· June 7 at 1:42am
I posted this last year and figured I will post it again for the new appointees and their parents.
For the parents going to I-Day in less than 2 weeks, just a few tips and reminders for you and your cadet.
1) If your kids have slacked off running because of exams and senior activities, make sure they ramp that up again until you get there. The altitude will get to almost all of them and they will be made to run their aerobic fitness test (AFT) on the second day. Cadets will and have thrown up or passed out if they are not prepared.
2) Print out multiple copies of their vaccine records and have them in their backpacks, their pockets and keep an extra copy for yourself. Sometimes the academy docs don't get the complete records for whatever reason and your cadet will end up with extra shots and sore arms on that first day.
3) Again, less is more. Just bring what is on that list, no more, no less. NO BOXES, NO SUITCASES AND NO CONTRABAND. Do not forget those compression shorts. Those new uniforms are not 1000 count sateen fabric, more like fine grit sandpaper! And PLEASE GO OVER THEIR STUFF THE NIGHT before. Make sure the security questionnaire and all paperwork are there. Look at all the pockets of the bags. Last year, some cadets were caught with drugs/joints with them and were sent home! Some parents have suggested moleskins/second skin, foot powder if allowed and band aid too.
4) If you haven't signed up for write2them.org, I would recommend this service. Don't forget to sign up your family and friends so they can also write your cadet. The advantage of this is that you can write anytime and write multiple times a day without running to the post office.
5) WEBGUY...Need I say more. Worth the money, no matter what other people say. You will learn to spot your cadet quickly from every angle. Don't over-read their facial expressions. They will all look tired, sleepy and "durpy". Make sure you don't get fired from your job for being so unproductive at work LOL.
6) Hydrate well. Advice for both cadets and parents. Altitude headaches are real and painful and can be debilitating. Start the weekend before and keep drinking until after you are there. Motrin helps the pain most of the time but not always. Pay close attention to the elderly and people with heart or lung problems in your party.
7) Make sure everyone eats a good breakfast before leaving for the academy. Some of them will be there really early and may not eat for a long time.
8) Get there maybe an hour before the report time. We got there 2 hours before and milling around and watching what was happening made our cadet more anxious and nervous. I felt the same way too. Don't in-process earlier than scheduled. Some cadets did it just to get it out of the way and ended up waiting in their rooms for a really long time until someone showed up from that flight.
9) If you are staying for the swearing in ceremony the next day, make sure you get there early enough. Otherwise you will be behind 6-10 rows of people on the best spots on the wall and not see anything. Bring binoculars. Know where the squadrons are positioned. Aggressors Flight is always on the far left as you are facing them from the wall, Hellcats are on the far right.
10) If your cadet is short, they will always be in the back of the squadron so don't expect your 5-1 cadet to be in the front of that line. All the boys look the same with that haircut and all the girls will almost look the same. Try to find "markers" (the other basics around them that stand out) for your cadet so you will find them. My cadet was always the marker for the other parents. She was the short, dark haired kid around those tall boys.
11) Your cadet will have 2 chances or sometimes more for a phone call. At least one during the visit to the sponsor's house and one during the rodeo. Make sure you answer any phone calls on those days. They will not be using their phones. Those calls from Arizona may be from them using a stranger's phone. Some kids will talk and some will give you 1 word answers, be patient with them.
12) Write A LOT of letters. They are the only link to you and their normal life. Don't let your cadet be the one with no letters to read during mail call. It's a pretty depressing feeling from what we have been told. However, don't expect letters back. We got exactly TWO the whole of BCT. Remember, this generation is not used to writing long winded letters. No fancy envelopes, no perfume, no embarrassing letters, sometimes cadre will make them read the letters to the whole squad. Make sure you address it to BASIC CADET XXX, not CADET XXX. Don't forget the Basic part - they are not cadets yet and will be reminded of that constantly. Teach them how to properly address a letter.
13) Send no more than $250-300 cash. They will need it to buy cleaning supplies, an iron, vacuum cleaner, ironing board and small essentials. Most roommates share expenses. Make sure they lock their desks all the time. There is always a report of thefts during BCT and the regular school year. There are still wolves in sheep's clothing even at the academy.
14) Take a lot of pictures BEFORE you send them up the stairs at Doolittle Hall to be in-processed because once they come down the stairs it will almost be impossible to do so. You wait for a long time in line to get to that white tent, listen to a short encouraging speech and BOOM they are up the stairs and gone.
15) USAFA swag... Most of the stuff you can buy anytime but usually the class tote bag, the class coin and the class shirts go fast and they do run out of them. I remember our class parents looking for the coin a year later and were told AOG would not be making any more. This is a personal choice and you don't have to buy them. Walmart and Dick's have USAFA stuff too and sometimes cheaper.
16) Cadet meet up before I-day... we didn't go to it. Some parents we knew went. Ours was at the Garden of the Gods in one of the parking lots. We drove by, it was hot, so we kept on driving.
17) Your cadet may suddenly go quiet especially the day or the night before. I didn't understand it but later was told she was just getting herself mentally prepared for the next day. The kids are nervous, excited, scared, doubtful all at the same time. Or the opposite happens, they will want to talk or argue about every little thing. This is normal. Cut them a little slack, be supportive and firm at the same time. If your kid throws up in the bathroom or the parking lot, it's ok - just nerves.
18) Sunblock... and a lot of it. The sun somehow burns more up there. Be careful with little kids and elderly.
19) Kleenex, a beach towel, your shirt sleeves or someone else's... name your poison. You will need one or all of these to dry your "allergies." Expect it, don't be embarrassed and don't try to hide it. It's normal and you are normal.
20) Pace yourself when doing any physical activity while there. Something as simple as lifting luggage, pushing a cart or walking up stairs can be hard on people because of the altitude. If you feel short of breath, STOP and rest. The walk from the visitor center may be hard for the elderly so plan ahead.
21) If you have athletes, make sure they contact their coaches where and when to drop off equipment and do it before I-day if possible.
22) There are booths at Doolittle Hall to explore. We got our academic squadron assignment from one of them. Just more stuff to do while there.
23) Attend the Colorado Parents Club event as posted before. It was worth it to me. You will meet other parents and have the opportunity to write a free letter/postcard to you cadet. They used to sell a academy handbook, I dont know if that is still the case.
24) Sign up with your FB class parents group. A lot of things/issues/complaints are usually kept within the group and you will not believe how secretive they can be. A lot of times, information about Spirit projects and class plans are posted there. That said, you will also get most things before your cadet will. Good news and bad news. Jodel is the in app these days since Yik-yak fell out of favor. Don't be shocked at what's posted there and don't believe everything you read, there are a lot of rumors that prove to be untrue.
25) The trip back from the academy is hard on a lot of parents and siblings. Try to keep busy and not just head back to the hotel right away. There are a lot of places to go after dropping your kiddos off, take advantage of it. Plus it sure beats staring at an empty bed. Everything will be ok in the end. It is a rite of passage that very few people go through but I am told it is so worth it. (EDIT -IT IS SO VERY WORTH IT!) The academy will take care of your children, sometimes too much.
26) Girls, practice putting that hair in a bun quickly. Don’t worry about shaving your legs, there will not be enough time to breath much less do that. Bring extra tampons if you use them.
27) If you haven't yet, teach your cadet how to iron clothes! They will be doing a lot of that there and most kids don't know what to do with that little thingy that heats up. Show them how to put bed sheets on, how to use cleaning supplies, how to properly clean mirrors and shine shoes. Teach them how to hang and fold clothes. You will be amazed how these super smart kids somehow missed the lesson on life skills.
28) Nothing is ever the same as actually being there. There is no "generic" USAFA experience. No matter how many books, videos, advice columns or people you have talked to, the experience is unique to each cadet and also each parent. Strap in, take a deep breath and just enjoy the wild roller coaster ride that is USAFA.
29) Join your local Parents Group/Chapter - Some are more active than others, some more organized than others. They are a good source of information and also a real shoulder to cry on if you need to.
30) If you haven't seen the video - A YEAR IN THE BLUE, watch it. It chronicles freshmen from the Class of 2015 as they make their way through Doolie year. It's on DVD, available on Amazon and the visitor center. IF you have a chance to visit the visitor's center during I-Day, they have outtakes from that video they show at the theater there. Those former doolies are almost ready to pin 1st LT bars now. There are a lot of videos on You Tube now showing a lot of the bus ride, the footprints, intramurals so it shouldn't be a total surprise to many.
31) Your appointee might and will have second thoughts about the whole thing. There is a lot of self-doubt and soul-searching leading up to the bus ride. Your job is to keep them grounded and focused on why they are there. Some kids never get on the bus. Some kids never get off the bus. Happens every year.
32) Avoid unnecessary risks. That backyard football game, riding a scooter without a helmet, bungie jumping, going out with friends who drink and drive and so on. Many kids get injured the day before I-day, get arrested for DUI or get talked into doing drugs at a going away or graduation party or post indecent pictures of themselves or others. USAFA drug tests. They will kick appointees out anytime, for anything medical or illegal. Cadre scours facebook for indecent, offensive or inappropriate posts. They will find you. The term BUBBLEWRAP is serious advice. Look at your kid's social media accounts. Make sure there are no pictures of underage drinking, drug use or indecent exposure. Also check their friends’ posts that involve them. I know its almost paranoid but better to be safe than sorry.
33) We are family. You may not know it yet but we all depend on each other for something. Don't be afraid to ask or talk to anyone here. We have all been in your shoes and have just walked a few more steps ahead of you but we are also learning as we go along. The USAFA family tends to take care of its own. We are proud to be part of it.
34) If you haven't yet, start writing letters addressed to your appointee's mailbox that way they will have something to read on that first mail call. Mail them a week or so before I-day to allow for transit through the USPS system.
35) Make sure your cadet knows your contact number(s) by heart. They will be calling you for security information usually from someone else's phone. And not to make you paranoid but have your phones with you all the time. You never know when you will get phone calls from them.
Sorry for the long post, I was in the mood and didn't realize I wrote too much. Hope this helps and everyone is welcome to chime in and add to this list. Enjoy having your cadets for the next few days, eat out, make memories and especially take the time to talk. You have raised kids that the academy finds acceptable, be proud of that. Congratulations and keep in touch.