When Texas A&M freshmen Gabriel Bankston and Samuel Nerad woke up in their Corps dormitories on Friday morning, they had full heads of hair.
By Friday afternoon, their nearly bare domes were exposed to the cool breeze of air conditioning each time they stepped indoors from the Quad.
Their identically crisp high-and-tight cuts are just one of the steps the cadets — alongside their 775 freshman comrades — have taken to the start of the long journey to one day receiving their senior boots.
“Fish Orientation Week [FOW] is about feeling what the Corps is about, learning what it means to be a part of the Corps,” Nerad said.
The 18-year-old engineering major is under military contract with the Corps of Cadets’ F-1 Naval ROTC outfit. He has known since he was small child that he wanted to serve in the armed forces, and that he wanted to attend Texas A&M.
“I had a grandfather in the Corps, two brothers in the Corps, one uncle in the Corps, and many other family members in the military,” he said. “I had an uncle in the military who died in Iraq, and I owe it to him and everyone else in my family to do this. To a wider extent, I owe it to everyone else we serve to serve my country.”
Bankston, a 19-year-old from Dallas, is a member of the Naval ROTC outfit N-1, and said his sister-in-law, an Aggie alumna, helped sell him on Texas A&M. He is one of just a few people in his family to pursue a military career, but he said the rigidity of his private high school has helped make the transition to Corps life.
For the past three days, the nearly 800 new cadets, in addition to receiving haircuts and learning nuanced rules for freshmen, have been administered academic assistance. They’ve taken tours of important campus buildings and shown the basics of what they’ll need for classes or on a trip to the library.
These preparations for student life will continue for the next seven days, until the school year commences Aug. 26. The Saturday before classes start, they’ll march for their first revue on Simpson Drill Field.
While FOW may be a novel experience for the freshmen, for senior cadets such as Audrey Mayes, who serves in a leadership position with the Corps’ Second Regiment, the nostalgia is surreal. She has spent the past few days overseeing the younger students in their orientation and can’t help but view herself in their shoes.
“Seniors wear boots, and it’s been a little weird walking around in my boots, hearing the freshmen learn things,” she said. “It’s so weird how time flies.”
Mayes explained that although freshmen are dished a hefty helping of rules to learn, the exercises are designed to build class unity.
“All we want for them is to succeed and become good members of society,” she said. “Yes, we make military officers, but that’s because [officers] are just generally good people of good character.”
For Bankston and Nerad, they’ve stayed positive for FOW and have allowed themselves to be encouraged by other freshmen. The two said the Corps is exactly where they want to be.