PREPARING FOR A QUASI-MILITARY ENVIRONMENT
The Challenge Academy is unlike anything that you have experienced before. It is an intense training environment developed around a military style of discipline, order and respect. In order to succeed here, you must unlearn many of the things that have caused problems in your past and learn a new and better way from the experienced Cadre staff. In order to do that, you will be required to follow orders without question or complaint. While you may not understand why you are being asked to do something, there is always a reason and so you must trust in your Team Leaders. This environment is meant to challenge you physically, mentally and emotionally and will provide you with a new, more positive direction in your life. In order to make your transition to academy life easier, practice and become accustomed to some of the following:
• Wake up at 5 AM and stay awake all day, no naps, then go to bed at 9pm. This will help reset your internal clock.
• Be polite to everyone you meet. This is what is demanded while you are a cadet.
• Know that what you are going to do is a big challenge and to succeed you will need to accept that what the cadre says is how it’s going to be.
• There will be times for you to talk, but much of the time you will only be listening.
• Common slang words (dawg, homie, punk, yup, etc.) are NOT allowed.
• Address staff politely, saying wassup to Cadre is not acceptable. The Cadre will teach you what is appropriate.
• No baggy clothing. Get used to it at home; you’ll be wearing sweats and shorts at the academy.
• Get used to removing your hat every time you step into a building, it’s a military custom!
• Don’t think you can bully anyone at the academy, not staff or cadets.
• Speed and efficiency will go a long way to being a HIGHLY successful cadet. Learn to move fast now.
• You will need to work in a team with people from all over the state; there is no room for racism or biased beliefs.
• Close your mouth and open your ears. You will hear this phrase many times. It means just what it says, listen and stop talking.
• Sweep and mop – if you’ve never done it, try. You will do it many times as a cadet.
• There is so much to learn that you will need to act serious most of the time. There will be time for humor and fun, but only when staff allows it.
• Go the entire day without slacking off and chilling. At the academy, you will be very busy every day.
• Bring 5 motivating pictures. These need to be appropriate pictures. Believe me; they will help you stay positive.
• Take a shower, brush your teeth, shave, and get dressed (all done as quickly as possible).
• Fold your clothes, make your bed, and help clean around the house.
• Jog everywhere you go.
• Stop swearing, learn to express your frustration using non-swear words. Try saying, “I feel upset because…”
• Use the words Yes Sir, No Sir, Yes Ma’am, and No Ma’am.
• Sit up straight at the dining table; use good manners with no elbows on the table.
• Don’t drag your feet.
• Stand still for 5 minutes without talking.
• When you are upset, pause for a few seconds before you speak. This will help you to calm down and prevent you from saying something you will likely regret.
• Assemble a piece of furniture or complete a project that requires you follow specific steps and directions.
WHAT TO EXPECT PHYSICALLY & HOW TO PREPARE
Your transition from home life to Challenge Academy Candidate can and will be physically demanding. You will be going cold turkey on many of your previous habits, everything from tobacco and caffeine use to lack of physical activity. What can you expect…?
• Many of you will suffer through some form of withdrawal symptoms from nicotine, caffeine, high sugar diets, street drugs and alcohol use. Symptoms can include headaches, body aches, irritability, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and mood swings. You can help with your transition by being mentally prepared for these symptoms; your best bet is to start to wean yourself off of these habits as soon as you know you will be attending the Challenge Academy. Things you can do once you arrive are eating the healthy diet we will provide for you and staying hydrated. Your team leaders will encourage you to drink plenty of water during your stay at the Challenge Academy.
• Many candidates arrive at the Challenge Academy unprepared for the amount of physical activity we require of you once you arrive. You will be required to participate in physical training daily, you will spend a lot of time on your feet, standing at prescribed positions required by military drill. You can expect some degree of muscle fatigue and soreness, especially during the initial two week acclimation phase. You can help yourself prepare for this by getting physically active now. Take a walk everyday of 1-2 miles, start to run, do some pushups and sit ups daily, and stretch your large muscle groups. Once again hydration is critical, start to drink plenty of water every day prior to arriving at the Challenge Academy; the goal is ½ of your body weight in ounces daily — a 150-pound person should drink 75 ounces of water daily.
• It is highly recommended that you see your primary care physician to have all school age immunizations updated to include the TDap Booster. It is also recommended that you receive an immunization against meningitis as you will be living in a barracks environment. It is also recommended that you visit your dentist prior to attending to have any needed dental work completed as dental care is only provided on an emergency basis while you are here.
DEALING WITH HOMESICKNESS AND OTHER STRESSORS
Expect to be Homesick. You will miss your family and friends, especially in the first week. You can’t make it go away completely, but you can make it easier by bringing pictures and encouraging your family to write positive letters (make sure they have the address). Tell yourself it will eventually get easier and think of how proud you will make everyone. Also, resolve any relationship issues you have before coming (boy/girlfriend, family, etc.) Carrying “relationship baggage” will only drag you down.
Expect Stress. The program is meant to be stressful. You will be easily irritated, tired, overwhelmed, and maybe scared. Take time to learn about the program before coming by asking questions and talking to graduates. Go online to learn and practice some stress management techniques in the weeks before you start and find one that works for you.
Expect Long Days and Short Nights. You will be busy all day long – for most, it will be the most active they have ever been. You will have about eight hours to sleep, but if you are used to sleeping more, not used to getting up early, or have not been a very active person, this will not seem like enough. You may have trouble sleeping the first few nights because of stress and being in a new place. Start going to bed at 9:30 or 10:00pm a week or so before you start here to help make the adjustment easier.
Expect to be Uncomfortable. You are probably used to many comforts at home – TV, cell phone, iPod, your own bedroom, eating what you want and when you want it, sleeping when you want, etc. None of those exist at the Challenge Academy. Try going without some of these things for a few days – that might give you a good idea of what it will be like.
Expect to Make Mistakes. You will be expected to learn a new way of doing things and there will be a lot of pressure to do it right. Some things may come easy to you, but you might struggle with others. If you are struggling, focus, try your hardest and ask for help if needed. We do not expect anyone to be perfect and we are here to help you to succeed.
Expect Drama. You will be surrounded by other candidates from different backgrounds. Many of them will not handle stress very well. Many will not be very good at getting along with others. Come in with the idea that you are here to improve yourself. Don’t pick fights, spread rumors, or bully. This will just make things harder on you in the end. Instead, do your best to be helpful and get along with others.
Expect the Worst. This may sound strange, but if you expect it to be as bad as you can possibly imagine, it will seem easier when it turns out to not be quite that bad. Take some time to dream up the worst possible scenarios of what the Challenge Academy will be like. There is no question that it is going to be difficult, but you may be pleasantly surprised when your expectations don’t come true.
Focus on the Positive. No matter how hard it gets, try to find two or three good things about each day. Don’t waste your energy getting angry or annoyed with little things. Find humor in situations and laugh when you can (and when it is allowed). Challenge yourself by setting short-term goals and by being the best you can be at everything you do. Before you come, use a note card and write down an inspirational quote, saying, or a goal you can look at each day to motivate yourself and focus on why you are here.
GETTING READY FOR SCHOOL THE ACADEMY WAY
Below is a list of things you can do to help yourself be successful in school at the Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy.
• Decide you want to learn. If you want to learn, it will be easier to learn.
• You will be in school or participating in an academic activity five half-days a week. Start going to bed earlier. This will help you adjust to life at the Challenge Academy.
o Read books.
o Read magazines.
o Read articles online.
o Read the newspaper.
o Read poems.
o Read short stories.
o Read cartoons. Try political cartoons.
o If you find a word you don’t know, look it up in the dictionary and read about it.
• Practice writing your signature.
• Make a To Do List. Do the things on your list.
• Memorize your social security number.
• Practice your multiplication facts and set a goal. For example, “I will be able to recite the eights without a mistake by next Friday.” Practice it, and if you don’t make your goal, do it again.
• Watch the news, listen to the news, or check the news online.
• Find out whether you live in a city, town, or village.
• Find out the name of your county and remember it. For example, this is Monroe County.
• Organize the stuff on your desk or on your shelves. Set a goal to keep it organized. If you mess it up, organize it again and set a new goal. See how long you can keep your things neat.
• Treat others with kindness and courtesy — make that a habit!