Military culture a good fit for my kid?

Discussion in 'Service Academy Parents' started by williamsdr3, Mar 10, 2019.

  1. williamsdr3

    williamsdr3 Member

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    Like many of the outstanding young prospective and current SA folks on this forum, my 11th grade son is an overachiever who has rarely experienced failure. He also thrives on recognition and right now in the most stressful period of his life so far (junior year, SAT, SA process starting, etc) he mentioned how much he loves working at his job as a busboy/food runner because he feels like he is really contributing and because he gets a lot of recognition (in the form of compliments and kudos) for it. He said he feels free there.

    I am hopeful that he achieves his dream of serving as an officer some day, but I am worried that even though he is structured, disciplined, competitive - things that might work really well in the SA lifestyle - he and actually none of my kids have never really responded well to negative environments. I am concerned that being yelled at constantly and basically what I imagine to be broken down during initial training and plebe year might not work for him. He is very stable and strong emotionally so I know he could get through it but would he want to...We have no military experience at our house so forgive my assumptions and generalizations.

    The second part I am concerned about is the professionalism at the SA's. He recently quit the school baseball team because after 2 years on the HS teams he said he just couldn't put up with the negative atmosphere surrounding the team that the coaches are not able to control. He says the guys didn't always respect each other, were often negative to each other, didn't respect girls, were occasionally racist, etc. They didn't bully him personally because he felt they respected him but he just got so tired of the negativity. It is the first thing he has ever quit and he did it day after tryouts - however, he is going to stay on his summer league team where he loves the guys and atmosphere. Do SA Forum folks feel the military culture at the SA's is better at controlling this kind of thing? He and I think so because it is a workplace and therefore more professional by its nature. Obviously, this could be encountered anywhere but I would love anyone's thoughts on my rambling concerns.

    I hope his USNA Candidate Visit Weekend this month and SLE in June might give him a tiny taste of what he might be getting into, and I truly hope he loves it. I am just not 100% sure about the fit for his personality.

    Thank you.
     
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  2. KingLear

    KingLear Member

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    Hello, I am an applicant. There is a high chance I will eventually have the experience to answer your question as whether it be SA, ROTC, OCS, or enlistment I am determined to serve in the Armed Forces. Other forum members can give you much more experienced and well-thought out answers, but this my tenth of a cent.

    SA is a tryout. A SA Cadet or Midshipmen is not really in. They are attempting to prove they can serve as an Officer by graduating. Service Academies do a fantastic job at educating and mentoring future leaders.

    Service Academies are the most disciplined schools in the United States. They educate Officers who will be put into command at a young age over far more experienced men and women from a diverse background.

    Human beings are human beings. There will be negativity everywhere. But Service Academies will have very little of it. Most people who exhibit poor judgement will be asked to leave. I knew someone who was.

    Though the atmosphere is stellar, if it was not, I would suggest your son try his best to change it. A bad Baseball team is not worth the fight, the Armed Forces, we need that. A good Officer would do his or her best to fix the atmosphere if it was "toxic." After all he or she is desires to be in-charge.
     
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  3. Pima

    Pima 10-Year Member

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    I will tell you what we did with our DS starting the summer of his rising senior yr. in HS. We got the idea from the Discovery show regarding life at an SA. It gave him an easy look of what life will be like his 1st yr., but still had the safety of our home. We were hard arses on him, but we really wanted him to understand that an SA/SMC life is not like a traditional college experience.

    These are things we did.
    1. He had to sit at attention during dinner.
    ~ Chew no more than 7 times b4 swallowing his food
    ~Could not have soda at dinner while the other kids did.
    ~ Recite the next 3 days lunch menus
    ~ Discuss one new current event from that day
    2. His room had to be perfect b4 he left for school
    ~ If it was not, I flipped it. Flipped it = pulling all of the sheets off the bed. Throwing everything he left out of place, included the linens on the middle of the floor. IOWS, if he wanted to sleep with sheets, pillowcases on the pillows, and blankets on his bed that night he had to re-make his bed. The pile could also include a wet towel he left on the floor from that a.m. Which, of course during the day the wet towel made the bed linens damp by the time he got home from school.
    ~ Understand he worked 20-30 hrs a week as a life guard, he'd get home at 2:30, and have to be at work by 4. He'd work until 9. Thus, he had very little time to get his room straightened up
    3. CFA practice
    ~ He also had to run prior to going to school at least 2x a week.
    ~ Pull ups are a problem for many. We placed a pull up bar on his door frame. Everytime he entered or exited his room he had to do a certain amount of pull ups and we increased the amount every few weeks. His friends and siblings knew this. They had no problem tattling on him. You'd be amazed how often they exit and enter their room. Go to the bathroom, do pull ups, come back in 1 min. later do pull ups. Come downstairs to answer the door for your friends, do pull ups. Enter your room 2 mins later with friends to play Xbox, do pull ups. Come down for dinner, brush your teeth at night, etc. etc.
    4. Had to of course take the hardest rigor curriculum, plus his sports, ECs, etc., on top of maintaining his PT job. while maintaining a strong gpa. and lights out by 11 Sunday-Thursday.
    ~ Now add in #1-3 requirements on top of that.
    ~~ There were days he got up at 6 a.m. to run 1 1/2-2 miles (PT aspect), went to school, got home at 2:30 and bc he did not make his bed, he found it flipped. Had to change for his job, eat a quick dinner, and fix his room, to be at work on time. No time to do HW (he was a lifeguard, couldn't do HW at work since lives depended on him). Got home at 9:30 and had to do his HW by 11 b4 we made him shut out his lights.
    ~~~ we showed him what was his mandated curriculum at USAFA, even regardless of his major. IE History/Govt/Poli Sci major at USAFA is different than at a Ivy when it comes to classes.

    I know people think we were being harsh, but we also knew our child. My DH was an ADAF flier at that time. We supported him in this path, but felt for him he created a false illusion about the SA, and got caught up in the allure of an SA over ROTC at a traditional college.

    Our DS is an ADAF pilot that commissioned from AFROTC (his choice) bc in the end he didn't want the lifestyle of USAFA and had a "free ride" via AFROTC scholarship + merit from the school.

    I am not on one side or another when it comes to SA over ROTC. I am on the side of what is a better fit for the child.
    It may seem hard to get an appointment, but the fact and reality is it is harder to stay and commission. Just my opinion. Let's be honest here. Nobody that gets an appointment thinks they will be 1 of the 25% that will not commission 4 yrs later, but it happens. Part of me sees this happens bc they are not prepared for an SA life.
    ~ Look at what I have posted already, now add in the OMG. NO cell phone for weeks? That is like telling me, as of a 50 something yr old that I can't dye my hair for 4 months, but I still have to go out in public! Yes, BCT is only 8 weeks, but you get the point, right?
     
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  4. billyb

    billyb 5-Year Member

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    Note to self..... don't mess with PIMA.
     
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  5. TexasAggie204

    TexasAggie204 Member

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    Our family's simple narrative:

    Kid #1 (male); played sports, academic enough, liked to sleep, watch ESPN, and play video games, Catholic school, got yelled at A LOT growing up, went to USMA.
    Kid # 2 (female); no sports, very academic (book worm, by definition), read and studied in her spare time, Public School, never heard a raised voice in her life, went to USNA.

    Kid # 1 - never had one issue at WP. Definitely didn't graduate at the top of his class, and walked a lot of punishment, but still made it through with zero drama
    Kid # 2 - wanted to come home the first night of "I" day (and most days thereafter). Unhappy from the get-go; didn't perform well academically as a result, a real struggle to get through Plebe year.

    The biggest differences I can summarize: Sports - Catholic School - Getting Yelled At. It all comes down to can you handle the yelling, the hectic an unpredictable nature of every day, and the loneliness. I feel that competing in sports gave our son the experience of getting direction and discipline from an adult that wasn't his parent. The Catholic school experience, ditto. And constantly getting yelled at a home, got him used to how it was going to be at USMA.

    Summary; tough kids have an easier time at the academies, "softer" kids have it tougher.
     
  6. bookreader

    bookreader Member

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    My 2 cents - if your child can embrace the fact that the SAs believe that there is value and purpose to the rigid lifestyle, then they will likely do well in that environment. If they simply hate it and just can't find the value in it, then I'd say that ROTC would be a much better option.

    About never experiencing failure - my kid hadn't experienced much failure in high school and this is true for many of the SA cadets. They were big fish in small ponds. Of course, all this changes very quickly when they arrive at their SA. How they respond to this will directly influence how well they manage at a military academy. My point thought, is that it's a new experience for many of the cadets.
     
  7. billyb

    billyb 5-Year Member

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    I would think 99.99% would experience failure through sports. Even if you are all state you would have times you got knocked in the dirt and had to get back up to fight on, no matter the sport. At least in our experience, most sports have coaches along the line that scream and rant.
     
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  8. bookreader

    bookreader Member

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    I have to say that my kid did not have a 'scream & rant' coach in either of his sports. And while he did experience failures in both sports, he was still at the top of his sport/one of the best players - which is an entirely different experience from the kid who experiences failure and is also near the bottom of his sport team. When my kid to got WP, he was no longer the best in his sport - in fact, he was no where near the best. Different pond, different fish.
     
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  9. Old Navy BGO

    Old Navy BGO 5-Year Member

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    > Yes, it takes alot of self discipline to succeed at a Service Academy. There are alot of stresssors, and the ability to prioritize and manage your time is critical. That being said, I don't think the Service Academies are "the most disciplined" -- they are certainly structured, but success comes from self discipline.

    > Wow. Parents , don't try this at home ! Plebe Year and 4 years at a Service Academy is long enough. There is absolutely no need to "prepare your kid" for the Service Academy, all of the Service Academies are pretty good at taking kids from all walks of life and molding them into young officers.

    > +1 . (Google Cycling or Velominati Rule 5--Harden the F.... Up! ). There are no safe spaces at the Service Academies or in the service. You are going to meet all sorts of people, some will be great, some not so great, but at the end, you will always be classmates. Learn to adjust....Semper Gumby (always flexible) !
     
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  10. VelveteenR

    VelveteenR Just gathering dust in the nursery...

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    ROFLMAO. Neither summer camp will give him even the teensiest glimpse of the reality of either academy. If they did, far fewer would apply. Anyone can play sailor or soldier for a week and enjoy it, but the academies are an endurance sport. Going the distance means being yelled at, being broken and rebuilt, being pushed to every limit your kid has, and experiencing a lot of suck on top of the relentless academic and military responsibilities with little sleep and marginal food. The academies do not "control" for the things you are concerned about; they deliberately set up very harsh environments to teach their officers-in-training to lead well under extreme conditions. That's their mission. They are not regular colleges.

    Our son commissions in less than three months. He mentioned last night that he "can't wait to get out of this place," and he's not one who found himself toward the bottom of the heap in any category. He doesn't know a single Firstie who isn't ready to leave skidmarks in the academy rearview mirror, which means the academy has done its job properly. If your son receives an appointment and chooses to attend an academy, he will have two years to decide just how well it fits his personality. This is not your fight.
     
  11. USMCGrunt

    USMCGrunt 5-Year Member

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    @williamsdr3 - is your question about the military or an academy? The culture can be very different outside an academy or SMC. Your DS may prefer ROTC over an academy or SMC. Depending on the service, the military job and the mission, the culture once one becomes an officer can be very different.

    That said, your note your DS likes frequent praise. As a leader (military or business) this will be uncommon. Accolades go to the "troops" while criticism comes straight at him. Its the nature of leadership.

    Regarding unprofessional, rude, racist, insensitive and negativity - it exists in a command partly as a way of coping and sometimes due to bad leadership. I probably can't do the subject justice in a short note but there is an element of "embracing the suck", making fun of others, and complaining that helps military members cope with the realities of an incredibly stressful job. But our military is exceptionally professional and skilled in what they do. They just have an "edge" at times.

    Your DS has some soul searching to do and wherever he lands is fine. Military service isn't for everyone.
     
  12. Old Navy BGO

    Old Navy BGO 5-Year Member

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    +1 - this goes along with my "harden ........up" comment. There is certainly an element of twisted humor in the "military culture". It's hard to explain, but it runs across and has a binding impact upon all who have served. The modern SA's are probably more "woke" and kindler/gentler than the Fleet as a whole, but if DS is going to be a successful officer, he will need to accept (and embrace) the military culture. USMCGrunt is right ..don't expect frequent praise; the absence of an a$$ chewing is often as good as you can do.
     
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  13. billyb

    billyb 5-Year Member

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    Being yelled at also doesn't mean that you are doing poorly overall. Ex: I had a battalion commander (O5) that regularly chewed my butt. I thought he didn't like me at all, but come OER time he writes that I am the top LT in the battalion. You are exposed to many different types of leadership. You work your hardest to do your troops right and everything will sort itself out. One leader told me that you have to be concerned when I stop yelling at you, because that means I don't think you are worth my time anymore.

    One other note.... your DS might be more resilient than you know in the face of negative feedback. He might need to adjust his thoughts on what's positive feedback. Maybe the new positive feedback is that he didn't get yelled at in a certain formation etc.... It's definitely worth a conversation over.
     
  14. USMCGrunt

    USMCGrunt 5-Year Member

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    True in the military and the civilian world!
     
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  15. SpchGrl

    SpchGrl Member

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    So now I'm dying to know ... what happened to Kid #2? Did she stay at the academy? Learn to love it? Grit her teeth for 4 years and push through? Leave for (supposedly) greener pastures?
     
  16. ders_dad

    ders_dad Member

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    OP - wondering if your DS has older siblings (particularly brothers). Reason I ask is that it has been our family's experience that older brothers are professionals at a$$ chewing and riding. They love each other, for sure, but they are relentless. Example: DS#3 pitched a no-hitter last year and his older brothers rode him after the game for walking two and hitting one. A chewing out is something to take and move on - at least they care enough about you to do it. ("You'll be shot for this! Lt. Aldo Raine: Nah, I don't think so. More like chewed out. I've been chewed out before.")
     
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  17. Humey

    Humey Member

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    Not that Rotc is anything like the academy but my son realized early on that the yelling was part of the deal and really didnt get bothered by it. He knew it was a game and went along with it. Of course it didnt hurt that he had a dad that likes to yell a lot
     
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  18. TexasAggie204

    TexasAggie204 Member

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    She didn't make it. She was told toward the end of her Plebe year that she would be "medically disqualified" due to an issue that came up while she was a Midshipman. They welcomed her to stay at the Academy, but said she would not be commissioned upon graduation. At that point she decided to leave.

    Even though she is now an RN in a Neuro-surgery unit, and loves her profession, I think she would say that she didn't leave for "greener pastures"...she still is in touch with quite a few of her colleagues from the Academy. She left under "better than most" circumstances, but I'm sure she looks back on her experience there and says, "if only...?"

    Kid # 1 pulled a combat tour in Iraq and a combat tour in Afghanistan, and came back fine (if not a little bit changed, personality wise). He served his 5 years of AD and got out of the Army. He's in Grad School now.

    Kid # 3 (male) is a HS Junior and very focused on USMA or USAFA Class of 2024; probably better "numbers" than the older 2, but things (admissions) are very different just a few years later, so we're telling him to have a Plan B, a Plan C, all the way to Plan Z...

    Kid # 4 (male) is probably the one who "fits" the academy profile the best (super athlete, all A's, community service, natural leader, all the other metrics, etc.), but at this point wants no part of any of it. He may actually live in our basement until he's 40. Mom and I just might be okay with that.
     
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  19. 5centsmom

    5centsmom Member

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    OP: thank you for your question. This has been a really interesting thread.

    We too wondered why our gentle lad (but don’t try to pass him in the chute or next swim lane) dreamed of this life. I point blank asked his BGO about attitude. Tailhook, history etc., were all clearly in my mind if not DS’.

    DS sees the idealism as something he can contribute to and bolster. The military is the largest instrument of social economic change available to young people in many communities. DS has started to see that as part of his mission too: being an officer who brings out the best is a worthy goal. He’s only a 4th class ROTC Mid, so I find the real life experience alluded to above a more realistic description.

    I CAN tell you how he’s a better Him than he ever was before because of pursuing a military path. 110% certain.

    I’d like to also plant an idea: your kid enjoys the mindlessness of a job he doesn’t have to prepare for, easily mastered, doesn’t compete with others to maintain, and can leave behind him once he walks out the door. Who doesn’t?! Your kid is smart, so be proud that he’s realized he’s enjoying something easy. Sounds like a thoughtful kid who’s working his tuchus off everywhere.

    Lastly a question: did he talk to the coaches about the environment on the team? He doesn’t have to endure it to be an instrument for changing a toxic environment for the better.
     
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  20. USMCGrunt

    USMCGrunt 5-Year Member

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    OP: I am not sure why, but this morning after reading @5centsmom's post I thought of two books that might help speak to some of the concerns your DS has expressed (along with some of your own).

    The first is "Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story About Love and the United States Marine Corps" - I often recommend this book to parents who's high school child is considering military service. It could be a good read for both of you.
    https://www.amazon.com/Keeping-Faith-Father-Son-United-States/dp/0786713089

    The second book was required reading back in my day. I have no idea if it is anymore, but I just pulled it off the shelf and feel that this could be a great exposure to what Leadership and military culture aspires to. "The Armed Forces Officer" addresses the fundamental moral-ethical requirements of being a commissioned officer in the armed forces of the United States.
    https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Publications/Books/Armed-Forces-Officer/
    https://www.amazon.com/Armed-Forces-Officer-National-University/dp/1597971677
     
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