Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets program is unlike any other student organization on any campus in the world. Its position as a military school program within a major public university give cadets a unique experience of living a 24/7 military school life while also being able to enjoy going to school with “non-regulation” students as well. Each cadet’s experience is slightly different, with over 30 units within the Corps with vastly different individual traditions, but this is a general overview of the life of a cadet from freshman to senior year.
Freshmen in the Corps, known as “fish” are welcomed to Corps life with Freshman Orientation Week, a week long training program designed to train them on the basics of Corps life such as marching, addressing upperclassmen, and basic knowledge about Corps traditions and history. It is an experience that provides a serious, yet not too difficult, initiation to the Corps.
After FOW, a Corps fish is ready for a whole semester of further training on how to be a member of the Corps. Freshmen are required to live in rooms with an “ol’ lady” (roommate) with no carpet, televisions, radios, or even computer speakers for the most part. They must keep their rooms kept very clean at all times, with even things like dust on the blinds resulting in punitive physical training as punishment, known as “crap outs” or “smokings”. Like all cadets, they wear uniforms to class, formations, and meals, and sloppy wear of the uniform, unshined brass, or unshined shoes are regarded as unacceptable at any time. They must run in the dorm hallways, greet every one of their upperclassmen with “Howdy Mr./Ms. ____ sir/ma’am!” in unison with any other freshmen in the hall or walking on the quadrangle while standing together at attention. They must also “whip out” to any upperclassman that they do not know. Whipping out is a process of running up to the upperclassman, popping the right arm against the side with it in a 90 degree angle (so the hand is out ready to shake), and introducing themselves in the proper format. Freshmen are required to sit “call to quarters” each night from Sunday to Thursday, meaning that they must sit in their rooms and study unless they sign out to an approved location to study or participate in a university organization. Freshmen must also learn the “campusologies”, about 30 required knowledge passages about Corps and Texas A&M history, tradition, and the like.
Sophomore year involves playing the typical “drill sergeant” role. They are responsible for training the freshmen, and can be punished for not only their own mistakes but also the continual mistakes of the freshmen. They also serve as the workhorses of the recruiting, athletics, scholastics, and other organizations responsible for specified functions at every command level of the Corps. They generally have more freedom than fish, but they are still required to sit call to quarters and study. They are also allowed to have carpeted rooms as well as the occasional privilege of having a refrigerator, microwave, and other assorted luxury items. Televisions and video games are still prohibited however.
Junior year involves serving as a squad leader, platoon sergeant, unit first sergeant, brigade/regiment/wing sergeant major, Corps sergeant major, or a sergeant responsible for managing one of the chains such as recruiting. Juniors are allowed televisions, video games, and the freedom to not sit call to quarters provided they actually make grades warranting the privilege.
Seniors in the Corps serve as officers in their units. They work to set unit policy and supervise execution of this policy by the juniors. Seniors have the distinction of wearing riding breeches and knee high tan riding boots. They are the leaders in the Corps and are revered and respected as such.
The daily schedule of the Corps generally involves waking up at about 6:30am and preparing for morning formation, with two or three days out of the week being physical training days and wake up being at 5:30am. Cadets then march to breakfast and eat together as units. The cadets are then free until 4:30pm to go to class, study, eat, sleep, or handle any business they need to take care of. Cadets then have unit training time consisting of room inspections, physical training, sports practice, or “marathon call to quarters” (studying in the afternoon). Thursday afternoons are reserved for ROTC leadership laboratories. Evening formation commences at 6:00pm, followed by dinner. After dinner the underclassmen study with the supervision of a junior cadet until 10pm. Lights out is at 1030 unless cadets require additional study time.
Approximately once a month each unit will serve a 24 hour shift in the Corps guardroom. This shift involves sending freshmen and sophomores on escort duty to walk female students across campus, raising flags in the morning and lowering them in the evening, and performing general clerk duty for the Corps of Cadets. Smaller units are placed together to perform this duty, allowing cadets a reasonable shift.
The yearly schedule varies significantly. The early portion of the year is devoted mainly to football weekends and practicing for the march in to the football stadium which is graded by unit. The month before Thanksgiving is devoted to “Corps Brass Push”, a time when fish are tested on their ability to perform as cadets, both individually and as a team. Second semester involves events such as guidon training (the process of selecting the unit flag bearer for next year), a 20 mile road march known as March to the Brazos, and Final Review, a ceremony that effectively hands the Corps down to the next year’s classes.
While not covering every aspect of Corps life, this gives a basic overview of what life is like in the Corps of Cadets. If you are considering colleges and are looking for a unique experience that you will remember for the rest of your life then you may want to give the Corps serious consideration.