A freshman on the Texas A&M campus may have a very interesting experience the first few times that they see members of the Corps of Cadets interacting with one another. “Why is that kid with the buzz cut yelling?” ad “Why are those people in uniform all yelling together?” are common questions. Another common one is about what all the ranks and awards worn by cadets actually mean. After all, they have plenty of significance for members of the Corps, but the average student, parent, professor, or visitor of the school will have no idea what ato make of any of these things. This little article should clear things up about what all those little bits of brass and fabric mean.
A Corps “fish” has the equivalent rank of an E-1 in the military when it comes to Corps hierarchy. They wear a black belt with a standard brass Army belt buckle. They wear no chevrons on their collar, and only wear brass AMUs in their place. Freshmen wear one on each side of their collar the first semester and one on the right collar after they have earned their Corps Brass.
Sophomore-Private First Class and Corporal
Sophomores in the Corps are the first line leaders for the freshmen, and therefore only hold slightly higher rank than they do. They wear a black belt with a rectangular belt buckle and have a black braid on their garrison cap. Sophomores either wear a brass piece with one stripe that forms a point upward if they hold the rank of Cadet Private First Class or a piece with two stripes for Cadet Corporals. Private First Class is typically given to new sophomores in many units until they prove they can be effective sophomore cadets, although many units simply promote straight to Corporal. If you see one of these cadets you are looking at one of the “drill sergeants” of the Corps of Cadets.
Junior-Sergeant through Sergeant Major of the Corps
Juniors are the cadet non-commissioned officers of the Corps. They essentially supervise the sophomore cadets as well as lower ranking juniors. Juniors wear a white belt, a buckle with an A&M stack, and a white braid on their garrison cover. A Cadet Sergeant has three chevrons pointed up and is generally wearing that rank only because they have no position of power and are under probation in the Corps for discipline issues. A Cadet Staff Sergeant has three stripes up with one “rocker” underneath. They are squad leaders responsible for the training and well being of the freshmen and sophomores in their squad or “chain” leaders responsible for the coordination of special projects. Cadet Sergeant First Class is a rank that is three stripes with two rockers and is worn by platoon (or flight in the Wings) sergeants, recruiting sergeants, and outfit chaplains. Cadet Master Sergeants serve as staff NCOs in the major unit and Corps staffs and wear three stripes up and three rockers. Cadet First Sergeants, Cadet Sergeant Majors, and the Cadet Sergeant Major of the Corps all wear rank almost identical to Cadet Master Sergeants, but the Cadet First Sergeants have a diamond shape between their stripes and rockers, the Cadet Sergeant Majors have a star, and the Cadet Sergeant Major of the Corps has a star with a wreath. The Cadet First Sergeants are the highest ranking junior in each unit at the company, battery, or squadron level, the Cadets Sergeant Majors are the highest ranking juniors in the major units, and the Cadet Sergeant Major of the Corps is the highest ranking junior in the Corps of Cadets.
Senior-Second Lieutenant through Colonel of the Corps
The senior in the Corps are the cadet officers. They set policy for the units and plan. They then tell the juniors to “get it done” and provide enough supervision and guidance. Seniors wear a white belt with an eagle and wear a gold braid on their garrison cap. A Cadet Second Lieutenant wears one silver disk on their collar and holds that rank either because they are on probation or they have no real position, both of which being rare. Cadet Second Lieutenants serve as leaders of all “chains” with the exception of recruiting and operations within each unit and wear two silver discs. Cadet Captains wear three silver discs and serve as platoon or flight officers, recruiting and operations officers, and the unit executive officer. Cadet Majors wear one silver diamond and serve as company, battery, or squadron commanders as well as the major unit staff officers. Cadet Lieutenant Colonels wear two diamonds and serve as major unit operations officers and executive officers. Cadet Colonels wear three diamonds and serve as major unit commanders as well as deputy Corps commanders. The Cadet Colonel of the Corps has four diamonds and is the cadet leader of the entire Corps of Cadets.
Chaplains serve as the spiritual leaders of the Corps. The majority of them are Christians, but Jewish and Muslim chaplains also serve. Company, battery, and squadron level chaplains are juniors, and the major unit and Corps chaplains are seniors. These individuals wear a religion-appropriate silver pin on the right side of their chest in most uniforms and on the front of their patrol cap while in BDU and ACU uniforms. Christian chaplains wear a cross, Jewish chaplains wear a pin with two tablets, and Muslim chaplains wear a crescent moon.
Cadets in regular Corps outfits wear this on their left collar. It is a shield with a helmet on it with a crossed saber and fasces and the words “Per Unitatem Vis” (Strength Through Unity). Cadets typically earn the right to wear this during the end of the first semester before the football game with Texas.
Cadets in the Aggie Band wear this in place of the Corps Brass. It is a small brass lyre. Cadets in the band begin wearing it the same time as Corps freshmen start wearing Corps Brass.
Major Unit Shields
Every cadet wears these on the tabs located on their uniform shirts. They are brass and enamel and have different colors and symbols to show which major unit a cadet is in, be it one of the three brigades, the two wings and regiments, the Aggie Band, or the Corps staff.
Cadets wear two patches on their uniforms. Freshmen, sophomores, and all contract juniors and seniors wear their ROTC service patch on the left sleeve (Army, Air Force, Navy/Marine) and a Corps of Cadets patch on the right. Drill and ceremonies juniors and seniors who are not pursuing commissions wear two Corps of Cadets patches. Marine Platoon Leader Course cadets wear the PLC patch on their left sleeve and a Corps of Cadets patch on the right.
These are the insignia that the Corps of Cadets wear. By understanding them you will be able to easily identify what a cadet is and narrow down what unit they are in. And you just might understand why that one kid is getting yelled at all the time.