First female commander, Reveille IX assume duty at Corps of Cadets' Final Review

Texas A&M Corps of Cadets Commander Alyssa Michalke leads the Corps for the first time during the annual Final Review event on Simpson Drill Field on Saturday. Michalke is the first female leader in 139-year history of the school and commands the largest student military group in the country, outside of the service academies.

Ready for their first senior boot pull, cadets across the Quad rolled out chairs and occupied the nearest benches Saturday as family and friends documented the occasion on their smartphones.

"We spent an entire year having them pull our boots so today was the first time they got to wear theirs for a review so to pay it back to them we come back and pull theirs off for the first time," said Tyler Berry, a class of 2013 graduate who traveled seven and a half hours from the Texas Panhandle to take part in the tradition with the Squadron 23 "Dirty Bird 23rd" cadets he led as freshmen during his senior year.

Moments earlier, the 2,400-member Texas A&M Corps of Cadets marched around Simpson Drill Field for the school year's Final Review. During the first pass in review, all 2,400 members participated, but when it came time for the second review, the graduating seniors wore their squadron T-shirts to serve as reviewing officers as the incoming seniors, juniors and sophomores assumed their new roles in front of thousands of friends and family members.

About 11:30 a.m., ocean engineering major Alyssa Michalke took over as commander of the Corps, becoming the first woman in the school's 139-year history to lead the "Keepers of the Spirit."

"I was like a kid before Christmas Day, excited for final review," Michalke said of a sleepless night in anticipation of the event.

"It's so exciting and surreal. It's a day of pride and happiness," she added.

The Corps also said goodbye to Reveille VIII, who retired after serving as first lady of Aggieland for seven years, and welcomed 18-month-old Reveille IX, who marched with Company E-2 and her handler, Ian Moss.

"It's a big day for the Corps, not just for us as seniors but the Corps as a whole and the university as a whole," said Cody Buczyna, a business management major serving on Second Brigade staff.

In a Facebook post, Corps Commandant Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez shared a picture with Michalke and outgoing commander David Trigg.

"A bittersweet day for me as I bid farewell and best wishes to the class of 2015 -- the first class I have had as commandant from their start as fish to their completion as seniors today," Ramirez wrote, congratulating the cadets and looking forward to next year.

In assuming their new roles, the incoming senior cadets donned their senior boots for the first time on Saturday.

"It's very empowering the first time you put them on and walk out in front of everybody," said Savannah Haney, a construction science major. "It's like this is it. I'm a senior. I'm in charge."

Buczyna echoed the sentiment, noting the hard work it took to earn the right to wear the brown leather boots reserved for seniors.

"When you're a freshman, you're not sure if you're ever going to get there," he said. "You see your seniors, and they look like they're so much higher than like, almost like they're demigods or something. But now that I'm finally here, it's such an incredible feeling."

While celebrating their accomplishments, some incoming seniors also noted sadness in seeing the graduating seniors march with them for the last time, but took comfort in the friendships they've made.

"When you leave from these four years, you're not going to have much," said Patrick Tansey, a class of '16 biology and pre-med major. "You're going to have your boots on a shelf and your saber on a rack but most importantly, you'll have the men and women you spent four years with, working hard with, hanging out with and just becoming the closest friends with."

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