Robby Kilgo, originally from Darlington, S.C., is a freshman at The Citadel. He’s in Lima Company and a political science major. We recently spoke with Kilgo about his first few months at the military academy.

What’s a typical day like for you as a Knob?

You wake up at about 6 a.m. Go outside and sweep the galleries and empty the upperclassmen’s trash cans. Then go get ready for formation at 7. There they check your brass and shoes and make sure your uniform is “blitzed” (our term for looking extremely good). After getting yelled at and harassed for what you did or didn’t do, you go eat. At breakfast and lunch you sit with a senior mess carver who can ask you anything from “Knob knowledge” that you should know. We have to memorize stuff such as the “Cadet Prayer” or the “Alma Mater.” You eat as fast and orderly as you can. No hands above the table when you chew. You ask for seconds, you have your utensils a certain way, and you sit on the front three inches of your chair. After breakfast you go to your morning classes. Then you have another inspection at lunch and the same routine as breakfast. Then you have your afternoon classes. At 6 p.m. you have another inspection, but at dinner mess there are no mess carvers and you eat only with Knobs. Then you can go to church or different clubs or get stuff done like shine your shoes or make another uniform. From 8 to 10 p.m., you have evening study period, at 10:30 p.m. you have shower time, and at 11 you do “all ins” and go to bed, wake up, and do it all over the next day.

How did you decide to attend the Citadel?

My brother, Ryan Kilgo, just graduated in 2007. I saw what the Citadel did for him, and I wanted the same thing. But, why did I come? All the reasons I came are now out the window. I don’t know why I came. I just know what I have to do, and I need to just survive to do my best.

In this survival atmosphere do you feel a shared sense of camaraderie from these experiences?

There is a shared sense of camaraderie unlike any other to ever exist. You go through this experience, and when you wear the ring, you have many brothers you don’t even know about who wear the same ring as you. Also, you build a bond with many of your classmates. No one is there to get you through the times that are the worst. You need your classmates to help you mentally survive, and they need you as well.

With that said, do you think the biggest challenge is mental or physical?

Mental, hands down. The physical challenge was Hell Week, which consisted of an hour of intense workout each morning. Your body could be a rock, but if you are a weak individual, you won’t make it a day here. It’s not the shining shoes, it’s not the getting yelled at for not knowing something or doing something, it’s not the constant reminders of your weaknesses, or any of that. The hardest part is waking up knowing you have to hear and go through everything you just did all over again. It never stops, it never ends. That is the hardest part. You can tell me I’m a horrible person all day, so what? But you tell me I’m a horrible person today, tomorrow, next week, next month, every single day … it gets hard. You can’t just go home on the weekends. You can’t just say, “Hey, I don’t feel well today. I’m going to take a breather.” You have to get up no matter your physical or mental condition and tell yourself it’ll all be over before you know it.

What’s the biggest misconception about Knobs?

I don’t know of any misconceptions really. We are normal college freshmen. I can tell you that everyone thinks they understand everything about this school, but they don’t know anything unless they have come here. I thought I knew what I needed to know because my brother had attended this institution. I had no clue. Until the day you live it, you have no clue.