:
    a. Such nice people, especially on I-Day! Just super!
    b. Regular folks - about what was expected
    c. Not Steeler fans (enough said on that)
    d. Rival Diablo for meanness
    e. ________________________________

    4. Who do I miss most from home?
    a. My most saintly mother, who gave birth to me, raised me, and brought me with tears and love to adulthood.
    b. My very awesome dad, who taught me all the great stuff and made me A MAN
    c. My girl/boyfriend - whom I love dearly and am certain we'll be together for all time and eternity.
    d. My sister/brother/dog/buddies - for reasons I can't put into print

    5. The thing I like least about BCT is: ____________________________________
    The thing I like MOST about BCT is: ___________________________________

    OK, you get the idea. I still thank Janet S. who used to post here who gave me this idea, and I have suggested it to all parents. Send two copies of the letter (ours were usually just one page, small font). One for them to keep, one to send back. Each June, I reread their responses and you can see the growth, the humor, the frustration, the love as they answered the sometimes tongue-in-cheek questions, and scribbled their own notes all over the margins. Each son kept their own copy too, and sometimes we laugh about what they wrote. If you want more suggestions, I can pm you.

    --------------------------
    One other thing: there will be some basics who simply do not receive mail. Maybe they are foreign students, maybe from a family who just doesn't do mail... that basic NEEDS mail. Send a postcard, send a note, send SOMETHING. Find out his box # from your Basic and send a note of encouragement. That basic will have the same box # all four years. Continue to send a note or two, even a care package (with a Terrible Towel in it, of course).
     
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  20. luc14

    luc14 New Member

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    This is GREAT!!! I laughed so much thinking about my reticent, independent, "Why are you asking?" DGD filling this out. Thank you!!
     
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