[Summerall Guards, named after General Charles P Summerall, Citadel President and West Point alum. Noticing a pattern? It is every toolbag’s wet dream to become a summerall guard. They get mentioned at mess announcements and people bang the tables, tradition.]
Before going to El Cid,my frame of reference for what my fellow cadets would be like came as a result of my interests, and experience meeting other prospective cadets at programs for other schools. See, I was a military nerd, in the sense that I would read Clausewitz’s “On War” and Grossman’s “On Killing” out of sheer interest, and I devoured anything about the campaigns of Napoleon, Marine Corps in the Pacific, etc. I believed in the military and war as a profession, which demanded all my attention and sobriety. At the same time, I had the impression that freshman training would be shenanigans all in good fun.
At West Point’s summer leadership camp between junior and senior year, I met students who were tops of their class, tons of extracurriculars and leadership activity, the kind of people who could get into an ivy league school on big scholarships just as easily as they could get accepted to a federal academy. I was top ten percent of my class, had risen to head of JROTC at my high school, and had a host of other trivial honors on my resume. I expected Citadel cadets to be of similiar quality. That they would also be serious, dedicated, ethical people who preferred to spend a saturday night in the library working for a 4.0, or doing practical training, rather than going out to get shitfaced and contract STD’s. I expected some diversity too I suppose.
At the beginning of Knob Year, we are all in the same boat, recieving the same culture shock and homesickness pangs. Consensus among my company classmates the first few weeks was that we had all made a huge mistake in coming here, and wished we could take it back. The progessive infringements made by upperclassmen, and their mentalities towards us and our training bothered many of us at first. But with time, most of them got over it, drank the kool aid, and got with the program. I never did, and as I began to get to know the people around me, I began to see what differentiated us.
I got to the Citadel as part of the honors program, and the people in it were like me as far as priorities. There were only 20-30 of us out of the freshmen class of over 700. I was astonished by how underwhelming the majority of cadets were. The school was ranked as being kind of exclusive about admissions, but I sure didn’t see it.
You truly can typecast the typical cadet. White, southern, good ol’ boy who partied a bit too much in high school, average or below average student. More than a few probably couldn’t hack more than a semester at a typical college because they’d be getting drunk all the time and skipping class. A good minority of cadets are legacies, and thus were expected to go to El Cid and make daddy proud.
Asides the whole military thing, its basically a small liberal arts college, and so most are in shit easy majors like criminal justice, education, and business. Just the kind of person who can pour their time into putting out as a knob because they weren’t going to be doing school work anyway. Just the kind of person who would, as an upperclassmen, deal with boredom by tormenting the knobs as was done to them.
Cadets come to take a lot of pride in the Corps and in upholding the image they believe it has. They believe it great because of its dominant white male masculine image and the hazing that they endure. Obviously, this means it is not good to stand out, either in opinion or in deviation from this image. Being in South Carolina, there are still plenty of alums alive from the time of Jim Crow, and a few of my classmates were openly racist anytime there weren’t black people around. Black cadets know there are still whispers that they don’t belong there, lumped in with the stigma that many black cadets are there as athletes.
You are taught by upperclassmen to hate the shit out of Corps Squad Athletes. Why? Because athletes to them aren’t real cadets. Most of their time is spent in class or at practice, or in locker rooms. They are almost never in battalion, and are usually exempt from saturday morning inspections, parades, and miss most of the shenanigans. At the mess hall, they eat upstairs, separate from everyone else. They get as much to eat as they need and eat at the table like people, whereas we had to to abide by all these weird table manner rules and be tormented by mess carvers, getting little food. Having done sports in high school I know that college athletics is probably even more demanding, but at the Citadel athletes are treated like shitouts and outcasts, mainly out of jealousy. If I had to go there again and could resist the urge to hit someone this time around, I would go in as an athlete.
The people who have it the worst though are probably the female cadets. They make up less than 5 percent of the population, and have only been admitted since the late 1990’s. The first couple to try didn’t last long, had their uniforms lit on fire by their band of brothers in the corps. Toolbags from time ever after bitch and moan about how women have ruined the school and lowered all the standards and don’t belong there. When I was at the Citadel, we had the highest rate of reported sexual assault incidents out of all the military colleges. I remember being offended when our cadre noticed that my company class was entirely male that year, and they remarked on how great that was and how we should be damn proud of it. Misogyny towards women in general was in style. Another stupid tradition involved making seniors hats for thanksgiving out of whatever materials we had.Yeah, just as stupid as it sounds. And a few asked us to put pictures of naked women on their hats, and so the company got bitched out. Our Tac officer had to comment the obvious, that he shouldn’t have to tell us that doing that was offensive and wrong.
I should probably say a word or two about TAC officers. These guys are retired military who are technically in charge of the Corps at company to regimental level, and the cadets that run them. All military colleges have some equivalent, and they keep the cadet officers on varying degrees of leash as far as how much power and supervision they get. At the Citadel, cadets basically have free reign to run the corps. My company’s TAC was an Army Colonel, West Point alum, and had come to the same conclusion as me, that bad leadership was the norm and the aspiration. As a result, uppers hated him and taught us to hate him too, for trying to fix it, for not allowing them to really “toughen us up and mold us”. The amount of freedom cadets have to “lead” is both the school’s greatest selling point and curse.Power corrupts.
It comes as no surprise that cadets and cadet culture are morally lacking. Some of the most religiously, racially, politically, and sexually offensive sentiments I have ever heard are common speech. We have to follow an honor code, enforced entirely by a cadet honor court, that says we will not lie cheat steal or tolerate those who do. Omission is considered lying, and in general I would think that the lying clause violates your 5th amendment rights. You can be found guilty of hazing, intoxication, disorderly conduct, or be a fatass upperclassman who can’t PT, but only by being found guilty of violating honor code will you definitely be kicked out of the Citadel. Those other things will only get you anywhere from cons and tours to a semester’s expulsion, at worst. Way to produce leaders and maintain good behavior.
Speaking of intoxication, the long running joke is that the Citadel is a drinking school with a military problem. My upperclassmen were some of the highest functioning alcoholics I have ever seen. Going on leave in Charleston they did some combination of getting shitfaced and hitting on College of Charleston girls. Knobs on leave had the pathetic habit of hanging around Berry Dorm, in the hopes that the girls staying there might invite them up to rub genitals.Underage drinking amongst my classmates was prevalent, but when caught coming back from leave drunk, they wouldn’t get punished officially. Uppers would bitch them out, have us help them sober up by forcing them to hydrate. You can look at it two ways. One, they look out for us and teach us to look out for each other by not throwing the book at us. Or, cadets tolerate behavior that isn’t supposed to be acceptable, and in doing so, dilute the honor and integrity they supposedly have. It is preferable to go against reg and punish someone by hazing them, in their eyes, than it is to get them in trouble officially. Make of it what you will.
A month or more in to knob year and your cadre and upperclassmen have to varying degrees instilled in their charges a drive to conform, put out, and be liked by their peers and their upperclassmen, in the way an abused dog yearns for his masters approval. Motardedness( the term was toolbag, only upperclassmen used it though) of varying degrees is the standard. Biggest motards become roaches, guys who will get vouched for leadership positions next year. They get hazed extra, mainly by the sophomores.
The pantheon of toolbaggydom is the Summerall Guards, a senior drill team. If you want, look them up on youtube to see their faggy routine. Juniors who want to become summerall guards get to relive knob year, getting shaved heads again and being hazed by the seniors. There is NO SUPERVISION from TACS or anyone in the school admin for the sumerallguards. They have a rep in the Corps for being the most badass, obviously.
Being a shitbag and a shitout is more often an accusation, rarely is someone brave or irreverent enough to admit that they aren’t down with knob year and their company, declare themselves outcast.Snitches who rat on people for hazing get lumped in as well. In lieu of being fucked with on a physical level, when snitches mess up on something, their classmates get hazed or PT’d for them.The more motarded knobs will be instructed by cadre to fix their classmates, or take the initiative to do so themselves. I once heard one of my cadre tell the squad of knobs under him ” I don’t give a fuck how you fix classmate X, just don’t get caught”.
Another time on the weekend I sat next to knobs from 3rd battalion(3rd Reich as its popularly known), discussing how they needed to do something to fix their classmate, but just be careful it didn’t kill him.
To sum up,some like me were ignorant of the realities of life in the SCCC, and expected what was on the brochures about leadership and integrity and brotherhood. Others knew, but went anyway because of the prestige. Still others, wanted to be hazed, wanted to be fucked with and to fuck with people in turn. Most stay because they get it in their heads that quitting is the worst possible thing you could ever do. They can’t fathom the concept of changing your mind, changing course. They think quitting is the easy way out, yet I dropped a guaranteed job and college paid for to be free. Really,It is easier to just conform, and buy into a southern masochistic lifestyle where the only relief is to soak your sorrows in drinks and treat others like shit. To just bend over and let everyone tell you how to live, how to dress, how to think, who to haze. That’s how you become one of the boys. A Citadel Man, worthy of his ring.