Welcome to the wonderful, exciting and challenging world of West Point Parenting. Most parents agree that the first year is the most difficult, not only for plebes, but for their parents as well. This manual has been designed to help you through this special time in your lives as you support your son or daughter and survive their plebe year yourself.
We hope this month at a glance calendar will answer most of your immediate questions and offer helpful advice from the members of the West Point Parents’ Club of the Texas Plains and other parents from all over the country who have gone through the same experience. Remember that you are not alone, and neither is your child.
We are glad you are part of our Parents’ Club. This manual is just one example of the help and encouragement that our parents share with each other.
Membership in a West Point Parents’ Club offers valuable opportunities for mutual support, fellowship and access to useful information about the academy and cadet life. Although each club is an independent, autonomous organization, they are all officially recognized and supported by the academy.
The parents’ club network offers a dynamic line of communication between academy and cadet parents. The Parents Club Coordinator at West Point passes on current information to club presidents, who then communicate with their members through emails, newsletters, telephone chains, etc. Typical club activities are meetings, informal get-togethers, tailgates, holiday balls, new cadet picnics, luncheon or dinners and other events at which cadet families gather.
Parents clubs are not a substitute for formal communications between you and your cadet’s Company Tactical (TAC) officer. Specific concerns or information regarding your cadet should be referred to the TAC.
PARENTS’ CLUB GOALS
To provide a means of communication between the Academy and cadet parents
To offer opportunities for fellowship and mutual support among parents whose sons and daughters are undergoing a rugged academic, physical and military training program.
THINGS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE
Be sure the offer of admission has been accepted- return gray postal card.
Convince cadet to RUN, RUN, RUN and then RUN some more.
Complete paperwork requirements to West Point. Keep copies—Paperwork does get lost.
only one tag. The cadet needs to take the items listed below. Additional items may be sent after the academic
Plain black shoes with laces (well broken in and must meet specifications listed in the instructions for candidates offered admission). These can be purchased at an Army- Navy surplus stores or any Military Base uniform shop. Bring the letter of admission for entry into the base and to make purchases.
Razor- electric and/or battery operated.
Sturdy, inexpensive watch.
Bras (females/athletic) – Sport type
Alarm clock- battery operated
Small penlight/flashlight with extra batteries.
Nail polish remover (small bottle) to remove lacquer finish from brass.
Soft lint free cloths for shining shoes – old nylon hose work great.
One 8 x 10 picture (collage of pictures)
Leatherman or Gerber type tool.
Supply of self-addressed stamped envelopes or postcards- no excuse for not writing!
Comfortable and broken in running shoes.
Female new cadets- take barrettes same color as hair, no bobby pins, shiny barrettes or rubber bands allowed in hair during CBT.
Make hotel/motel reservation for “R-Day”, if attending ASAP. If your family budget can only handle one trip to West Point, you may want to save it for Plebe Parent Weekend. If your budget allows more trips, Labor Day Weekend is a wonderful time for your cadet to see you. Check with the Admissions Reps for the date of R-day, but it is in the information you have already received from West Point.
Make hotel/motel reservation for Plebe Parent Weekend. See October for more information on Plebe Parent Weekend.
Join the West Point Parent Club. Give complete name of cadet, name of parents, home address, telephone numbers and email address to newsletter editor.
Set up checking account with direct deposit capability. It is recommended that one parent be a co-signer. It is also recommended to obtain an ATM/Debit card for your new cadet.
Convince the cadet to RUN, RUN, RUN and then RUN some more. West Point is not flat. Run up and down hills if available. Forget any notion that training in high attitude will give your cadet an edge. Remember, West Point in the summer is hot and HUMID!!
Keep in contact or get to know the Central Texas Military Academy Admissions Participants. Besides appearing at college nights, interviewing candidates, working with school guidance councilors, and helping parents, they help coordinate activities of the Parent Club and are a valuable source of information and help throughout the year. Our Admissions Participants (AP’s) are Betty Shaffer and Andy Shaffer MAJ (Ret) (Yes, they are related).
Join the West Point Parents’ Club of the Texas Plains- dues $ 20.00 per year.
Obtain list of club members
Feel free to contact other members when you have questions or concerns.
Attend our June Farewell luncheon held at Betty and Andy Shaffer’s house in Midland. This is a good time for new cadets to meet new classmates and returning cadets from West Texas. Parents can also meet parents from other classes and have any questions answered.
If you are not going for “ R-day”, prepare a card for your cadet. Send it with a parent who is going and ask that it be mailed to your cadet immediately from West Point. Be sure the card is addressed as “ New Cadet Smith” for example. (Note: Do not include first or middle name.) All Cadets are New Cadets until Acceptance Day Parade and mail must be addressed as such. As far as the upper-class cadets are concerned, New Cadets have no first names. Don’t use them. Your New Cadet will have a West Point Post Office Box number issued. Be sure to use that PO Box number.
Have an “upbeat, motivational” card ready to be put in the mail upon receipt of cadet’s address.
Complete application for a major credit card for your cadet. While this is optional, it is good for a cadet to have it in EMERGENCY situations.
Get your cadet a telephone credit card, 800 number or phone cards. This is especially important during CBT, or Beast Barracks, when phone time is difficult to arrange. After the start of the academic year, the cadets will have phones in their rooms, but they still appreciate the phone cards and/or 800 number. Currently the cadet phone rates are $.15/minute, so phone cards and 800/888 numbers from home are much appreciated.
Re-read INFORMATION for New Cadets/Parents, West Point Parents Almanac and Instructions for Candidates Offered Admission.
Continue to encourage your cadet to RUN, RUN, RUN and then RUN some more.
Check to be sure that West Point has received all necessary paperwork.
It is a very good idea to get a short haircut (but not shaved) before departing for West Point. It relieves the shock of “R-Day. For female cadets, it is generally best to have a hairstyle that is above the collar in a “wash & go” mode. Long hair can be kept if it can be worn in a manner that is above the collar and can be styled quickly. As a New Cadet and Plebe, the cadet wants to be “low profile, and cannot afford time fixing hair. A military haircut for both men and women pays dividends throughout the year. Hair grows back.
Watch the CBT video prior to your cadet leaving for West Point. Contact the Admissions Participants for copy of the CBT video. Watching the video helps prepare your cadet for the stress of R-day and the 6 ½ weeks thereafter know affectionately as “Beast Barracks.” Obtain copy of Bugle Notes so that cadet can start learning and memorizing plebe knowledge. The Notes can be obtained at the cadet store for $25.00 to $35.00 during any candidate visit to West Point. DO NOT take a copy of Bugle Notes to West Point when reporting to R-Day!!
R-day: This day marks the end of your child’s dependence on you and the beginning of a unique experience. One of the first decisions you will have to make is whether or not the family will accompany your new cadet to West Point for Reception Day. Those who choose to accompany their new cadet to WP feel that this choice is a show of support. Families feel the tours and lectures give them a better understanding of what cadet life will be like. Be prepared, if you accompany your cadet to R-Day, that you will be given a very short time to say your good-byes (about 90 seconds worth!). Your new cadet then leaves to start his/her new life, and you will not have a chance to talk to them again that day or for several days.
Take your cadet out for dinner of his/her choice the night before. It will be awhile before they can relax and have a great meal again.
Make sure your cadet gets as much sleep as possible the night before. The next day is highly stressful and jam-packed with activities for them and they will need all their energy and alertness.
Get onto the internet if you have not already done so. Subscribe to Plebe-Net on the West-point.org web site.
Other families make the decision to say goodbye at the airport at home. Only you and your cadet can determine what will be the best for your family. R-day is one of the particularly stressful days in the first two months.
HELPFUL HINTS FOR R-DAY FAMILIES
If you need a cool, quiet place to sit after leaving Michie Stadium, try the ice rink at Hollander Center. Eisenhower Hall is also a good place and is open all day.
Take a tour of the post. The guides offer bits of history you won’t learn on your own.
Be sure to go to the Visitor’s Center Gift Shop. Buy your souvenirs early especially anything with the class year on it.
Take plenty of sunscreen, bottled water and comfortable shoes.
The cadre needs to practice for R-day. They do this on Friday before R-Day and welcome family and friends to volunteer to act as new cadets. This gives the parents a new perspective on what R-Day is all about!
Be prepared! Take a backpack to carry items, be ready for weather changes (rain gear) and take plenty of film for your camera.
Remember that every family is there for the same reason. Make friends and establish contacts. Many of the people there will be local (a relative term on the east coast), and will be a great source of information and support in the future.
Plan to walk a lot! Park above Michie Stadium or on Buffalo Soldier Field. Take the post shuttle whenever you can, but walking leisurely is the best way to experience West Point – as a visitor that is.
Don’t worry about where you need to go when you first get to West Point. On R-Day, the entire operation of the post is geared toward the arrival of the new class. There will be plenty of signs and help.
July starts the beginning of CBT training or as it is known by the cadets as “ Beast Barracks”. This is a 6½-week training program, which effectively transitions each New Cadet from a civilian to a soldier and provides leadership opportunities to the upper class. This is the most physically and emotionally demanding part of the four years at West Point. Mail and encouragement are absolutely vital to your plebe.
Mail notes of encouragement daily or as often as possible- humor helps a lot. Ask friends, teachers, and church members etc. to write, and provide them with self-addressed stamped envelopes or postcards. Every new cadet credits the support and mail they receive from home as so important and necessary to their survival. Send newspaper clipping, cartoons, jokes and letters. They will be most appreciated. Again, remember to address it to “New Cadet.”
Don’t expect a telephone call for about 2 weeks. Your cadet can only call when his/her squad leader gives permission and remember on the average there are 100 cadets for every phone. Your cadet may only have a limited time to talk (about 10 minutes maximum). Let the cadet do the talking. You do the listening. Don’t be alarmed when your cadet doesn’t call every week during CBT. Get a copy of the CBT schedule off the internet; it is fun to follow what they are doing day to day even though you may not be able to talk to him/her. Keep the conversations upbeat!
DO NOT send food or “BOODLE” as it is called, until your cadet tells you that food packages are allowed. This will probably be the start of the academic year.
Remember you know your cadet better than anyone else. Listen to what he/she has to say. Each cadet will have different concerns. Listen, let them vent, which is what they want to do, and listen some more.
Talk with parents of other cadets for moral support- Call your AP or any member of the Club at any time with your concerns. We are here to support and provide communication between parents.
Think about purchasing a speakerphone.
It enables cadet to speak to everyone at once- doesn’t need to repeat stories.
It allows phone conversations to be recorded so those family members not present can listen later.
Keep a pad and pen by your phone to record request made by your cadet. Make notes of items that you intend to discuss with cadet. We all tend to get so excited by the phone call; we forget any questions we may have of them.
Once the academic year has begun and the cadets have their new computers, AOL Instant Messaging (AIM) is wonderful. It is free and a good way to have online conversations with your son or daughter.
Check with your car insurance agent to determine if cadet should be removed from policy.
Prepare yourself for a “downer” communication after the change in leadership at Beast, usually around the end of July. This is the second particularly stressful day of the first two months.
Be sure you do not do anything that will draw attention to your cadet. (No balloons, flowers, etc. if they celebrate a birthday). He/she will want to keep a low profile during Beast. If you have concerns, call your club officers, or AP’s at home. Calling the TAC officer should only be reserved for very serious matters, family emergencies etc. Call the Admissions Participants first if you’re in any doubt.
Do not expect an immediate reply to your letters; cadets are busy, busy, busy. It is more important that they receive letters from family and friends during this stressful time.
Call other members of the club who have upper class cadets at West Point or the AP’s when feeling down. We all have gone through the emotional roller coaster of CBT, and we know the gut wrenching feeling of letting go. CALL!!!!
August brings “Reorgi Week”(Reorganization Week), more stressful days in the first two months and the start of the academic year. Reorgi week is considered to be the absolute worst time of the plebe year (with the possible exception of "R" day.) Keep in mind that this week will be the hardest time emotionally and psychologically your cadet will experience at West Point. This period comes just when the plebes are feeling happy and proud that they survived Beast, and they are looking forward to changing from “New Cadets” to Cadets in the Acceptance Parade. The upper-classmen have just returned from various summer activities and now there will be 3 upperclassmen for every plebe ready to “welcome” them to their new companies.
Keep sending notes of encouragement.
Remember you will hear the worst from your cadet. You are the outlet for all frustrations. Most times your cadet will feel much better after the phone call, while you feel worse. Do not hit the panic button, if your cadet mentions quitting at this point. During these conversations, practice the techniques given below:
Do not ask how he/she likes it. Postpone this question for about 20 years.
Remind them to take it “One day at a time.”
Talk to other cadets’ parents for moral support.
Finalize plans about the purchase of a computer printer. This is not required, but it is helpful in relieving stress once academics begin. It also helps the cadet with time management since there are no traffic jams due to a shared printer. The parents can purchase printers through the cadet bookstore. Watch for information that will be sent out to parents regarding the purchase by mail or on the plebe-net.
Prepare to send a boodle box (goodies and snacks). This first box should include an airtight container to hold future foods. It should be the size to fit under the bed or on the top shelf of their closet. A sweater size or blanket size box would be appropriate. In addition to sending baked goods from home the following have proved to be popular with the cadets.
Cup of noodles, instant soups, and instant oatmeal.
Beverage mixes- spiced apple cider, instant tea, cappuccino mixes.
Immersion heater. This can be purchased at Target or Wal-Mart and will heat water to boiling.
Stainless steel mug (travel cup) or any big mug for the soups, noodles, coffee etc.
Beef jerky seems to be a hit for every cadet and don’t be surprised when they ask for salsa and chips to be sent to them.
Power bars, granola bars, “shock waves” , Tang, powdered drink mixes, are always appreciated
There are several specialty shops that will deliver boodle to your cadet. Faculty and officers’ wives own one of the more popular “Piece of Cake”. They will prepare treats and deliver them in a discreet manner, and have provided quality services to many a parent. They can be reached at (914) 446-5747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send any parcel via UPS so that the package goes directly to the orderly room in the company. Use the company name instead of the P.O. Box, as follows.
Parcels can certainly be sent to the P.O. Box also. Check with your cadet to see which he/she would prefer.
Encourage frequently. Classes begin creating stress of another type. The Thayer method of instruction is utilized- study/application first with explanations later. This is a unique approach that creates frustration until adjustment can be made. This is when your cadet learns the most efficient way to manage time. Homework is done before class, not after. The cadet should be prepared before the first day. Assignments will be delivered by email prior to class. Many cadets find a planner or organizer a tremendous help at this time.
Cadets receive and set up their computers during Reorgi week. This is the time to set up an online service if you haven’t already or purchase a computer system. These services all have a monthly fee. However, this can be a very economical alternative to phone calls and fun to use. Most cadets feel the email is their bloodline to home, family and friends. Many parents are asked to pass out the cadet’s email address to all interested parties and they do love hearing from friends, teachers, and family members.
Join the Plebe-net if you haven’t already. This is a wonderful list-server that provides information, hints, ideas and a dialog to all parents new to the experience of West Point parenting. Join at www.west-point.org/parent/plebe-net/. The two most important sites are www.west-point.org/parent/parent-forum/ and www.west-point/parent/wpp-net.
Purchase the Plebe Parent Sourcebook. This is reference book that you will refer to again and again. It can be purchased directly by writing to: email@example.com. Last year the cost was $17.50 ($12.50 plus s/h)
Your cadet may be able to take a pass for the Labor Day Weekend and come home. However, a three-day weekend is largely spent in travel to and from West Point. The best use of time would be to visit West Point. If a choice has to be made between visiting now and Plebe Parent Weekend (PPW), the later is definitely preferable because of the variety of activities available to you. However, the needs of your cadet should be paramount. Remember that this is the Army, and your cadet may have duties that will interfere with leave. Dates and schedules are all subject to change. Be flexible.
Expect to see a changed person- weight loss may have occurred.
Be attuned to your cadet during visits. Let your cadet gauge how much she/he wants to do. Do not ask your cadet to spend every minute with you. Most parents say that during the first visit, your cadet will sleep, sleep and sleep some more.
Be prepared for a “let down” feeling after seeing your cadet. It’s a natural.
Make reservations for PPW if you have not already done so. Cadets are allowed to travel within a 75-mile radius.
Mentor (sponsor) assignments have been made for your cadet. The sponsor and his family offer a home away from home atmosphere. Encourage your cadet to accept invitations to visit in the homes of their sponsor. This provides a welcome and needed place for some relaxation. Visit with the sponsor usually involves a meal, so a “thank you” note from your cadet is always appreciated.
Keep up with the football games. All extracurricular activities play a big part in your cadet’s experience and football games serve as good conversation starters. Most cadets are extremely excited about being part of the football game experience.
Attending church is another outlet for your cadet – time for visiting and doughnuts!
Encourage your cadet to get involved in the many different clubs and activities that West Point has to offer. These offer a nice break from the stress of academics.
Attend our September meeting to discuss Plebe Parent Weekend and all that is offered for parents and friends.
October brings Plebe Parent Weekend. This is your opportunity to visit your cadet in his/her environment, and they are very anxious to show you all around the post and all that they have learned and accomplished. Plebe Parent Week is usually in late October. Check for the specific date as soon as possible.
Send your cadet a list of names of Texas cadets (all classes). It will help start conversations and they do email each other given the opportunity.
Begin making plans for Thanksgiving
Check with your cadet before making flight arrangements. Have cadet confirm times with chain of command.
Remember that policies do change and your cadet must know current policy
Schedule flights leaving ample time for ground transportation as well as other unexpected delays.