Texas A&M University is a powerhouse of an institution, and the Corps of Cadets certainly makes it unique. They’re called the “keepers of the spirit” for a reason. It’s their discipline, dedication and love for Aggieland that ensures generations of students will always know what a special thing it is to call yourself a Texas A&M Aggie.
By now, your son or daughter has expressed an interest in the Corps of Cadets and maybe even visited campus or participated in a “Spend the Night with the Corps.” You have Freshman Orientation Week (FOW) on your calendar and you’re probably thinking, now what? I hope this helps!
My husband is a former cadet and yell leader, two of our sons are cadets and I fell in love, dated (and married!) a cadet. We’ve learned some of these lessons the hard way, but many of them are from listening to parents ahead of us and trusting our instincts as parents. The Corps isn’t for everyone, but for the cadets who do finish all four years, it can be such a rewarding experience filled with memories they will likely talk about forever!
DO follow instructions. When reading the packing list for FOW and it says “optional” or “buy locally” don’t buy it ahead of time. Let your cadet handle it with his/her buddies.
DON’T overthink it. Dropping off your cadet will be your easiest collegiate move-in. Ever. A footlocker, a duffle bag and a backpack. As we drove by the other dorms on campus without breaking a sweat, it was pretty awesome.
DO brush up on your inside corps slang. It will save you so much confusion.
DO enjoy the ups and downs of the week as your son or daughter adjusts to cadet living. It’s easy to sweat the small stuff because it all feels big and foreign, but trust the process. It works. Also, FOW is a total beat down. Remember that!
DO sign up for the Commandant’s emails. They’re sent out weekly with reminders and details. You can also refer to the Corps social media pages on Instagram and Facebook.
This one is probably controversial, but I say DO log out of most of the parent pages on Facebook or at least minimize the time you spend on them. While they can sometimes be helpful, I find them to be a) a time suck, b) hinder my ability to let my cadet solve his own problems and c) stir up controversy when I should really stay out of it. Trust me, my mama bear instinct is HIGH. I was grateful to have a husband who had “been there, done that” before. If you have a true concern, social media probably isn’t the place to solve it.
DO get to know fellow parents in your cadet’s outfit. Many have parent organizations, GroupMe text chains and lots of listening ears. They know the outfit culture the best and I found ours to be absolutely invaluable, especially when I had questions that my cadet couldn’t answer.
DO respond to your cadet when he calls complaining, feeling frustrated with his upperclassmen or struggling in a class with a: “That sounds really hard. How are you going to handle that?” And then listen. I realize what I’m asking is hard, especially when the solution seems so easy to you. Let them take the lead. This is what you raised your cadet for!
DO follow the chain of command. We call it the buddy-white belt-CTO protocol. First, encourage your cadet to share his problem with his buddies, first. Maybe it’s some encouragement from other fish that’s needed. Then, go to a white belt, starting with the 1st Sgt. and CO (commanding officer). The corps is cadet-led for a reason. If it’s serious, then as a last resort your cadet can reach out to his Cadet Training Officr (CTO). You probably met at FOW. There’s rarely a reason to be calling the Trigon. This isn’t summer camp or high school. Your cadets have joined a military institution. It’s a great life skill they’ll use forever.
DO let your cadet read and respond to his/her own emails. If they miss a deadline or forget something, let them figure out the consequence. You saving them isn’t doing them any favors.
DO follow the rules. If the commandant’s office says to buy an all sports pass or report to Duncan at 0600 or attend a mandatory meeting, then it’s probably a good idea to do it.
While the commandant’s office lists the free weekends each semester, know that the “Corps Trip” to Dallas is mandatory, buddy weekends often happen on true free weekends (and they always plan them at the last minute) and you’ll want to be at as many home football games as possible. Full corps march-in’s happen two hours prior to kickoff and cadets will march around campus or into Kyle Field. It’s crazy fun and it only happens 7-8 times a year.
Aggieland Saturday (February) and Family Weekend (April) are two other events you will want on your calendar. Aggieland Saturday is a showcase of the Corps, so if your cadet is on FDT (Fish Drill Team), FTAB (Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band) or RV (Ross Volunteer), they will have public events. Family Weekend usually includes a review on Friday evening on Simpson Drill Field and sometimes an informal buddy gathering for dinner of each class by outfit. Saturday is filled with more exhibitions of the groups listed above, as well as an outfit banquet or gathering that evening. This is a great question to ask your fellow outfit parents as it differs from outfit to outift.
Final Review is in late April and includes two “passes” on Simpson Drill Field. The first is the entire corps in their current ranks and classes, the second all cadets “move up” to their new class (yes, in their new uniforms and roles!) while they pass by the graduating senior class (dead zips). Grab a spot on the end of Simpson, opposite Albritton Tower. You get great pictures and you can make it back to the quad for photos when they change uniforms.
There will be many things your cadet will experience that “isn’t in the brochure.” Upperclassmen parents don’t want to spoil the surprise for your cadet. Encourage them to participate without being fixated on what comes next. It really is all part of the experience, Clark. (hope you got that reference)
If it’s looking like your fish is going to stick it out (hooray!) then you have two options for senior boots. You can reserve a pair by putting down a deposit at Holick’s (the original bootmaker) or they can choose to participate in the boot loan program. While fish shouldn’t even be cogitating (thinking) about their senior year, deposits have to be made early! So, this is for the parents.
The Corps plays a pivotal role in nearly every long-standing tradition at A&M: Aggie Muster, Silver Taps, Yell Practice, Elephant Walk, Reveille, March to the Brazos, etc., etc. Take the time to learn about them. It will be a great source of conversation and camaraderie between you and your cadet and likely endear you to the university even more.
And, for you moms, joining a local club can connect you with other moms of cadets and non-cadets, alike.
You know your cadet best. The greatest gifts we gave our cadets were listening with love and compassion, letting them figure out their problems (even when we had the easy answers) and encouraging them to seek counsel and help when they needed it. I pray your cadet makes some amazing memories. Gig ’em!