Keepers of the spirit
Cadets wear traditions on their sleeves
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07
Honor, integrity, discipline and selfless service are the characteristics of the more than 2,100 men and women of Texas A&M University’s Corps of Cadets.
“Symbolically, the uniform is worn to honor the men and women of the Corps who have served in our nation’s military,” said Drew Alders, senior agricultural economics major, Corps public relations officer and chaplain. “However, in some cases, the very same uniforms worn by current cadets belonged to a predecessor who gave his life as a soldier in defense of our freedom. It is a privilege to be a part of the same traditions of those former students.”
Cadets have four uniforms: Alphas, Bravos, Army Combat Uniforms and Midnights.
Alphas are primarily worn for semi-professional occasions. They include a long sleeve khaki shirt, black tie and khaki pants. Bravos are the most frequently worn uniforms on campus, which include a khaki short sleeve shirt with matching pants.
Army Combat Uniforms include a camouflage over shirt with a tan undershirt, camouflaged pants and tan combat boots; these are worn more often during inclement weather. Midnights are the most formal, worn on special occasions; these include a slim olive drab shirt, khaki tie and midnight pants.
On each of these uniforms, patches are worn over the shoulder on shields to denote separate major units in the Reserve Officer Training Corps branches: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine or Non-Combat. Medals are worn over the left-hand pocket on the chest of the shirt while the cadet’s nametag hangs over the right. The Corps ranking or brass is displayed on the collar, and citation cords are wrapped over the left shoulder, representing membership in certain organizations or for outstanding performance.
Alders said he has worn the uniform for years.
One of the more storied traditions of the Corps is senior boots. These boots cost more than $1,000 and are a point of pride for Corps members. Derek Bull, senior human resource development major and member of Squadron 3, said he remembers his first memories of seniors and their boots from his freshmen days.
“My fish buddies and I would bust out of our doors and proceed to literally fight each other for the privilege to pull our seniors’ boots off their feet,” Bull said. “In the end, they’d ‘pay’ us by giving us candy, pennies, dirty socks, other random junk or privileges.”
Fish buddies are another tradition close to Bull’s heart, as it is to many cadets.
“They are the individuals who joined the Corps and your outfit with you,” Bull said. “Your fish buddies are the people that you go through your very difficult first year in the Corps with, and you will most likely go through your entire Corps career with them.”
Bull said for many members of the Corps, fish buddies are their close friends throughout their entire life, well after graduation. He said they become so close that they are like family in many ways and will always stand by each other throughout their lives.
Another tradition for the Corps is holding titles such as “Keepers of the Spirit” and “Guardians of Tradition.”
“The health of this institution is dependent on the entire Aggie family,” Alders said. “It is essential we join in the common pursuit of furthering the impact of our great school in the future, while preserving what has made us great in our past.”
The University has had a Corps since its beginning in 1876. The school was built under the terms of the Morrill Act of 1866, which required all students to participate in military training. Since then the Corps has seen many changes, especially during Gen. James Earl Rudder’s tenure when the school and the Corps began admitting women and minorities. In 1965, under Rudder, participation in the Corps became voluntary.
Even with these changes, the University’s Corps is the largest uniformed body outside of national service academies.