Parental advice for parents of Class of 2021

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by Daretodream, Feb 13, 2017.

  1. Daretodream

    Daretodream Member

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    Last year at this time, I sat in your shoes. I was ecstatic my DS achieved his dream and received an appointment to USAFA. We were not a military family so none of us knew what to expect. I joined this board earlier in the year and it was a great resource for asking questions and learning more about what to expect. A year later there are a few lessons I learned that I wanted to share with you. Some other parents may want to join in and give their opinions as a parent of a cadet as well.

    Pre-BCT
    We watched a lot of videos on BCT and Cadet life. It helped us and my DS (a lot less he tells me now) prepare mentally for the challenges of BCT. You will be invited to several parent groups on Facebook over the next several months. They are great places to lean on each other, but can also cause unnecessary stress if you take every word on them as gospel. You will find all types of parents on the board from those who think USAFA is similar to a regular college and ask how often their child can come home, to the parent who can't let go and wants to take charge of everything in the Cadet's life from day one. They will offer to set up meals for A Day and so on and all will be with the best intentions, but they don't always jive with what the Wing has in mind. Enjoy but do not be afraid to ask a lot of questions of seasoned parents before you make a rash decision or buy a product.

    I Day
    It will be a blur. Some will go out early to spend time with family and some will want to fly by themselves and say good-bye at home. Let the DS or DD make these decisions. They will likely have as many if not more emotions going on in their heads than you do when the day arrives. If you go (and I hope you do as it was wonderful to watch) enjoy a wonderful meal with your DS or DD the night before. We had dinner and met another family from our state. I think meeting other future Class of 2020 Cadets the day before helped ease the nerves for my DS. However, once you arrive the DS is gone without much time for fanfare. They do some quick processing and then you stand with them for a quick orientation speech before they give you about a minute to say good-byes (by far the hardest part for the parent). Stick around and watch them board the bus and stop by some of the booths to learn more about pay, clubs and USAFA in general. If possible, stay and come early the next morning for the parade and swearing-in ceremony. You will be shocked at the transformation. Also, join Web Guy as it will be your life line to your Cadet over the next 6 weeks. You will find yourself surfing photos for hours during BCT to get a glimpse of your Cadet.

    BCT
    BCT is broken into two segments. It also has two different sets of Cadre leading the sessions. Do not be surprised if your Cadet has several different roommates during BCT. Letters are the life blood of a Cadets life during BCT. I found it silly at first when they suggested you write (or email through AOG) everyday, but my DS said it really was what helped them get through each day. BCT I is on the hill and involves a ton of learning how to be in the military. There is a ton of marching and learning and meetings. They also have fun with intramurals, but there is not downtime. You will write daily, but only expect a few letters in return during BCT. There will also be attrition. It doesn't take long for some incoming Cadets to learn USAFA is not for them.

    In the middle of BCT, there is Doolie Day Out where new Cadets (Doolies) are paired with a sponsor family. They get their phones back and this will likely be your first voice contact with your DS/DD. Expect to hear a change in the child to be more formal. Each Cadet is different so be careful to read too much into what to expect on the call. My DS was very chatty and wanted to tell us about BCT I. Others talked about their Cadet using the time to vent. The best advice is to listen and take the conversation where the Cadet wants to go. When they return from Doolie Day Out they get the second set of Cadre and prepare for BCT II and Jack's Valley. BCT I seems to focus on the mental side of basic while BCT II is more on the physical side and building the unit as a team. By this time the days fly by and before you know it BCT II will be over and A Day will arrive.

    A Day
    This is another opportunity to go to USAFA. It is a lot to ask parents just 6 weeks removed from I Day and only a few weeks before Parents Weekend, but if you can it is worth the trip. My wife and I went as it gives you a couple of hours to visit with your child. The parade is great (except for the fainting which will happen and a lot more than you expect). Don't worry about those who faint as they are well cared by the staff. You finally get to see your Cadet at the end of the parade and it is wonderful. The best hug you will ever get! But back to the advice - before A Day our parents board was putting together sign-ups for food as many of the Cadet parents could not make it. We ended up buying $150 worth of Chick-fil-a at 6 in the morning and put it in heating packs and carry it up hills to the parade fields. At the end of the parade we were told our DS' squadron was doing the shoulder bars in Polaris Hall. We were able to have a more formal ceremony and learn about the expectations and leadership for the semester. At the end, they told everyone lunch was provided next door. In the end, we only got to spend about 30 minutes with our DS visiting and left a ton of food for the squad for dinner, but it was worth every minute. The lesson was parents over analyze and prepare so it is just part of the experience.

    Parents Weekend
    This is the first prolonged visit with your Cadet. They are now in school and the campus is open for tours including Jack's Valley. We stayed in Colorado Springs Friday and Saturday and then headed to the mountains for a short get away on Sunday and rafted on Monday morning. It was what our DS wanted to do. It is a great weekend with your child and really prepares you for the fall semester.

    I hope this gives you some insight into the first franic part of this journey. It is remarkable and we have enjoyed it immensely so far.
     
  2. fencersmother

    fencersmother 10-Year Member Founding Member

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    Sign up for Webguy at your first opportunity.
     
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  3. MD2020

    MD2020 Member

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    DaretoDream, this is an amazing comprehensive list.


    Here are a few more things that I would add.


    Book your airline tickets and hotels early. Try to use an airline that allows you to exchange your tickets if situations change (because they most always do). Book parents weekend lodging asap if you plan on going. Do not forget to check out Airbnb and Homeaway.


    Keep plan B until AFTER boot camp. I know that this sounds weird, but it is a reality. There will be a handful of cadets that leave during or shortly after boot camp for various reasons. The class of 2019 lost 67 cadets (about 5%) by the end of August and the class of 2020 lost 42 cadets (about 4%) by the end of August.


    BCT is easier for some cadets than others. Make sure your cadet is physically in the best shape as they can be, it will help them survive BCT. Mentally prepare your cadet for BCT. Remind them that it will be tough, if they choose to leave they are not allowed to make that decision until AFTER BCT is over. Tell them to take one day at a time or even one meal at a time. Remind them that the Cadre whom are leading them were once in their place. Tell them to suck it up, put their head down and work as hard as they can. Tell your cadet DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY. It is all just a mind game.


    Join the parental support pages on Facebook (search USAFA 2021 Parents Group on facebook).

    I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions.
     
  4. Daretodream

    Daretodream Member

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    I laugh now, but watching all the youtube videos of BCT really helped us. My DS said in BCT there wasn't as much running as he expected, but that doesn't mean it wasn't physically challenging. He said there was a lot of sleep deprivation, waiting and silly rules that were frustrating at the time.

    The one thing he said was absolutely true is that at least one time during BCT everyone thought about leaving. His came right before Doolie Day Out. He was having nose bleeds (an average of one a day) and messed up (they all do) that was causing the squad to get beat (punished). He got called to the doctor while his squad was punished for his mistake. At the doctor he was given a diagnosis and told it might DQ him from flying. He stopped and wondered if it was worth it. He never mentioned it to us until after BCT. He simply stayed true to one day at a time. Sure enough the next days were better and he thought of plan B if he couldn't fly and found career paths he could still be happy pursuing in the USAF. It was part of the maturity you see from your Cadet during and after BCT.

    It is a growing experience for everyone. I think everyone takes it a little different. I still see parents who post their DS or DD is struggling. There is no magic time when it gets easy.

    The best advice is even for a parent take it one day at a time. Learn as much as you can about being a SA parent. Be supportive.

    BTW, my DS went skiing this past weekend for the first time since starting USAFA. He loved it. He is heading to New Orleans during Mardi Gras for an Honor Guard competition and marching in one of the big parades. He talks more now about the great opportunities and is looking forward to Recognition which is the last big test for first year Cadets (it happens in mid-March just before spring break).

    As for a parent, once you get to A Day there are opportunities to see your Cadet every couple of months. We went to Parents Weekend. Our DS came home for Thanksgiving. A month later he came home for almost three weeks for Christmas. He will be home about a week in late March for Spring Break. He will home for three weeks this summer. They have phones and you have plenty of access once BCT is over.
     
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  5. fencersmother

    fencersmother 10-Year Member Founding Member

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    Daretodream, enjoy those visits NOW because as their time at USAFA increases, those visits may lessen. Spring break is for Hawaii, right? And half of that Christmas break is spent at the girlfriend's or skiing or in Hawaii. Thanksgiving? Well, there is that dang girlfriend, and ....

    For new parents, make your reservations NOW for PW. Plan to arrive Thurs and leave Tues or LATE AS YOU CAN Monday night.
     
  6. USMA 1994

    USMA 1994 Member

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    I think this is one of the best pieces of advice we can give on the forum. There is no one perfect answer for every cadet. BCT will be difficult and challenge your cadets everyday. They do not need to worry about every little detail that they have heard that may or may not be true. It also relates directly to individuals as they are comparing themselves to people who have already been accepted.

    It may have been easier 25 years ago as we heard a few horror stories but there was not a constant flow of information. We showed up and made it through as a team.

    Here are the my few lines of advice to my DD who will enter this summer:

    1. Make sure that being an officer in our armed services is what you aspire to. You will be doing that in a few short years and the mantle of leadership is an incredible privilege and burden. You will not survive if you are going for mom, dad, friends. You cannot get caught up in how cool the academies sound and what people say about them. This has to be what you want to do.
    2. Your Basic Training will be the most challenging and rewarding experience of your life. It is not supposed to be fun and will challenge you everyday. Show up in the best shape of your life, work hard and do your best. Thousands have gone before you and thousands will follow you. Do not over think it, enjoy your last few months of being a high school student. If you have made it this far, you have the tools to be successful.
    3. Be Humble. You will fail everyday. What defines you is not the failure but how you learn and grow from those failures
    4. Be even more humble. Most cadets are superstars in their little world. All of a sudden they will learn that they are extremely ordinary in a group of a few truly gifted individuals. Being Ordinary at the Academy is not a bad place to be, you are still the best and brightest our country has to offer.
    5. You are joining an amazing team. Help your classmates, no one is perfect at everything. You have strengths and weaknesses. Volunteer those strengths and ask for help when you need. You succeed as a team.
    6. Keep a sense of humor. Nothing that happens is a personal attack but a way to develop you as a future leader of our soldiers. You may not understand why you have to wear a cover at times, greet upperclassmen, ping, or walk on walls. Trust us when we say they have a purpose.
    7. For the parents, be open and let them grow. What they need to hear from us is 1. We are proud of you, 2. You are awesome, 3. You got this.
     
  7. Capri120

    Capri120 Parent

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    And, for the cadets that are IC athletes, in other competitive clubs, cheer, dance, drum & bugle corp, etc., don't expect them home on holidays, or maybe just a shortened holiday. Even spring break, they may decide to spend it doing a community service project.

    Our DD is part of the D&B Corps. As such, she had to stay for the Thanksgiving weekend to support the football game. She had less than 2 weeks for Christmas break because of the Bowl game. She is spending her spring break working with Habitat for Humanity in another state.

    These are HER choices. Allow them to do what they want and feel they need to do to become the young men and women they can be serving others and our country.

    It can be difficult, but we have to let them spread their wings without us.
     
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  8. Badfinger

    Badfinger Member

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    I have two questions:

    1. I have read different things about Cadets setting up a bank account. In this world of electronic finances, are they able to use an existing bank account, or are they required to set up an account at a specific institution? If they can use an existing, then we need to make sure he brings the numbers along.

    2. We have decided to let our son fly to Colorado Springs rather than accompanying him there. Does the USAFA setup transportation/lodging between the time his flight arrives and his report time (I assume the next day)? Is that when he would meet his support family?
     
  9. Capri120

    Capri120 Parent

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    As for the bank account, last year, the appointees had to fill out forms to establish an account at the local bank at the Academy... Armed Forces Bank, I think, for their initial pay deposit. After that, they could switch to the bank of their choice for direct deposit.

    As for an appointee coming in on their own and transportation...this will be detailed in their instructions they should receive shortly. But, basically, a means of transportation is usually arranged to get them to the Academy
     
  10. Capri120

    Capri120 Parent

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    I wish I had a link to last year's "Instructions to Appointees", but I don't; DD was fairly protective of her portal and info on it. The link I had for the previous year no longer works.

    Sooooo, as fencersmother said, please be patient, and most of your questions will be answered when your appointee receives their instructions from the Academy.
     
  11. Daretodream

    Daretodream Member

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    The instructions you will receive next month will lay out all of the details on travel. There has been some really good advice on this thread.

    I think all appointees and parents of appointees have lots of questions about the unknown. We are here to answer as best we can and how it impacted our families.

    The advice above on not overthinking everything is wonderful. It applies to Cadets and parents. My DS said the one thing he wishes he had done better was understand and actually enjoy BCT. After it is over they understand the process is about learning to fail, keep going, get stronger and build a team. No one is going to lay a hand on you or make you quit. It really is a one day at a time, accept failure and learn to lean on your teammates mentality. It seems to forge lifetime memories and friendships.

    Parents want to help. We have been there for our kids throughout their life and it is hard to let them stand on their own during difficult times. Most of these Cadets have seldom failed at anything. They are model students and citizens or they wouldn't have secured an appointment. It is a shock to the system and to the parents to hear of them struggling, but it is part of the process.
     
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  12. MD2020

    MD2020 Member

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    @Badfinger Cadets will have to set up an account with Armed Forces bank. Instructions will be a part of your inprocessing package. Most cadets open up a USAA account after A day, move their money and close the Armed Forces account. This is just for direct deposit. They can keep their current account if they want. My cadets did that and I was easily able to transfer money to them on an as needed process.

    As far as coming on his own. Many cadets choose to do that. Their will be a form that he needs to fill out (travel orders) they will provide transportation (in most cases flight to airport and bus to CO Springs where sponsor will meet him/her). He will stay with sponsor family who will then take him to inprocessing.
     
  13. tex2021

    tex2021 Proud parent of USAFA C/O 2021

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    Indeed it does.

    I have a question regarding going to CS a week earlier to get the body acclimated to the CS altitude. We live pretty much at sea level and have NOT experienced any altitude sickness in our prior visits to the area. Are there any advantages to going earlier than a day ? Thoughts ?
     
  14. Cerberi

    Cerberi Member

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    USAFA nor USNA will not require you to set up an account with a bank of their choosing. They will each send you a form to set up an account that actively supports their programs, but it is not required. My daughter banks through Schwab - always has and they offer the same no ATM charge, no minimum balance options.

    I am not advocating for one financial institution over another - but service academies would take some heat if they chose the bank/credit union your son/daughter was required to use.

    There are a number of 'military' banks/credit unions that have a better understanding of the needs of military members vs the typical financial institution. See Navy Federal Credit, Air Academy Federal Credit Union, USAA to name just a few.

    Wait for the packet, then review it. For example, your cadet will have the opportunity to select $400 K in life insurance and the price is relatively cheap. That option exists every day they are a cadet or on active duty and they can also purchase less than $400 k. My daughter doesn't need $400 K in life insurance, so I encouraged her to take the minimum or none at all. Most will blindly sign up for the entire amount. Most will also do the same thing regarding the 'deal' to join the Alumni Association.

    I am not suggesting you do or do not take advantage of some things that will come in the packet - but some are not mandatory and come at a cost that should be made rationally.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2017
  15. Stealth_81

    Stealth_81 Super Moderator 10-Year Member Founding Member

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    I wouldn't bother trying to go earlier to try and acclimate. Your cadet candidate will acclimate well enough and a couple of days won't matter. It takes 2-4 months at the altitude to fully get your body adapted to it, and I have never heard of a cadet who left due to altitude sickness.
    As for parents and family, it varies widely by the person. We made about 25 trips to COS over the course of 8 years from our home which is at about 500 ft. elevation. I never once had any issues with the altitude. My wife invariably got altitude sickness in some form on every trip even though she is in better cardio shape than I am. Hers always manifests 2-3 days after arriving. She is fine for the first couple of days and then it hits her no matter how well she prepares or hydrates, and then after a day of not feeling well she is fine again. Everyone will be different so you won't know if arriving early will do any good.

    Stealth_81
     
  16. tex2021

    tex2021 Proud parent of USAFA C/O 2021

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    Thank you @Stealth_81
     
  17. Daretodream

    Daretodream Member

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    There was a lot of debate about it last year. I am from Louisiana originally and lived in CO twice for a total of 3 years when I was younger. We currently live on the border of the south/midwest and well below the mile plus high altitude of USAFA.

    You will not acclimate in a few weeks. The Academy has brought in Cadets from all over the country and understands the impacts of altitude. Your Cadet will acclimate during BCT and they will not fail because they are not acclimated.

    If you want to vacation there then by all means do it as it is beautiful, but do not do it for acclimation purposes.

    We went two days early. We enjoyed dinner one night and our DS went and found out what squadron he was going to be in. The night before I Day there was a class of 2020 meet and greet at Garden of the Gods then we had a nice last dinner together.

    There is no perfect way to do it.
     
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  18. tex2021

    tex2021 Proud parent of USAFA C/O 2021

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    We had planned to vacation in Colorado and then drop off DS on I-day.
     
  19. Capri120

    Capri120 Parent

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    For the USAFA 2020 class, they did have to send a form in and establish an account with Armed Forces bank for their initial pay deposit. After which, they could redirect their pay to a different account. May change this year or may have been different in the past. We asked, and had no choice.
     
  20. forumjunkie

    forumjunkie Member

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    SOUTHWEST!!!! Yeah! OH and in your travels, LA Quinta gives a 15% discount and extra point so all military, retired and Active duty.