The South Carolina Corps of Cadets Dress Parade: a Knob's Perspective
By Cadet Chris Campion
The Carolina sun’s rays shine through my window as I curse myself while frantically pacing my room. The smell of Lincoln stain wax and Blue Magic polish linger in the air as I look at the clock which reads 14:46. What started as an innocent visit to YouTube to watch funny videos at 13:00 a and “quick” perusal of Facebook ended with the clock at 14:30 the second time I checked. I swore last week this wouldn’t happen again but here I pant frantically worrying about the colorful and inspirational words my Squad Sergeant will say to me if I come down at 15:20 looking less than stellar.
I pull the roll of webbing out of my half press and begin to get my measurements. I get the waist belt quickly enough and my wingspan length for my cartridge box soon after. At 14:50, I begin to cut off the corners of my webbing to make feeding the brass buckles easier. A combination of poor finger placement and frantic scissor clipping lead to me taking off a portion of flesh on my index finger. I bite my lip and let out a throaty roar of pain and frustration. Quickly using masking tape to cover my red badge of procrastination, I finish preparing the intricate parts of my uniform in a timely manner.
It is 15:10 and when I leave my room and to join the members of my squad before we sally forth to the squad line. At 15:16, I make the descent to the squad line with nine other knobs (freshmen) for the pre-parade inspection. As we form up on the line our Squad Sergeant and Corporal begin inspecting opposite ends of the line. I stand somewhere in the middle of the squad and silently pray to every deity I can think of that my uniform will meet their standards. Judging by the reactions of our leadership, the squad is not up to standards. There are quite a few words being screamed – words that are normally nouns and verbs are now being used as adjectives. Huge beads of sweat roll down my forehead as my Sergeant nears me. The rollout horn to form the company formation sounds and my Sergeant hurriedly looks me over.
“Shine your shoes better next time, Campion,” he growls.
“Sir, yes, sir,” I pop off, not believing my luck.
“That wasn’t a question. Knob, roll-out!”
The company begins to build the formation it assumes during parade. Everyone lines up according to their rank and height order. After we are in formation our battalion marches onto the parade deck.
For spectators, the South Carolina Corps of Cadets Dress Parades are an awesome sight of patriotism. Being a participant, however, holds an entirely different meaning. Standing underneath an unforgiving sun, the Charleston humidity does its best to get its licks in while we endure the buzzing and biting of the insect members of the local fauna. The experience can politely be described as ‘uncomfortable.’ Others describe it in words that are inappropriate to share in most circles.
When the Regimental Commander shouts, “Pass in review,” everyone stands a little taller and moves a little smarter. The "Pass in review" is the Corps’ opportunity to display its pride and discipline through drills. Generally, all eyes are on the knobs, or at least that’s how it feels to this knob. Knobs are expected to perform at high levels of intensity and motivation, but pass and review always motivates me to go beyond that. My pride in Sierra Company, the Corps, and myself is on display for the world to see and I’ll be damned if I give it anything but my best.
That parade happened three years ago and the memory stays with me to this day. Even though I don’t hold the knobs’ “bible”, the Guidon, or sword anymore, I still look forward to parade. There is something stirring about coming together with my peers in the Corps for parade to show the world why our college experience is different than that of any other – just as Citadel cadets have done for more than 160 years. Our experience was born in the fires of military discipline, the hardships of a Fourth Class System, and amid unceasing demands for the highest level of performance in all things. Dress Parade bonds all cadets and alumni to something much larger than ourselves− our nation’s military traditions.
Similar to the mass of ill-disciplined and defeated Continental soldiers that marched into Valley Forge to later emerge victorious, young men and women from across the country and the world accept the challenge to attend The Citadel. They rightly believe the college will drive them toward their goals of becoming ethical leaders in the military and in the private sector. Since the beginning, many Cadets have gone on to command and serve in wars as they still do today. Others differentiate themselves as leaders in their industry, states and communities.
Through the repetition of parade, ignorance and confusion are transformed into strength and determination. Knobs become disciplined Cadets capable of executing military drill at a high standard. Like the Continental soldiers of old, out of hardship comes disciplined,tough men and women ready to face the rigors and the challenges of the world.
Cadet Chris Campion is a senior Education Major in Sierra Company. He is from Easley, S.C.