RJ Feathers's blog

From the Middle School Headmaster...

Good afternoon. It’s quiet in the school building as our students are in the barracks getting ready for dinner, so I thought I’d take some time to give you an update of what’s going on around campus. We opened school this year with an enrollment of 49, which ties last year’s enrollment. We very much hope to build on this number as the year progresses. Our cadets represent 10 different states, the District of Columbia, China, Korea, and Mexico, offering our cadets a unique, diverse student body.

I make a point each day of sitting with a different group of cadets at meal time, giving me an opportunity to share in conversations about cadet life. I ask them about their day, their favorite teachers, class activities, how they’re getting along with their roommate, how their teams are doing, etc. I always enjoy hearing anecdotes about their FUMA experiences. I’m feeling really good so far about how our cadets are evolving into a cohesive Corps of Cadets. Camaraderie develops quickly among our cadets as they learn to rely on and encourage one another through their daily routine. Our cadets are well on their way to mastering the skills of marching, cleaning, making a bed, and shining shoes. They are getting used to the evening study hall schedule, and most are completing their homework without difficulty. I’m hearing positive reports from the teachers regarding the cadets’ overall adjustment to the new school year.

Middle School News...Spring Has Sprung!

Tomorrow is the first day of spring.  Hallelujah!  I would venture a guess that most of us are ready for this winter to take its place in the history books.  As we enter spring, we’re also entering the homestretch of this school year.  We are halfway through the 5th grading period, leaving just one grading period to go.  In a very short time we will be wishing our cadets a happy summer.  But…there’s still a lot to do between now and that longed-for day.

On Monday afternoon and again today, our 8th graders participated in etiquette sessions conducted by our Academy's registrar, Mrs. Bev Hanlin, and our Head Librarian, Mrs. Lynn Armstrong.  Cadets were taught how to greet another person, how to make proper introductions, and how to behave when seated at a meal.  They practiced seating a guest and practiced how to properly use dining utensils.  We plan on offering these sessions earlier in the year next year to all grade levels...but these sessions provided a good starting point in offering a formalized program, adding to what we have been trying to encourage all year in the way of cadet manners.

On Thursday the 20th, we will be inducting seven Middle School cadets into the National Junior Honor Society: 7th grader Jared Giszack, and 8th graders Andrew Estes, Jack Greenspon, Jonathan Ilori, Logan Justice, James McMurtrie, and Diaz Tompkins.  Each of these cadets earned year-end Academic Honors and “Excellent Conduct” last year and for the 1st semester of this year.  They are the cadets who consistently play at the top of their game, and we’re very proud of their accomplishments.  All of them are very deserving of this recognition.

Middle School News...

Happy New Year!  And, on this particular day of the new year, all of us at FUMA are finding ourselves wrapped in our parkas, knit caps, and gloves.  The temperature reading this morning was close to zero degrees, and it hasn’t risen much since daybreak.  Warmer weather is predicted for the end of the week, but, until then, we’re doing our best not to venture too much outside.  You might want to consider sending your son a pair of thermal underwear for future days like this one.

It’s good to have the boys back from their vacation.  I readily admit that I missed them…and the hustle and bustle of the school atmosphere.  I stayed pretty close to Fork Union during vacation and enjoyed having all of our kids home for Christmas.  I hope that you enjoyed your son’s company over Christmas break.  And I hope that he practiced every good manner that we’ve been trying to instill in all of our cadets during his time at home.

The 3rd grading period ends this coming Monday, and, with this milestone, the end of the 1st semester.  It’s hard to believe that the year will be half over come Monday.  I marvel at the maturity that I have seen develop in so many of our cadets over the course of this past semester, and I look forward to the growth that is to come.  We have a dynamic group of cadets this year…quite possibly the most enjoyable Corps I’ve had here since my first day on the job.  They truly seem to enjoy each other.  The feeling of camaraderie is strong among them, and it is anticipated that this sense of brotherhood will only grow stronger as we continue into the school year. 

From the Middle School Headmaster

On behalf of the Middle School at Fork Union Military Academy, I wish you and your family a

very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.  I pray that the time you have together as a family

during this holiday season will be filled with love, peace, and joy.




Middle School Thanksgiving Leave Information

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I find myself counting the many blessings that I have in my life.  Family and friends, a job I love, and good health top my list, but there are so many other blessings that I could name.  No doubt you could do the same.

I feel very blessed and thankful this year to have such a great Corps of Cadets.  In the 20 years I have been the Headmaster of the Middle School, this Corps ranks up with the best we’ve had.  This year we have been stressing the five Core Values: “Respect”, “Integrity”, “Faith”, “Character”, and “Discipline”.  With good certainty, I would say that the families in which our cadets were raised have been teaching these values in their home well before their son ever entered our front gate. 

As you make plans for your son’s homecoming for Thanksgiving break…

1.   Please make sure to inform Mrs. Haislip (haislip@fuma.org) of your son’s leave plans as soon as possible, but no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 18th, so that we can have definitive travel plans for each of our cadets.  Include the following:

  • Name of Cadet:
  • Date of Leave:
  • Mode of Travel:
  • Name of Driver (if by car):
  • Relationship to Cadet:
  • Estimated time of arrival on campus:

2.   Check-out will begin at 12:00 p.m. on the 22nd.  We ask that your son be on his way home no later than 5:00 p.m. that day. 

3.   Once you have him home, please keep your son on a regular sleep/awake time schedule so that, upon his return, the transition won’t create too much of a shock to his system.

A Day in the Life of a Middle School Cadet...

Just as the sun’s rays begin to reach over the horizon, “Reveille” blasts over the loudspeaker, letting the boys know that it’s time to rise and shine.  Shaking off the vestiges of their eight hour shut-eye, the boys crawl out of their beds to begin their morning routine.  They trudge down the hall to take care of business.  Teeth are brushed, faces are washed, some have the beginnings of a mustache that needs to be shaved.  Then, it’s back to their rooms to begin the process of cleaning their quarters.  Roommates work together to sweep the floor, empty the trash can, straighten their belongings, and make their beds.  In almost robotic fashion, these duties are accomplished in preparation for the room inspection that they know will be coming later in the morning as they are sitting in their classes.  The Middle School Commandant of Cadets expects everything to be in its rightful place.

Middle School: Notes regarding Parents' Weekend, Oct. 18th and 19th

     As you are hopefully aware, Parents’ Weekend events will be held October 18th and 19th.  The weekend begins with Parent/Teacher conferences, which are scheduled for both Friday and Saturday.  These conferences, held in the teachers’ classrooms, are a valuable means of gaining information about how your son is adjusting to FUMA and the progress he is making in his classes.  There is no need to arrange an appointment with teachers.  Upon registering with Mrs. Haislip in the Study Hall, your son will be called over the loudspeaker to join you, and together you will line up outside of the classrooms to meet with your choice of teachers.    

     We are asking parents who live close by and whose schedules permit to meet with teachers Friday afternoon anytime between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.  Cadets whose parents arrive on Friday for conferences will be permitted to leave with their parents for an overnight pass but MUST return by 10 a.m. Saturday morning to prepare for the Parents’ Day Parade.

     The remaining parents will have the opportunity to meet with teachers Saturday morning from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. 

     The Parents’ Day Parade commences at 11:30 a.m.  Following the parade, cadets may enjoy leave with their family until 7:00 PM Monday night.  Lunch in the dining hall is provided for cadets’ parents/guardians and grandparents.  Meal tickets for other family members may be purchased in the Estes Dining Hall ($9.00 for adults, $5.00 for children age 8 and under).


Middle School: Sharing the News...

Recently a parent asked me what could be done to help our cadets become more aware of what is going on in the world around them.  As you’re already aware, Fork Union isn’t a thriving metropolis where our boys are  bombarded by media.  In fact, we intentionally try to hold distractions to a minimum so that our cadets can focus on their development… “Body, Mind, and Spirit”.  But, as I recently reminded the cadets, we live in exciting times and it is important that they know what is going on in the world.  Events that are occurring in the world today will undoubtedly have a major impact on their future.

To this end, I have been emailing news articles to the Middle School cadets with the challenge to read them and to be ready to discuss them over lunch…with each other, with me, and with other faculty and staff.  I have also encouraged the boys to read the newspapers in the library, to watch the televised news during their evening free time before Study Hall, and to check out internet news sources.  The articles that I’ll be sending them won’t be ones that cover overly controversial topics, and I’ll avoid sending articles from sources that are blatantly partisan.  I’ll be emailing our students 1-2 articles per week and will “cc” you on my emails to them.

The articles linked below are the ones that have been sent so far.  Encourage your son to read these articles, and please take time to discuss them during your conversations with him.   



Middle School Cadets and the First Leave of the Year...



This blog entry pertains mostly to parents and guardians of our boarding cadets…

I hope all of you were able to hear from your son this weekend during their free time.  They all seemed excited to be able to hear familiar voices.  Our cadets received their computer IDs and password late last week, and most of them were able to send their first email message this past Friday or Saturday.  I know that you’re relieved to know that your son really is getting 3 meals a day and that we even let him sleep…in a bed.

This coming weekend is the first weekend leave of the school year.  Talk about excitement!  They are all already planning what they’re going to do.  Fill the refrigerator and get ready.  If you are planning on picking your son up for the weekend, the following information needs to be received by Mrs. Pam Haislip, our Administrative Assistant, by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday:

Name of Cadet:

Date of Leave:

Mode of Travel:

Name of Driver (if by car):

Approximate time of arrival on Campus:

This information can be emailed to Mrs. Haislip at haislip@fuma.org.  Cadets who have demerit penalty tours may leave only after the final tour has been marched.  (See pages 27 and 28 of the Cadet Handbook.)  You will receive a call from LTC Blanchetti or Mrs. Haislip by 11:00 a.m. Friday morning if your son has tours to serve resulting in a delayed pick-up.  This will apply to very few of our cadets, as most of our boys seem to be in step with our expectations so far.  Leave check-out begins at 2:00 p.m. on Friday.

Greetings from the Middle School


Good morning! As I type this, all of the cadets are in their respective classes. And I’m enjoying my second cup of coffee. The transition into this new school year has gone spectacularly well. The new cadets are adjusting very well to their new way of life, and it is rewarding to watch our veteran cadets helping with this transition. I’ve witnessed several occurrences of the boys helping each other. This is what life in a boarding school is all about…and it’s why I love what I do.

Our cadets have been kept busy throughout the recent days. Numerous orientation sessions with LTC Blanchetti, learning how to march, make their beds, shine their shoes, and organize their belongings, getting outside and playing together, hanging out and just getting to know each other have all occupied their days. Yesterday the boys signed up for fall athletics, and they had their first practice/session yesterday afternoon. Last evening faculty and cadets enjoyed spending time getting to know each other better at our annual ice cream social, always held the evening before the first day of classes. Prior to the social, RADM Burhoe, the Academy’s President, met with the cadets to encourage them and to challenge them to make a positive difference every day, seizing opportunities to do something nice for someone else. Photos from last night’s event can be found on the Academy’s website, www.forkunion.com, under “Photos”. The Middle School has its own section on this page. Also, I have posted photos from several recent events on our Middle School Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/FUMAMiddleSchool. I see that many of you have already visited this page and have commented on the photos…and have made connections with each other.

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