[Pictured above: An inmate-run sand castle prison masquerading as a place of higher learning. Not Pictured: surrounding low income neighborhood behind the camera]
This blog series is about my life and times at a place that defined who I am today, a place called the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. A place that had a radical effect on me as a person and how I saw the world, though opposite of the way it was intended.
Like many awkward, insecure teens, I grew up idealizing and worshiping that most American of cults, that of the man at arms, particularly the Marine. My time spent at poolee functions with recruiters made me want to enlist, which my college educated parents wouldn’t tolerate. Thank God, I took their advice, and since I was good in school and more into reading about the great military minds and campaigns, I agreed to go in as an officer at a good college.
I picked the Citadel because normal colleges weren’t military enough, and because the service academies struck the enlisted recruiters and older friends who influenced me as snobbish. I wanted a challenge in a good military and educational setting unplagued by the supposed ills of regular colleges. Things like apathy, drug use, rampant drinking. Hah. We’ll get to that.
The Citadel seemed to have it all: pretty good ranking, it was in the deep south and had a lot of history, all 4 branches of ROTC and a particularly large portion of their midshipman were in the so called “Marine Contingent”, along with more MECEPS than at any other school. On paper it looked as though it had just as much pedigree for building leaders of character as West Point or Annapolis, plus a more macho image to boot. Honor, Duty, Respect were the core values, and the school’s mission was to “Build leaders for all walks of life” or something similar.
I competed for a four year all tuition paid scholarship via the USMC, and was picked as one of 8 freshmen to the Citadel class of 2015. I expected to find a place where I could shine and be molded by good leaders.What I found out instead was that the place was a mad frathouse run by alcoholic, bitterly angry upperclassmen with little supervision, and even less real military experience. I was exposed to various forms of abuse and violations of regulations regarding our treatment.
I learned that the Fourth Class system for freshmen, the “Knob Year” is an 8 month long hazing session devoid of value as military or ethical training. It serves to make you a prick and tool for all walks of life. Cadets and their families from all over the South are not only aware of this, but firmly embrace it. Anyone outside the circle like myself, and most of you reading, had no indication of how bad this place really is or in how much self righteous denial people are about it, much like the services.
In any news articles or youtube videos, especially regarding hazing or treatment of women, legions of alums and current toolbags rush to the defense of the Corp’s practices and “traditions”. Not a lot of ex cadets are willing to step up and fight them back or vent about the utter nonsense of the Ashley River’s biggest frat.
I have the chance to do something about it. I’m going to expose The Citadel’s many troubling aspects in this series, in scathing, amused detail. I’m going to cover Knob year, describe the stupid mentalities, dissect the bad blood between the Corps of Cadets various cliques, talk about NROTC, and much more. It is my strongest hope that one day, motarded toolbags all over greater Charleston will blow a gasket for calling out their bullshit. This is my Sand Castle Blues, hope you enjoy the song.
[For more from me and other ex cadets, check out http://brokengrayline.tumblr.com a blog inspired by ihatetheusmc, made special for El Cid’s misfit rejects.]