Exhausted Doolie Parent

USAFA10s

USAFA Class of 2012
15-Year Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2007
Messages
831
@USAFA10s ah the PPC - she went today. He told her to breathe deeply, she had a panic attack and ran out :oops:
Hmmm - well I'd suggest going back. They are there to help and have seen it all. It was definitely the best decision I could have made at the time but that first day was pretty rough for sure...it gets better.
 

Allectus

Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2021
Messages
222
I am just a parent. I never served in the military and I never attended a service academy. I am also not a doctor or psychologist. I do have one son at a service academy and one son at a highly ranked liberal arts college. My son at the liberal arts college suffers from anxiety disorder and atypical bi-polar disorder with depressive symptoms most prevalent. He has struggled to complete semesters and has had to take personal leave to deal with his mental health on more than one occasion. I can relate to your concerns about your daughter.

First, there is no shame in determining that a service academy is not a good fit, and seeking other paths.
Second, given the symptoms your child has experienced I would seek out contact with the service academy equivalent of the dean to express concerns and try to ensure your daughter receives appropriate assistance with her mental health. This to me seems more than just a helicopter parent or a homesick plebe.

I wish you well.
 

Capt MJ

Formerly Known As Attila The Hunnette
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Joined
Sep 27, 2008
Messages
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Offering feedback from another perspective, generations of service academy graduates have noted their experiences in the pressure cooker of that first summer and first year, where they seemed to be failing at every turn, where nothing seems good enough, where everything seems hopeless, where they realized their weaknesses, where the pressure and chaos and churning gut seem never-ending - THIS is what enabled them to be in the moment and function well, to recall training, to think in multiple levels, to assess complex situations with laser focus, to compartmentalize unneeded fears and emotions, to live to fight another day, to break out the grit and bear down and get through - in real-life situations with the wailing of multiple alarms in a cockpit, leading people in combat zones, going in harm’s way, enduring tough days and dynamic situations that can occur in a wide range of “routine” and not-so-routine duties. Long sentence, one theme: there is a “why” to this experience, and knowing it is often critical to getting oneself through it.

Offering your DD something to skim through in about 10-15 minutes, if she can squeeze them out. VADM Stockdale clarified in his own mind, essentially, he was in control of how he felt about things. His captors were not in control of his mood or perspective or sense of self-worth. There were many things he could not control, so he decided there was nothing he could do about those. He remained in charge of his own thoughts and feelings.

For your DD, learning how to coach herself out of a slide, setting aside things/people she can’t control and how she has made herself feel about them and just pressing on, learning to get help from any quarter, and focusing on things she can actually control - these are the life skills to build on, so when the poop really hits the fan in a real-life situation, she will be ready. She holds all the keys to solving this.
Can your DD learn to be the master of her fate?

Equally, there is no shame in finding out, after giving it her best shot, she is not suited for this life. Whatever she may have thought of “service,” in terms of assumptions and expectations, may have not been at all the reality she has experienced, nor what she is prepared or suited for. I always said the Navy made me into a “recovering perfectionist.” I learned to let go of the small things, accept not everything would go according to plan, grow a thick skin, accept that chaos would occasionally be the norm and pressure near unbearable. It is truly not for everyone, and that is okay. Let her figure it out.
 
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OldRetSWO

USNA 78/parent 11/BGO for >25yrs
10-Year Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2010
Messages
4,239
Offering feedback from another perspective, generations of service academy graduates have noted their experiences in the pressure cooker of that first summer and first year, where they seemed to be failing at every turn, where nothing seems good enough, where everything seems hopeless, where they realized their weaknesses, where the pressure and chaos and churning gut seem never-ending - THIS is what enabled them to be in the moment and function well, to recall training, to think in multiple levels, to assess complex situations with laser focus, to compartmentalize unneeded fears and emotions, to live to fight another day, to break out the grit and bear down and get through - in real-life situations with the wailing of multiple alarms in a cockpit, leading people in combat zones, going in harm’s way, enduring tough days and dynamic situations that can occur in a wide range of “routine” and not-so-routine duties. Long sentence, one theme: there is a “why” to this experience, and knowing it is often critical to getting oneself through it.

Offering your DD something to skim through in about 10-15 minutes, if she can squeeze them out. VADM Stockdale clarified in his own mind, essentially, he was in control of how he felt about things. His captors were not in control of his mood or perspective or sense of self-worth. There were many things he could not control, so he decided there was nothing he could do about those. He remained in charge of his own thoughts and feelings.
I don't want to be presumptuous but in my mind you are saying a similar thing to me but from a different angle. And you stated it much better than I as I too have often thought of plebe summer/year in relation to Stockdale, John McCain and apropos to my zoomie bretheren (sistren?) Lance Sijan.
 

Capt MJ

Formerly Known As Attila The Hunnette
10-Year Member
Joined
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Messages
16,856
I don't want to be presumptuous but in my mind you are saying a similar thing to me but from a different angle. And you stated it much better than I as I too have often thought of plebe summer/year in relation to Stockdale, John McCain and apropos to my zoomie bretheren (sistren?) Lance Sijan.
I think we are, as often happens.
 

Skipper07

Firstie
5-Year Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2017
Messages
782
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Invictus, William Ernest Henley

I did not read the links from @Capt MJ , but the title reminded me of this poem. I had a rough plebe year for a variety of reasons. I put those poem on my cork board, memorized it, and often recited it silently.
 

Capt MJ

Formerly Known As Attila The Hunnette
10-Year Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2008
Messages
16,856
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Invictus, William Ernest Henley

I did not read the links from @Capt MJ , but the title reminded me of this poem. I had a rough plebe year for a variety of reasons. I put those poem on my cork board, memorized it, and often recited it silently.
You and VADM Stockdale, who went through a thing or too himself. That is exactly the one. A favorite of mine too.
 

Skipper07

Firstie
5-Year Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2017
Messages
782
Oh, boy. I'd like to retract my statement. I believe I have actually read both documents that @Capt MJ posted for class. Perhaps I should start thinking before I post here.

OP, although not quite what VADM Stockdale faced, your daughters struggles are very real-- especially to her. Plebe year often feels like the black pit, the night, horrors of the shade, or the punishment charged scroll. When you're living it, it seems like nothing can be worse. Struggling through it is a rather large step towards building the fortitude and grit necessary to be an effective officer. VADM Stockdale actually credited his ability to survive the Hanoi Hilton to enduring plebe year.
 

Capt MJ

Formerly Known As Attila The Hunnette
10-Year Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2008
Messages
16,856
Oh, boy. I'd like to retract my statement. I believe I have actually read both documents that @Capt MJ posted for class. Perhaps I should start thinking before I post here.

OP, although not quite what VADM Stockdale faced, your daughters struggles are very real-- especially to her. Plebe year often feels like the black pit, the night, horrors of the shade, or the punishment charged scroll. When you're living it, it seems like nothing can be worse. Struggling through it is a rather large step towards building the fortitude and grit necessary to be an effective officer. VADM Stockdale actually credited his ability to survive the Hanoi Hilton to enduring plebe year.
You extracted the appropriate kernels of wisdom from both docs. Youngster Ethics class?
 

Falcon A

Just a Proud Dad
5-Year Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2014
Messages
1,398
I am going to repost a previous post from Ramius on the purpose of the 4th Class System…

“Here's a story from the Army side. This is a commonality to all the military branches.

(Now LTC Friesen)
Author, Major Bo Friesen USMA 83 (15 Jun 99)

I'd like to chime in with my two cents on the 4th Class System, as I experienced it. My plebe year was during 79-80 and, although it was probably not as draconian as that of the more senior members of this forum, it appears to be considerably different from what exists today.

As I went through it, I did not understand how cutting a pie into nine equal pieces would help an officer lead soldiers into battle. The myriad of disjointed memorizations, ludicrous tasks and perpetual panic mode seemed to have very little to do with the profession of arms. I maintained this attitude throughout my upper class years and I was definitely not a flamer, although fairly stern and consistent. I kept this perspective as a junior officer ... right up to the moment I commanded a cavalry troop in the Gulf War.

One night, at around 0100, we conducted a passage of lines to assault an airfield. We had gone almost 60 hours without sleep and it was raining with a vengeance (yes, rain in the desert ... lots of it). Our own artillery was falling short and landing amongst us, one of my platoon leaders was heading off in a tangent to the direction he should have been following, the squadron main body was drifting too far north, my driver was heading straight for a ravine, a tank in my 4th platoon threw a track, we found ourselves in the middle of one of our own DPICM minefields, the objective was spotted on our right flank (instead of in front of us, where it should have been), almost no maps existed for our area of operations, my boss was perpetually screaming for me to change to his frequency (an impossibility with the wonderfully designed, single-transmitter command tanks), a half dozen spot reports were coming in from my troops (all critical), my intel NCO had a critical update, my XO had a critical update, my ops NCO had a critical update, my 1SG had a critical update, my gunner had spotted dismounts, the regimental commander was forward with us adding his own personal guidance, visibility was almost zero, there was a suspected use of chemical weapons, regimental S-2 reported 500 heavily armed Republican Guards on our objective (later determined to be a squad of American engineers), and I had a moderate to severe case of dysentery. (... A run-on sentence, I know, but then again it was a run-on night.)

It was during this little slice of heaven (of all places) that the 4thClass System was illuminated to me in all its glory. Its goal was not harassment, ridicule, or punishment. Its goal was to train the neural network to deal with an overwhelming amount of disjointed information, quickly process that information, categorize it, and make rapid, sound decisions. At that moment, I would have gladly given a month's pay to the genius who devised the 4th Class System. It provided me with a priceless gift to sort the significant from the insignificant and do my job in a much better fashion. From my perspective, THAT is the rationale behind the system. It trains your brain in a non-lethal environment to sort through the mess, bring some order to it, and continue functioning.

It is an extremely nasty world out there, and part of the academy's mission is to train graduates to survive and excel in that world. We are not doing the graduates any favors by sugarcoating things and putting a happy face on everything. There is still plenty of unadulterated evil, brute force, and chaos to go around. Pretending it isn't there will not make it go away. I sincerely hope that there are enough qualified people to deal with the future chaos and brute force quickly and effectively enough to protect our interests and keep it off our shores. Don't dismiss the 4th Class System as an archaic anachronism. I have found it to be one of the most valuable training programs I have ever undergone.

Just my 2 cents ...
Bo Friesen
Major U. S. Army
USMA 83”
 

St.Katherine

Member
Joined
Feb 12, 2021
Messages
443
I am exhausted by the stress and crying and "I hate it here, I want to come home, I am not doing well." I listen, and I hear some shining moments, but honestly, I am getting 95% negativity. It is affecting my mental health too. The rollercoaster is no joke. My Doolie feels totally unsupported there; I continue to listen and have been getting two phone calls a day full of negativity. I think I have left no stone unturned in trying to figure out what to do from asking if paperwork should be filed to saying stay focused on the shining moments (which get shot down too now) to small talk to make the conversations more positive. My Doolie said everyone in her squad is depressed (C3Cs included) except the leadership. Three Doolies want to file paperwork :( along with roommate also saying same things about hating it although that roommate is IC so gets to escape when traveling. I know there is no easy answer just like I know this is not easy. I know these feelings are common too. I am happy to keep on keeping up with this, but I need some hope or some thought about how to tackle this that I have not figured out.
If not done already, let reality sinks in… “EMBRACE the SUCK.”
At least the environment is not: Arctic where an igloo is required to survive…after jumping from 12,000 feet with a 200 lbs ruck sack (that’s just the ruck excluding weapons, chutes main and reserve).
 

greentrees

10-Year Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2009
Messages
325
Another thing to remember is the TO's are fellow cadets who are also learning to lead - the squadron is a leadership laboratory for all of them - and perhaps they are using a poor leadership style. On one of DS's worst days early in Beast, he wrote, I'm learning how BAD some leaders are and what I DO NOT EVER want to be. He hated the screaming and yelling and felt most of it wasn't needed - he saw purpose in some of it, but many would take it to the extreme. Also hated the inconsistencies where something would be okay in the morning, but not okay in afternoon. Some people when put in a leadership position perform poorly and the rest of the squadron suffer for it.
 

Devil Doc

I often give inaccurate and misleading advice.
Joined
Apr 25, 2018
Messages
5,081
Another thing to remember is the TO's are fellow cadets who are also learning to lead - the squadron is a leadership laboratory for all of them - and perhaps they are using a poor leadership style. On one of DS's worst days early in Beast, he wrote, I'm learning how BAD some leaders are and what I DO NOT EVER want to be. He hated the screaming and yelling and felt most of it wasn't needed - he saw purpose in some of it, but many would take it to the extreme. Also hated the inconsistencies where something would be okay in the morning, but not okay in afternoon. Some people when put in a leadership position perform poorly and the rest of the squadron suffer for it.
I was going to ask a stand-alone question but your post addresses much of it. I've been the trainee and trainer and know what the cadet is going through and as a parent of a Marine officer know what the mom is going through. My question is, at what point do the TOs stop piling on a cadet who is obviously not responding well to their tactics? I don't think they should give up on her but maybe give her a period of time to allow her to catch her breath and catch up. Just asking. I know what I would do and/or recommend.
 

OldRetSWO

USNA 78/parent 11/BGO for >25yrs
10-Year Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2010
Messages
4,239
I had a rough plebe year for a variety of reasons. I put those poem on my cork board, memorized it, and often recited it silently.
About a week or so into my plebe summer, I took discarded pins from the shirts we'd been issued and spelled out
"I Can DO It" on the cork board in my locker. My mother saw it during parents weekend and didn't say anything but
a while later, I got a mounted and framed needlepoint version of it which stayed in my room for the rest of my time
at USNA. When I graduated, I donated it to the Sailing Center and it hung in the team classroom for many years but
has since disappeared.
 

Old Enlisted Marine

The only title better than Marine is DAD
Joined
Sep 16, 2021
Messages
491
I have been lurking for sometime now (about 2 years, I know its creepy) and this forum has provided some very good advise. So good, I now have a Plebe at USNA. I had him take the lead on this adventure as it is his. I just used this tool as a fact checker to what he has told me to provide the proper support. I'm not into social media at all but find myself checking in here daily. This post has however pulled me out from lurking. I just felt the need to send some good thoughts your way and say STAY MOTIVATED to both of you. She can do this IF she wants it. If she has the desire to serve she will overcome! Move forward, never away from and have a plan. I apologize if any of this comes across the wrong way, it is ALL sent with positive support.
 

LT360

Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2021
Messages
760
My heart feels for you @HOPE0204. As in life, everyone must chart there own path and persevere for their own goals. The SA experience mimics life but perhaps in tempest and is wholly individualized from "I hate this place" to "this is is the best pace ever". Your DS feelings are real and need to be respected. I am lucky that my DS made it through PS with the requisite low and high points but none the less he made it. Now that the Academic year has started, he is just as tired and busy and still getting yelled at, however he has found his people and has more highs than lows. But he also realizes that there will be times when lows are more the highs and is preparing himself to deal with those times.

I pray that your DD will find her people and her purpose.
 

HOPE0204

Member
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Messages
72
Your daughter may feel that her TO’s are tougher than the rest, or singling her out, but that doesn’t make it true. That’s her perspective in the moment. They have a job to do, and if she is repeatedly failing in an area then she is going to draw extra attention to correct the problem. Don’t blame this on the TO’s. Mental and physical toughness is cultured at all the academies for a reason. Some start off with it, some develop it, and some never do. The ones that never do are often the ones DOR’ing.
@Korab Thanks for the thoughts....is she not as tough as she needs to be - totally agree, but is eating a pancake breakfast for minutes easier than reciting squad names, ranks, jobs and then getting a beat session for minutes? This is the difference between some of the squads. As we all know, squads make their own rules so no squad will be run the same. I am not blaming the TOs; I think I stated that I was not blaming them; I am aware of how my comments might have been interpreted- just stating that I believe her squad has toughter TOs. Of course they have a job to do, and as we all know there are some crappy leaders out there in the world as well as some inspirational leaders.
 

HOPE0204

Member
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Messages
72
My heart feels for you @HOPE0204. As in life, everyone must chart there own path and persevere for their own goals. The SA experience mimics life but perhaps in tempest and is wholly individualized from "I hate this place" to "this is is the best pace ever". Your DS feelings are real and need to be respected. I am lucky that my DS made it through PS with the requisite low and high points but none the less he made it. Now that the Academic year has started, he is just as tired and busy and still getting yelled at, however he has found his people and has more highs than lows. But he also realizes that there will be times when lows are more the highs and is preparing himself to deal with those times.

I pray that your DD will find her people and her purpose.
@LT360 Thank you for the words of encouragement. So glad your DS is succeeding, and has such an amazing outlook and maturity.
 

TigerMomNot

Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2020
Messages
63
@mommahedg Thank you for this advice. Trying hard to take care of myself. I appreciate the advice regarding the Parents' Club. I will reach out to them. I had not thought of this angle.
I second this advice. Our Parents' Club have volunteers that reach out to 4th class parents and act as their coaches and support. Super helpful.

I've lost count of the number of tearful letters, phone calls and video calls I've received. Improvements are slow but they seem to be on their way.

Try and take care and keep positive. @HOPE0204 this is for you - may you get to 3:20 -
 
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