[Pictured: Knobs becoming leaders by bracing, aka looking like fat deformed children, and injuring their backs for 8 months. Part of a real knob year.]
A key part of joining any manly organization, whether its the armed forces, a gang, a cult, or a frat is the initiation, and this is no different with the South Carolina Corps of Cadets (SCCC), which is a hybrid of all 4 of the aforementioned groups. Our initiation and training as cadets and college students is known officially as the 4th Class System, purpose described like so in the 4th Class Manual, aka the Red Book:
“… to lay the foundation, early in a cadet’s career, for the development of those qualities of character and discipline implied in the mission of The Citadel as a military college – to produce The Citadel Whole Person with an alert mind and a sound body who has been taught high ideals such as honor, integrity, loyalty, and patriotism; who accepts the responsibilities which accompany leadership; and who has sufficient professional knowledge to take a place in our competitive world.”
To everyone else the 4th class system is knob year, and a knob is what you are for that first year. You are a knob because of that skinned doorknob head you pay to get shaved twice a week, and because traditionally that’s what they always called the freshman. Tradition is important here, whether its roots are long or imagined.
You matriculate in August a week before class, the “Hell Week”, where you check in at your dorm, the Battalion. You are assigned to a company, where you will be for four years, and meet your cadet Cadre who will be in charge of you and the whole company for the year. Before anyone can expect to lead, they must learn to be good followers, and that’s EXACTLY what you will become. Interestingly, one of the first things you do when you matriculate is you sign a document defining hazing, and sign it where it says it is your legal and moral duty to report any instances of it.
After that, knob year will progress much like you would expect from boot camp. You sir sandwich, yell a lot, and are expected to be motivated at all times. Ass chewings are frequent and deafening. You will refer to yourself and others in the 3rd person. There is some official PT that ends after hell week, unless you end up needing remedial PT, but you still get up at 0600 everyday to sweep the floors and the quad. 7 to 9pm is an extended study period where your ass is expected to be sitting in your room or academic buildings doing something productive, and upper class mostly leave you alone for it. When it came to these types of things, I expected no less, and this wasn’t the reason I left and felt the need to criticize the school to the world. Now, here’s where things get more problematic.
You are expected to brace at all times inside battalion, as seen in the photo. You can’t tell at this angle, but in addition to your chin looking like Jabba the Hutt you have to arch your back, such that you are in an exaggerated position of attention.It’s highly uncomfortable even when done correctly, and you rack up many hours of your life in this position. Asshole upperclassmen might order you to table top, where you arch your back to the point that you’re leaning back parallel with the ground, like a retarded form of the matrix dodge. This is very bad for your back, obviously.
Other stupid rules include always walking in gutters, and walking everywhere at 120 steps a minute, but uppers telling you to step it out makes it more like 180-240 steps. You will be the fastest power walker when you go visit home my friend. You also have to ask permission to go up stairs, and if you do it wrong or they hate you, uppers will order you back to front sally port or up and down 4 floors of stairs. Got something to do and limited time to do it? Say, isn’t this type of shit against the regs? Too bad asshole, up to 4th division you go, regs and your time wasted means nothing to them.
You are not expected to get much sleep considering how much you need to do every day, but sleep deprivation becomes an intentional goal here. You will catch shit from uppers and motarded classmates if you do something reasonable, like going to bed before midnight. You can’t take naps in battalion, and since I left, the only safe place where you could nap during the day, the Chapel, apparently no longer allows cadets to poke at their sleep deficits there. El Cid won’t even let God ease your burden as a knob, it seems.If you choose to stay up late getting school work done instead of being obsessive about your brass, shoes, and creases till 1 am, you will be in trouble come morning when you form up. Being a knob is more important than being a student, period.
Officially, knobs are expected to follow legal orders, be good students, and always have uniforms, shoes, and brass to perfect standards. To relieve your stress there are religious activities as well as a whole department of student activities that sets up movie nights for knobs, and has a room with food where you can chill. But unofficially you are expected to put out, not shit out, because you want to have a real knob year.
How do you have a real knob year? Simple. You keep your mouth shut. You ignore and embrace the breaking of Red Book regs, and embrace the motto “Hazing is Amazing”, in the belief that it makes you tough and earns you your class ring. You covet the posession of said ring as though you were Smeagol. You let uppers smoke the shit out of you, hit you, and play fuck fuck games constantly. After all, its why you came here instead of College of Charleston with its 80 percent hot female population. You get no sleep and barely any food, and don’t complain that they want you to piss in the room sink where you brush your teeth at night. You persecute people who aren’t having or stopping you from having a real knob year. Snitches, shitbags, Corps Squad athletes, women, they are all fair game. Oh and those activities for knobs and room for you to hang out? Don’t ever go there, pussy. Always take the most unnecessary, hardest route at doing anything.
This is your knob year in a nutshell, not even factoring ROTC training commitments, being in Honors Program, extra curriculars etc. This might all be some sob story sure, you might tell me, but surely the results speak for themselves, and it is an effective form of military training and education, otherwise who are these people dumb enough to keep going there and give it good word of mouth? I will address these topics next week, in our next verse of the Sand Castle Blues.
[ for more ventings, musings, and criticism of El Cid from me and other shitouts, please check out http://brokengrayline.tumblr.com/]