An Open Letter to The Corps

It is time to organize a SUMMIT where cadet leaders of our Corps and members of the Commandant’s Office can meet to resolve matters which have been the cause of escalating tensions. The greatest of all issues recently has been the perception in the Corps that certain TACs have consistently set examples of poor leadership and have not been held accountable. Cadets also feel micromanaged and even undermined by some of the same TACs who claim to empower us to be leaders. For the administration, a major issue has been a general sense of disrespect and contempt from cadets; it is hard to empower someone to lead who lacks in respect and maturity. We all would be wise to attack problems, not people.

As Editor in Chief of The Brigadier for 2 years, I have quietly watched the happenings and carefully listened to the rumblings of our Corps. I have built relationships and established trust with fellow cadets, many of whom now lead us. I have also taken time to do the same with administrators and TACs and I now work closely with them as the Regimental Public Affairs NCO. I will attempt to identify specific issues that the Corps faces as they are described in the “Declawed Tigers” articles and the EPISTLES of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

The “Declawed Tigers” article was the most controversial article that the Brigadier has published in years. Contrary to popular belief, the Brigadier is not censored whatsoever by any faculty or staff member. As Editor in Chief, I ultimately make the decision on what gets published. While I certainly did not agree with all the points made in “Declawed Tigers” by the anonymous cadet corporal, I published it based on my belief that it perfectly represented the frustrations of many cadets in The Corps. The impact of the article was significant as it reached over 10,000 people online in just a few days. The article was well written; however, it was not particularly helpful in starting serious civil dialogue with “Jenkins Hall” to finally solve any problems. While it was generally therapeutic for Corps morale as a sort of “venting mechanism”, there was a mix of reviews from cadets, alumni and administrators. What follows are comments made by cadets of three distinct generations:

“I was a part of that “hands on” system, and I love our school and our classmates with strong affection as a result. But, I assure you that I was less prepared for true leadership, since I had simply been provided, mostly, with examples of what was not good leadership. Continue to ponder what are truly the best ways to train principled leaders, and you will find your right answer. Our school remains strong.” -Palmer ‘68

“All of our rings weigh the same. Your ring will have great personal meaning to you, not just because you are the one that earned it, but because of all those that earned theirs before. You’ll think of your knob year, the First Sergeant, Company Commander, and countless others, some you only heard stories about- and their wearing of the same ring gives a far greater meaning and pride to your own. Don’t worry so much about the system changes, and the declawing of your cadre. We all know, The Citadel was founded in 1842, and immediately started going to hell right after. Just try and strive to be a good leader, and a good human being that makes your knobs and those that come after proud that they get to wear the same ring that you do.” -Hamrick GP R ’91

 “As a current cadre member myself, I believe You can make the system as hard as you want, but you have to know the rules and boundaries and walk that fine line. The school is changing not to make it easier, but to survive in a world that is softening as a whole, this change doesn’t make us a lesser Citadel man or woman. Just because we didn’t receive a hands-on approach doesn’t make the system we received any lesser. I will agree however with the fact that sometimes TACS do over-step and will happily pull cadets off cadre if they don’t like what they see. TAC: Teach, Advise, and Coach. At no point in time do I believe “Micro-Manage” was thrown into that acronym. I see this as the real problem, not the “declawing” of cadre.” -DPH ‘20

BOTTOM LINE: The Brigadier is a platform for The Corps to be heard. However, when addressing issues with the administration it would be wise to remain professional and civilized so we can be taken seriously. We hate when the Corps is infantilized, so let us not give anyone a reason to call us immature.

The PIMP…

I have a confession: I am NOT the Scarlet Pimpernel, although I do talk to the PIMP often to give and receive information on what is going on in our Corps, and I always republish the EPISTLES. The PIMP is always an anonymous senior, and traditionally, a senior private whose job it is to speak both satirically and seriously on behalf of The Corps. The PIMP simply says things that nobody else could say. This year’s Scarlet Pimpernel signs off as our “FREE CORPS PIMPERNEL” as the writer believes that the Corps has been oppressed by an especially tyrannical group of TAC Officers. The Scarlet Pimpernel recently published a letter to the Commandant demanding the results of the survey that we took last year to review our TACs which has yet to be published. It is the mission of this year’s PIMP to expose the corruption of select TAC Officers, but unlike in years past, this PIMP has documentation to back up their claims. Cadets have secretly recorded incidents and issues of corruption with TAC Officers that they feel have not been properly resolved for years. Some of the documents could potentially have serious legal implications. While I do not advocate for issuing threats anywhere near CAPT Paluso, or for sending scandals to the Post and Courier, I do agree with the PIMP that we need to have dialogue with the Commandant’s Office ASAP to solve these issues in-house.

I do not believe that we can put off the start of a conversation between cadets and administrators any longer. Let us de-escalate tensions now before it gets any worse. We look to our commanders in the Corps and in Jenkins Hall. Lead us to a solution.

Very Respectfully,

CDT MSG Rhaei Brown

The Citadel, PB 2020

Regimental Public Affairs NCO

Editor in Chief, The Brigadier

 

ADDENDUM: The Brigadier will no longer publish anonymous articles other than from The Scarlet Pimpernel or other established Pseudonyms at the editor’s discretion. Good journalism provides credible sources. #NoKeyboardWarriors #OwnWhatYouSay

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3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to The Corps

  1. Great comment. As a fellow grad of the Citadel in the 1970s and military vet I can say that I learned about leadership from my TACs and some fellow cadets, both what real leadership is and what it is not. I encountered bullying, hazing, and truly unprofessional behavior at times. I distinctly remember when Lt General Signeous came to the Citadel my Junior year. He personally showed up at the barracks during the early mornings and dismissed or gave tours to cadet leaders who were doing the hazing. A great example for us young leaders. To learn real leadership one needs to practice and take responsibility for it. TACS should be there to advise, but not take control. Bullying should not be tolerated. Ideally, The Citadel should really be a good four year leadership lab. That is what will make the grad valuable in the real world. Not some bully or push over, but a person of integrity who can motivate others to do what is best for the unit and for their own lives.

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  2. This debate suddenly dropped into my (deliberately) small Facebook world, without background, context, or a reserve chute. I have only two frames of reference. The first was a similar eruption back in 1964 (when I was a second classman). A new Commandant has arrived, a gruff, appropriately mean little SOB, recently retired with two stars and a long and storied reputation in the Airborne from North Africa on. He has an assistant comm who was a tanker, and seriously handicapped in his ability to smile. They kicked off a stormy year by jerking a knot in the plebe system. The result was similar to the current kerfuffle, and nothing was really resolved. New standards were in place, a few examples walked the plank, and after a while there was general acceptance and a meeting of minds.

    Second: I spent four years at the Cid; but later I spent sixteen years at West Point on the faculty of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership. From the late 1970’s on there were some changes in the Fourth Class system. The cadre and the alumni chanted “the Corps has . . .” (you can replace the ellipsis with any number of appropriate phrases). I arrived in 1976 just as women entered the Corps. I don’t need to describe the turmoil that followed. We came up with a nontraditional solution: changes were specified, and the beast detail (West Point patois for “cadre”) was given the responsibility for making it happen. There was a moment of shocked silence. But it worked. Now, there were and are differences. Leadership failures affected class standing, which decided some critical options on graduation (branch assignments, first posting, and other goodies were given out by class rank, and if your standing was low you could end up in the Quartermaster Corps at Fort Polk, Louisiana, while your buddy who did his duty got Infantry at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii). Women were despised–until the last class without women graduated and nobody but the Old Grads remembered what it was like before.

    On the whole, my experience in the Army after graduation was mixed. I’m not sure I learned many useful leadership skills from being a knob. No–I did learn how not to do it, which was actually useful. But one result of the 1964 shakeup was a loss of authority for the cadet chain of command, exacerbated by uneven mentoring by the Tacs. Remember: a tac officer at West Point is a full-time mentor; by statute, he is actually the legal commanding officer of the cadet company. He spends most of his time and all of his overtime observing, evaluating, and counseling cadets and documenting their progress. This was my experience as a tac officer in OCS back in 67 as well. The tacs at the Citadel are also instructors; they don’t have that kind of time on their hands, and expectations are different.

    Insurrections usually have mixed consequences. Before going to the barricades and hoisting the Jolly Roger, think about the goals–the specific goals. Make sure the tool shed (our old name for Jenkins Hall) understands. Be part of the process.

    And, above all, make sure the knobs aren’t part of the argument. They deserve better, and your duty as a cadre member is to them.

    Tim O’Neill, N 65

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