10 Things I Learned from Spending the Weekend with Citadel* Guys

I spent this past weekend in Vienna with three guys from The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina. I knew it would be interesting and I would hear a lot about their school, but I didn’t expect to learn so much. Here are ten things that really stuck out to me.

1. It’s not Citadel. It’s The Citadel. They will correct you each and every time you say it wrong. I even got corrected while on the phone with my mom. Save yourself and always use the definite article.

2. It’s not a part of their life, it’s their whole life. Everything they talk about is somehow related to The Citadel. I went in to the weekend never having heard of their school and came out knowing more than I ever needed. If you are wondering the best way to polish brass hit me up.

3. Time is a luxury. At The Citadel, they have little to no free time. While they are studying abroad, they have more free time than they probably do in all four years of college combined. And let me tell you, they take full advantage of it. We left Salzburg Friday morning at 8:00 am and didn’t get back to our hostel until 3:00 am that night. We slept in an hour later than planned (11 am) and then left to explore the city for the day. The next morning we took the 7:30 am train back to Salzburg. Sleep is for the weak.


4.  (Most) of them are insanely good at directions. They always knew where they were going, even though we’d only been to Vienna once and were on a guided bus tour for half of it. We never had to stop and ask anyone for directions. We never took the wrong train or went to the wrong stop. This was especially great for me because I have no sense of direction.

5. The food at The Citadel is terrible. Meals consist of powered eggs, instant grits, salad, and burgers so greasy the buns are soggy. My stomach churns just thinking about it.

6. Despite (or maybe because of) the food, they are extremely health-conscious. Normal college guys wouldn’t think twice about eating greasy junk food and sugar all day, but normal college guys don’t go through the obscene amount of training that The Citadel guys do. They call candy fat nasty because “when you eat a lot of it you get fat, and then you look nasty.”

7. They also worry about their futures. Just because they go to a military college doesn’t mean they are free from the omnipresent stress of the future the rest of us constantly suffer from. There are various factors that can determine their success. From what I learned over the weekend, the biggest fear is not getting a contract and therefore having to enlist.

8. They’re some of the most respectful people you’ll ever meet. This one is obvious, but nevertheless noteworthy. Having grown up in Northern California, where the majority of the guys in my town where self-centered, impolite jerks, I had little faith in the male species. It wasn’t until I went to college at University of Texas that I realized chivalry is not, in fact, dead. You just have to know where to find it. The respect and manners that stem from The Citadel are probably a combination of its location and core values. Regardless of the reasoning, it was comforting to see such respect.

9. They’re really curious about the mundane details of a “normal” college. My friend asked me to give a detailed description of a normal day for me at UT. When I told him I usually take an afternoon nap he was surprised. Then I told him how much free time I have and he was astounded. It made me realize I should never complain about how much work or studying I have, because they have the same amount plus hours of training.

10. Their bond is stronger than anything you’ll ever experience. After being in Vienna for an hour we met up with another guy from The Citadel who is studying there for the semester. He and my friend had never really met before and within a matter of hours were best friends. Without knowing this, someone easily could have assumed they’d known each other for years. As much as I tried to learn about The Citadel and be a part of their conversations, I knew I would never fully understand what it’s like there. Even though they are in different companies they all go through the same intense training, sleepless nights, and overwhelming workloads which gives them a bond that no outsider will ever share.

*The Citadel

A brief note: This is obviously a generalization based on three average, or what I assume to be average, students from The Citadel. I have never visited The Citadel, nor do I personally know everyone who goes there. As with any situation, there are exceptions to these descriptions. This post was intended to share my impression of their experience at The Citadel, not typecast the entire student body.


50 thoughts on “10 Things I Learned from Spending the Weekend with Citadel* Guys

  1. Oh you must have met an entirely different breed of Cadets.. Most are NOT like this. I spent 4 years with them around charleston.. Oy.. not so great. Their food really isn’t that bad, i’ve eaten it tons of time. its just like all College food. They are NOT very respectful, they are usually all pretty horny and just excited to be in the presence of women. They know ALL about “normal” college life, they spend their days lingering on the CofC campus waiting for girls. They are health conscious because if they gain weight the seniors will give them really funny nicknames like “little debbie”..

    They do however-

    -Have extreme school pride, their alumni usually stay attached to the school and become donors.
    -have an extreme bond to one another, probably because they spend every waking moment together.
    -go through HELL their first year as knobs.. (i feel bad for the shit they have to deal with) doesn’t really get better until they are seniors.
    -get pretty damn good jobs when they graduate

    Granted- not ALL cadets are like this. but majority are.

    • Hi,
      Thank you for your comment. The intent of my post was to give my overall impression of the experiences of three average students at The Citadel. I have never visited The Citadel, nor have I met everyone who goes there. Your input as a local is appreciated.

      • As a grad, definitely spot on. To the CofC girl, unless you wear the ring, I suggest you rethink your statements. You did not live and breathe the Citadel for four years like some of us. Thank you for your blog post! Always nice to see that The Citadel is representing!!

        Delta c/o 2012

    • 1. Respect yourself and you will get the respect of others.
      2. The food you ate was probably at banquets, not mess hall food.
      3. We don’t linger around waiting on CofC girls, it’s usually the other way around.

      Keep your comments with little to no foundation to yourself Sally.

    • To Charlestonchick
      Don’t talk about the things we do and do not do you don’t know what your talking about and your coming off as rude and ignorant so you may have met a bad group of guys every college has that but most of us are very respectful gentlemen. Our food really is that bad and unless you have been into our mess hall and eaten one of our meals with us do pretend like you know what its like. You probably ate banquet food where they step it up to make a better impression on the public. Don’t talk about knob year because you have no idea what its about and it definitely is better before your a senior im a junior now and its been better for me since I finished being a freshman… The bond we have is because we have been through hell and back together we have bleed, sweated, and cried together that’s what makes our bond strong. We don’t hang around waiting for C of C girls maybe you have seen one cadet doing it so what that means all of us do it… no im done now I could go one forever criticizing your input up top but Im busy. There is so much wrong with what you said that it appalls me that you actually think that about us. Its just ignorant and closed minded of you and I hope you can see differently in the future!

    • Be careful when you accuse the majority of something based on a small sampling, ma’am. Every school has their duds and we probably are no different……but I’d like to think we have way fewer. Not sure how you ate meals in our mess hall as non-students simply aren’t allowed to eat there. And I’m sure a lot of our guys do hang out at C of C. That street does, however, run both ways as well as I remember and still see. There was/is never a shortage of local young college ladies around our campus…..this is a time-honored Charleston tradition. I wear the Ring – please don’t speak ill of my brothers without all the facts.

    • Charlestonchick,
      I will reiterate what many have already said. You have not ate our mess food, you have not been through knob year, and you have not been a Citadel Cadet at all. You do not know anything which you are talking about. Your Opinion of my school is invalid, much like my opinion of your school would be, as I have not spent a single day as a CofC student. As far as Cadets “spending their days lingering around the CofC campus” it MIGHT be true for the one of three days a week we are allowed off campus in the first place. Whatever the source of your information is, needs to be reviewed. As making such assumptions from one story is ignorant and narrow minded. Who are you to pass judgment on me, my classmates, my brothers, and my school?

      I Hope in the future you will use better judgement before you make yourself appear as such a simpleton again.

      Thank you for writing such a good article. I could not have put it better myself.

      Jeffrey Long
      Delta C/O 15

    • My ex goes to the Citadel, my previous boyfriend goes to the Citadel, 3 of my cousins are grads, and I have TONS of friends who go there, and have graduated. I love every single one of them. Even my ex was a nice guy and not any of those things that you said. You must have met a bad crowd from the Citadel. Sure I know a few guys who are like that but they are all really sweet and polite to me. Every school, even Clemson, has guys that are horny and rude.
      Maybe you/your peers give off the wrong first impression which makes them thinks its okay to be horny/inappropriate around you.
      Even if you sneak into the battalion you still can’t eat their food…. so I’m not sure how you even tasted it… Not sure what happened between you and cadets but clearly you like them enough to be able to eat their food plenty of times….
      They are extremely polite. They always open my door even car doors. They also limit their inappropriate language around women. They are completely respectful.
      Just remember that Jesus loves everyone CharlestonChick.

    • P ’12 Grad. I can assure you there are no shortages of asses at the Citadel nor at CofC nor any school. The difference between guys at the Citadel and your average college man is that they will likely have a better respect for sacrifice, hard work, and loyalty than your average college male.

    • Damn you must have really been wronged pretty badly by a cadet, charlestonchick. While I have a love/hate relationship with my alma mater I will always defend my brothers who went through the same hell I did when I was there.
      1.) As knobs we were highly discouraged from loitering outside the CofC dorms. We were taught that it was extremely disrespectful, pathetic and looked bad upon the institution as a whole. We paid dearly if any of our upperclassmen caught us doing that and we understood the concept well into our upperclass years.

      2.) Mess hall chow is extremely shitty. The meat is of terrible grade, nothing is ever fully cooked, the eggs are not fit for consumption, and everything is so unbelievably processed that cadets would rather spend money and order out or go UA to get food, then go to the mess hall. I have not eaten at a fast food place since I graduated from the citadel and I am so happy I can eat quality foods.

      3.) I have no idea what a normal college life is like. Cadets take about 18-24 hours a semester and when they are not in class they will have some sort of obligation such as practice parade, parade, GMT or personal appearance inspections. And that’s not including the Military Contracts who have to go to PT in the mornings at 0530 and have lab every Thursday afternoon until 1800. This is all during the week. During weekends we’ll often have further obligations such as SMI’s (Tends to be about 8 in the first semester), football games, and corps wide events such as Parents day or corps day. Those pretty much take away your Friday and Saturday afternoons. And then, on weekends where none of that happens, the military contracts have to go out on Field Training Exercises (FTX). FTX’s kill your entire weekend. So for someone who was a Contract like me, I maybe had 3 or 4 weekends where I had nothing going on and had free time. And God forbid you end up with tours. Nothing will make you hate life more than tours. Because you will spend your entire weekend walking back and forth on a checkerboarded square with a rifle. Nothing could be a bigger waste of time and most cadets at some point in their time there will accumulate tours (It’s not hard to get them). Like I said before, I don’t know how it works at other schools, but I’m pretty sure most colleges don’t have such demands on their students.

      4.) We might actually be at a disadvantage when going up for jobs (Contracts not included in this mix. They’ll be working for Uncle Sam when they graduate). Remember the School does not permit cadets to hold part time jobs so we have four years where we don’t gain any work experience. At a normal college, you can work part time somewhere and if you don’t gain skills you can at least establish working references. Cadets don’t have that luxury and as a result find themselves behind when interviewing for jobs. That’s why a lot of cadets if not contracted try to pick up OCS billets when they graduate or they enlist. You can gain a ton of experience while serving and vets are preferred to non vets during the hiring process because Vets are used to being in extremely stressful situations and working long and odd hours without compliant.

      5.) You are correct about the bond although picture us more like brothers. When we’re all in the same location everyday and and constantly with each other we tend to get on each others nerves. It’s not uncommon for cadets to bicker at each other or form cliques. It happens but at the same time we’ll always look out for one of our own.

      6.) Lastly, while there are cadets who do not represent us so well I would not say that most of us are disrespectful and rude. Arrogant yes, tactful not always. But nonetheless they will remain courteous and are well mannered. I’ve been to several house parties with friends from CofC and a lot of the male students were kind of standoffish and rude and didn’t seem to want to carry out a general conversation. I’ve also had CofC students try and steal stuff from my classmates while we were downtown. My roommate had to chase a kid down knob year because they took his cover. Needless to say it wasn’t a good day for the thief.

      I hope I was able to give a little more insight on the daily lifestyle of my alma mater to you. Hopefully you have a better opinion of us.


      Connor Brechbill
      Hotel Company ’13

      • Thank you for clarifying that to her. That was spot on for how I see the Citadel, respectful and dedicated young men and women!

    • I happen to know the cadets who are in Vienna and all of them represent The Citadel extremely well. They are indeed all of the things described above. Yes there are definitely problem cadets, but on the whole you will find us as respectful “Southern Gentlemen” (even though I’m from NJ).

    • Sounds like you are a C Square. As a Charleston Native, which it sounds like you are not, and thank goodness for that, because you don’t seem to have the true southern grace to appreciate the institution of The Citadel (hopefully you earned your Mrs. Degree and left by now). Of course the boys are a little rowdy: how would you like to be a 18-22 year old young man locked up 7 days a week with little or no freedom? They are in the
      early stages of learning to become responsible, respectful men, with little or no time to let off steam because so much is required of them, and you probably
      couldn’t see that. And yes, I married a Citadel man, and he is the nicest, most respectful person I know, as are all of his fellow classmates.
      Sorry you just don’t get it, dear, bless your heart.

    • Colin,
      I’m happy to hear you think so. If anyone feels I inaccurately described something I would hope they would bring it to my attention. Nice to get some input from an alumni.

      • Sara,
        I’m a Citadel graduate (and yes, in this case “The” is not necessary) and if anything, your comments were waaaaaay too nice…or maybe the cadets in question you met were on their best behavior (thankfully). Like any school, The Citadel has its good eggs and bad ones too, and I’m glad you got to meet some of the good ones. Best of luck to you.

      • ElCidGrad,
        Yes, my comments are only positive and, in a way, put the Citadel men up on a pedestal, but I would not have written what I did if I did not truly believe in it. No one can avoid the bad eggs; I know that not every cadet is a perfect gentleman. Until proven otherwise, I will genuinely believe in Citadel students. Much respect to you and your alma mater.

  2. Sara,
    I think your observations are accurate. As a wife of a graduate and a mother of a current student, it makes me happy to know that there are cadets as far away as Vienna representing the school well. It’s my opinion that you’ll never find young men and women any better than those that The Citadel has to offer. Maybe you should plan a trip to Charleston next!

    • Lisa,
      It’s refreshing to know (and continually be reminded) that gentlemen like those at The Citadel do indeed still exist. Perhaps I should visit Charleston!
      Thank you for your input,

      • You would enjoy a visit Charleston. The city is known for our manners and friendliness. And it’s beautiful with 8 different types of architecture, covering 300 years of history, and many different types of flowers that are now in bloom, everywhere! You might even enjoy the accent and idioms of the natives, although there are fewer and fewer of us.

  3. This whole list is spot on. Not a day goes by that I don’t talk to someone from my class, or The Citadel in general. Yes we are a different breed, but we pride ourselves in that. Thank you for a great read. Have a great rest of your time at UT.

    PS – I’ve been to Round Up with a classmate from Dallas, Austin is a hell of great time.

  4. While I can’t say that every cadet I have met lives up to these 10 – I do know many who do. One of them being my brother (c/o 2010). I am so proud of him not because he went there but how he hard he worked to really excel there during his 4 years. Thanks for the post!

  5. I find this to be spot on. Thanks for the article I am glad to see that current cadets are doing a great job, upholding tradition.

    David Worsham
    The Citadel (c/o 2010)

  6. Sara,
    Thank you for the kind words regarding my alma mater. The description of the fine young men and The Citadel is extremely accurate of most alumni and our beloved institution.
    Sean Calloway
    The Citadel (c/o 1992)

  7. I enjoyed reading your blog and, like most of the previous commenters, consider it to be very accurate! This daughter of a ’61 grad and mother of a ’12 grad is very proud of her Citadel men! If I had married a grad, perhaps I’d still be married!!!

  8. Sara,
    Great post. I agree with everything and #10 could not me more accurate. It is something that unless you wear the ring, you only understand part of it. Hope you get to experience the campus one day.

    Ted Pappas
    Class of 1991
    Delta Frat

  9. Sara, thank you for your kind words. I am the mother of a Citadel cadet (Delta ’15) and the sister of a Citadel grad (Delta ’83). I believe that your impression is very accurate. When my brother was a cadet, I had the honor of meeting most of his Delta classmates and many others whom I met through social functions and a play in which I participated. By far, the majority were fine upstanding young men. Since reconnecting as a parent, I have met many of this generation and rekindled friendships with several of those from my previous connection. The same holds true today. The majority who attend The Citadel are fine young men (and now women). The graduates who I see are outstanding citizens and true friends. I believe those who wear “The Ring” hold each other to high standards and the principles of Honor, Duty, and Respect. As always, there are a few who fall short of those standards and values. But, by in large, they do not represent The Citadel. I hope one day you have the opportunity to judge for yourself, in person. I would bet my last dollar that you would be welcomed with open arms and treated with dignity and respect. As a side note, I went to the College of Charleston (CofC) and can honestly say that there were more young ladies going over to The Citadel to meet nice young men than the other way around. Also, THANK YOU to the cadets about whom Sara speaks. Thank you for representing yourselves and The Citadel as you should.

  10. Great post. As a grad it great to hear of our boys living up to the expectation of Citadel Men. I hope you get to make it to Charleston, SC and see the campus and the beautiful city first hand. Safe travels!

  11. Hi Sara, Dan Villarreal here, Charlie Company, The Citadel, Class of 1976, BA in Modern Languages writing from Taipei, Taiwan, where I teach in the military academy system. Also doing some entrepreneurial stuff and am on Linked In as (I think) Daniel Steve Villarreal, Ph.D. or something like that. Being a Citadel grad helps me relate to the cadets I teach. By the way, I’m also a Longhorn! I graduated with a Ph.D. in Foreign Language on 17 Dec 2011 and got my life back (that was intense!). Were you and I students at the same time? I was in, among other activities, the Vietnamese Students Association (their only grad student member), the Taiwanese Students Association (their only American member), and Student Government (Graduate Student Rep) + some honor societies. Did you and I happen to know each other or know some of the same people from those circles, by any chance? Enjoyed your article immensely.Took me back to The Good Old Days!

    • Hi Dan,
      I started at UT August of 2011 so we were both Longhorns for a few months! Congrats on completing your PhD! I always love to find former Longhorns all over the world. As far as the student organizations go, I know people in student government but not any in the other organizations.

      • Hi Sara, a tip to you and to the cadets who are reading–when you graduate, join the alumni association as a Life Member right away at Graduation. My late mother gave me a Life Membership in what was then called the Association of Citadel Men at a cost of only $100 & I’ve gotten the newsletters ever since. I joined the Texas Exes within a week of Graduation and got a great discount of about $200 off the normal price. My name is posted somewhere in the Alumni Center, I get the Alcalde magazine and can share my endeavors and accomplishment with thousands of grads, and the Exes constantly adds new benefits for members (access to journal articles in the UT library system, etc.). Bulldogs and Longhorns out there, once it’s paid, your membership is for life! How cool is that?
        Dan V, Citadel ’76, UT 2011
        PS: I missed a point in your article–how did you meet and connect with these 3 cadets?

      • Dan-
        I will definitely join Texas Exes immediately after graduation. Scary to think that is in only a year…two of them are studying in Salzburg with me and the other is studying in Vienna.

  12. Hi Sara!
    As a current cadet (also studying abroad), I am happy to see that my classmates/colleagues are representing our school well! Was one of the guys you met Scott Young? I believe he is studying in Vienna! Of course, being a cadet, I also get to see the less refined side of them (not bad, just different haha). I think I saw some pictures posted on Facebook of you four in Austria and I can certainly say that you met a great group of cadets, they are all fantastic young men! Glad you had fun!

  13. The Citadel is a wonderful school, turning out excellent men and women. Anyone who tries to criticize it will find a defense around every corner. We love our schools and all of our traditions here in Charleston. All I would suggest is that we use proper English even in our defense, since most of us here are claiming to be college graduates. Go Bulldogs!

  14. As a mother of a son of Charlie Co. ’12, I’m very proud of The Citadel and the cadets! I shared your blog with my son. He thought it was great! Yes, there is a love/hate relationship with The Citadel! When you go through hell how can there be love? But in the end there is! The bond between cadets doesn’t go away no matter how long it’s been since you’ve graduated! It’s like your mom – You can talk about her but nobody else better! Everywhere you go in life there will always be bad eggs! The Citadel isn’t for everyone but the ones that go are true gentlemen and ladies. Nothing is stronger than The Band of Gold!! Each cadet wears theirs proudly!

    • Go Casual Cats!
      I understand the Pink Panther is still painted by knobs and still reigns at the stairwell! It was there when I was there & while I was a grad student at UT-Austin, I made contact with my Knob Year First Sergeant, who’s in private business (in Texas, “bidness”). His first school year at The Citadel was ’70-’71, and the Pink Panther was there then, and as far as he knew, had been there for a while!
      Dan Villarreal, C ’76, 11A5SLA, BA in Modern Languages
      Taipei, Taiwan

  15. Anyone who comes to a Citadel parade will get a tiny taste of the absolute beauty of the school. I am from a long line of Citadel family members..my brother, husband son and niece are graduates so I have seen the experience from several angles. I also host cadets in our family(adopt them).. Who are from other states and need a support family and home away from home. I have loved every single one of them..a few remain ” sons ” years later. I have heard the good the bad and the ugly about being a cadet. I can tell you, life is good , bad and ugly so cadets learn to navigate life as a gentleman, citizen , many times, soldier. My heart response to anyone speaking ill of the institution is to be defensive and strike back but I do not respond to people who have extremely negative comments or use language that shows their lack of creativity, so I will withhold retaliation there. The Citadel has produced a long history of generals, colonels, statesmen, business leaders, entrepreneurs, inventors and ministers and legal eagles. The waiting list to get in and the standards for acceptance speak well off The Citadel. The few bad eggs who sneak through find their own misery. Go Dogs! Brother delta 66, husband Bravo 74, son Lima 05 , niece F company 03

    • Debra, who’s your husband? I may know him. I was his next door neighbor (Charlie Company, ’76). Tim Moore (C ’74), the First Battalion Commander, and I used to see each other when I was in grad school at UT-Austin getting my doctorate. I now live in Taipei, Taiwan.
      Dan Villarreal, C ’76, 11A5SLA, BA in Modern Languages

  16. My fiancee goes to The Citadel. I really admire him for choosing this path. It’s a tough life, but he’s making the most of it and having a great time, and is planning on studying abroad in Germany soon. It’s always nice to hear from people like you, I enjoyed the article!

  17. I read the comments and I will say this about The Citadel, I first went there for a visit 14 years ago and knew it was the place I wanted my son to attend. I had a feeling he would fit in perfectly. The young men and women are very polite and to be honest this was my son’s KNOB year. Out of everyone in his class only ONE young man was RUDE and in appropriate. Everyone else I met have been extraordinarily polite and kind. This school has made my already polite and courteous son even more so. He has grown from an uncertain young man to a young man that takes charge and handles things in a professional manner. This has happened in a 9 month stint at The Citadel. Yes, he has expressed the food is not my gourmet cooking and that he misses his twin sister and I a lot but he has met great people that have made his KNOB year an experience which is more positive than negative. It was hard so don’t get me wrong or think I am minimizing what the KNOB year actually entails but when he made it to RECOGNITION DAY, there were sighs of relief and tears of joy.
    In the town I live right now one of my favorite restaurants the bartender attended The Citadel, it was a job he took because he was use to being busy all the time so he worked his day job and then four nights works there. When he overheard me talking about my son and The Citadel, he could not show off his RING fast enough. The pride and the joy on his face said it all. I secretly thanked GOD that I can’t wait to see my son turn out like this handsome, physically fit young man. It is this mothers opinion, The Citadel is a wonderful place and breeds men and women that will be assets to society and the world.

    I will say Sara, you were in good hands with those young men and I am sure you had an experience you will remember for a lifetime. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face and allowing this mom to see her son in the young men you described.

  18. Charlestonchick, there are bad cadets I know. The only ones you saw where probably our worst. You didn’t see the guys who stayed in most of the weekend studying, cadets who where in church every Sunday, or at a field training exercise. I know for a fact that you have never had our food because you aren’t even allowed in the Mess Hall. You probably had food from the Canteen or Java City. All college guys are horney don’t try to argue that. We are health conscious because if you fail the required tests you loose leave time or worse get kicked out. I would argue that all of our generation has a problem with respect. You spent 4 years in Charleston, I’ve spent 21 years here and I am a cadet as well. So I have seen both good and bad. So I ask that until you have taken the time to get to know the institution that you please refrain from making such allegations.

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