I started this with a small list, and my, how it has grown! I began writing to parents, but even candidates can learn from this advice. If you are an information hound like me, you can never get enough! FWIW, here is some random advice as you begin, simply put, the most amazing journey of your life. 1. Do not try to force your candidate to eat breakfast the morning of R-Day. You may read advice that they must eat, or they will faint. But some eat, and may throw up due to nerves. That would be a really, really bad way to begin on R-Day. Don’t push the issue of breakfast either way, as it’s really not worth it. 2. You will see many, many suggestions of additional items that may come in handy during Beast. Parents clubs, online forums, and listservs will offer up all sorts of lists. If you brought everything ‘suggested’, you would need an additional suitcase or two and perhaps a valet to carry them for you. As this would be frowned upon by the cadre, stick to the list USMA provides. Anything else can be sent later at the request of your NC (New Cadet). Parents often become overzealous about these lists, as getting the boots, shoes, and socks is really their sole involvement in sending their offspring off into adulthood. There is no dorm room to decorate, so a Leatherman and a stick of Body Glide must suffice. These few items take on great importance. Parents, go ahead and stress over the list. Candidates, please try to be understanding. 3. The infamous 90-second goodbye. Say your real goodbyes a long time before you reach Ike Hall. You will know what needs to be said, and you will have the time to do so. Some of your goodbyes will take place at airports, for those flying unaccompanied. Each family will handle R-Day however is best for them. Ok, now I’m getting teary just typing this. New topic. 4. The “sponsors” referred to during the “ice cream social” (funny name, as we always served pizza and lasagna) that occurs at the half-way point of Beast are typically not the “sponsors” that will be assigned during plebe year. Officers may open their homes to a couple of NC’s during this date as a one-time thing. The sign-ups for the participating on-post families are different for the “ice cream social” and the regular sponsor program. Think about it, some families will be PCS-ing (Permanent Change of Station, that’s army-speak for moving) between the July date of the social and the start of academics. Some folks wish to do this one-time sponsorship of cadets, but cannot commit to the year-round sposorship program. (This was our case at one time. We sponsored cadets at WP for many years, but when we lived in Annapolis we felt we could not successfully sponsor mids due to current demands on our time. Nothing against Navy, we love all of our nautical friends!) 5. If your NC has a prior service or prepster squadmate or roommate during Beast, this is a very, very good thing. These individuals have been through the drill before and receiving tips on things like how to properly fold a t-shirt from them will become a lifesaver. When a prior or prepster speaks, listen. Carefully. 6. Speaking of priors, please be aware that your child will be attending the academy with a wide, wide spectrum of people. Yes, all will tend to be freakishly smart. Most will be direct admits from high school, but certainly not all. The number of priors has risen in recent years, and a few even arrive at the academy on R-Day having earned a Purple Heart in combat. I’ve always wondered how in the world does a firstie, on R-Day, get in the face of a prior who has earned a Purple Heart? Simple: there is no indication that this New Cadet has earned a Purple Heart, as all NC’s are equal on Day 1. Part of the ‘hidden beauty’ of R-Day. You all start out the same. Economic differences will be vast as well. There will be NC’s who receive seemingly limitless funds from home, and others who send part of their cadet pay home to support family. I have heard many cadets express surprise that it was a few years before they knew that a fellow cadet came from money or from poverty. Some NCs will have a year of civilian college or prep school under their belt. A few years ago there was even an NC who had already earned a bachelor’s degree. (Hey, he met all the requirements, including age.) One of our current swimmers even transferred from USNA! So you may be surprised at the breadth of individuals who become cadets. I like that everyone starts off equal on R-Day. It is a clean slate, stars will be earned, the cream will rise to the top, and each class will immediately begin to form their unique identity. Whether you’ve been around it for as long as I have, or you are totally new to the academy experience, it is really amazing to watch. I will end here, for now. A year from now, you will be looking back at this time and laughing. It may be hard to imagine now, but it’s true! Best of luck to you all!