THE ROSS VOLUNTEERS
The oldest special unit in the Corps and the most symbolic, the Ross Volunteers are the honor guard for the governor of Texas. An honor guard is a unit with ceremonial duties, such as escorting a distinguished guest or a casket during a funeral ceremony.
The guard organized in 1887 as the Scott Volunteers for drill precision. It was named for Thomas Scott, agent of the board of regents and business manager from 1883 to 1891. When Gov. Lawrence Sullivan Ross was appointed college president in 1891, the company was renamed the Ross Volunteers. Ross came to be known as “Soldier, Statesman and Knightly Gentleman,” and Ross Volunteers are expected to reflect those traits and values.
The RVs were renamed with each new A&M president after Ross died in 1898 — first as Foster Guards for Lafayette Lumpkin Foster, and again as Houston Rifles for David F. Houston. However, Henry Harrington became A&M president in 1905 and was also Ross’ son-in-law. He wanted the late president remembered for his leadership that saved the school from its near closure, when Ross forced state attention and much-needed funding. So Ross Volunteers became the permanent name.
According to the Corps of Cadet’s Standard policy book, the Ross Volunteers were deactivated during World War II, but resumed in 1948 by the commandant, Col. Guy S. Meloy Jr. The organization, recognized by white dress uniforms, became open to women in 1986.
Today, the Ross Volunteers perform a tribute to Aggies who have died during Silver Taps and Muster by firing a 21-gun volley. As an honor guard, the members attend all Texas governor inauguration ceremonies. The unit is also the honor guard for Rex, the king of Mardi Gras, and participate in the New Orleans parade each year.
PARSONS MOUNTED CAVALRY
Texas A&M is home to the last active ROTC cavalry unit in the nation. The military and ROTC ceased using horse-drawn artillery units after WWII because of technology advancements. Parsons Mounted Cavalry, or “the Cav,” was organized in 1973 to preserve the history of soldiers riding on horseback. It is named after Col. Tom Parsons, commandant from 1971 to 1977. Its facility, Fiddler’s Green, is on F.M. 2818.
The cavalry has ridden in inauguration parades with other special Corps units, and the members attend agriculture and equestrian events around the state. The unit participates with the rest of the Corps at march-ins before home football games and during Corps Trips.
Members of PMC are responsible for more than 40 horses and mules, a freight wagon and a cannon called the Spirit of ’02, a 3-inch caliber M1902 field gun that was found buried in a ditch at a Bonfire cut site in 1974. It was later restored and has been fired to celebrate Aggie touchdowns at Kyle Field since 1984.
The organization is open to sophomores, juniors and seniors. Sophomores must spend their first year learning about horsemanship and taking care of the horses before they are allowed to ride.
FISH DRILL TEAM
For more than 60 years, the rifle drill team comprised of freshmen has represented Texas A&M at collegiate military competitions. Members perform synchronized routines and marches using rifles based on military drill. The team has won many state and national titles, including five consecutive championships from 1968 to 1972, according to A Pictorial History of Texas A&M University, 1876-1976 by Henry Dethloff.
The team started after World War II. Freshmen were isolated from 1947 to 1950, due to overcrowding and hazing from upperclassmen, according to Keepers of the Spirit by John A. Adams Jr. They lived in dorms on the Bryan Air Force training base, now known as the Riverside Campus. In search of entertainment, the freshmen organized themselves into the precision drill team, according to the Corps' Plans & Programs Guide.
The Fish Drill Team portrayed the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon during the opening credits of 1992’s A Few Good Men, starring Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. The unit and other Corps cadets participated as background extras in 1996’s Courage Under Fire while scenes were being filmed in San Marcos.
The team took first place at the Tulane Drill Meet in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013. (The 2009 competition was canceled because of Hurricane Katrina.)
Other ceremonial and specialized units that serve the Corps of Cadets include:
Aggie Eagle Post: The unit is for Eagle Scouts, Gold Award recipients and Quartermaster Award recipients, according to its A&M Student Activities profile. The company organizes the Aggie Eagle Recruiting Program and represents the university at Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts of America events.
AMC Guard: Members of the Corps who organize and attend events honoring WWII-era veterans. They represent the Corps and university at funeral services and memorial events. The group’s name also pays homage to the school’s original name, the Agriculture and Mechanical College of Texas.
C.A.D.E.T.: Cultural Awareness and Diversity Expansion Team. Cadets started the organization to promote diversity within the Corps.
Color Guard: Volunteer cadets who present the state and national flags or “colors” at march-ins and other special events.
Corps Center Guard: Cadets of all classes who volunteer to promote and serve the Sam Houston Sanders Corps Center.
Gen. O.R. Simpson Honor Society: The scholastic-based society rewards sophomores, juniors and seniors who maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.4. Members are expected to encourage their academic values and character in fellow cadets. Simpson was a member of the class of 1936. Simpson Drill Field along Old Main Drive was named in his honor in April 1988.
Maj. Gen. Thomas G. Darling Recruiting Company: Named for the commandant who served from 1987 to 1996, the company promotes the university and the Corps at recruitment events.
Summer Recruiting Company: The cadets attending classes during the summer promote recruitment at new student conferences and “maintain a visible presence on campus,” according to the Standard.
UNITS PROMOTING MILITARY TRAINING
Rudder’s Rangers (Army ROTC training): Founded in 1968 as the Texas A&M Ranger Company by Company F-2, the unit was originally for sophomores “to act as an opposing field force against [the outfit’s] juniors and seniors,” according to the Corps of Cadets Center. The unit was renamed in 1971 as Rudder’s Rangers, named for the late A&M President Gen. James Earl Rudder, class of 1932. Rudder commanded a successful Provisional Rangers Unit on D-Day during World War II. He died in 1970.
During the 2008-2009 academic year, Rudder’s Rangers reorganized its leadership and attached to the Aggie Warrior Battalion. The company was on its way in January 2009 to compete at the annual Winter Field Training Exercise at Camp Swift in Bastrop. Five UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the National Guard were to transport 190 students. One of five crashed on Duncan Field, falling approximately 100 to 150 feet. Two soldiers died, including 2nd Lt. Zachary Cook from the Aggie class of 2008, and five were injured.
Today, Rudder’s Rangers train for “small unit tactics, patrolling and adventure training,” according to The Standard. The company consists of two platoons that specialize in training members for the U.S. Army Airborne, Air Assault and Rangers.
Other military-focused organizations include:
Aggie Warrior Battalion: Three brigades that follow the Army ROTC program that allows cadets to seek commissions upon graduating.
Ranger Challenge (Army ROTC): According to the Corps website, the team, separate from Rudder’s Rangers, trains for regional and national competitions, the equivalent of varsity athletic sports for the Army ROTC. Members are trained in military field skills, marksmanship proficiency and physical endurance.
Society of American Military Engineers (Army ROTC): The organization supports those who have an interest in military engineering and offers career opportunities. The group meets and hosts seminars for professional engineers and leaders in the field. The Army ROTC sponsors the society.
Midshipmen Battalion: The two regiments train with a Navy/Marine military focus and are eligible to obtain commissions. The battalion was founded in 1980, according to the student activities department. The Naval ROTC program was started at A&M in 1972, according to a December 1974 Eagle article.
Recon Company (Navy/Marines ROTC): A Navy ROTC special unit, the company is taught by Marine officer instructors. The volunteer members experience adventure training in rappelling, orienteering, rubber boat trips, and tactical field exercises, according to The Standard.
SEAL Platoon (Navy/Marines ROTC): Members are interested in serving the Naval Special Warfare and Special Operations forces upon entering the military. The platoon trains and competes in national competitions in pistol qualifying, SCUBA trips, rappelling and land/water navigation exercises, according to the Corps of Cadets’ website.
Arnold Air Society (Air Force ROTC): According to The Standard, the professional honorary service for ROTC students is affiliated with the Air Force Association. A&M’s chapter is named after Maj. Horace S. Carswell Jr., class of 1938 and a Medal of Honor recipient. The society’s aim is to foster the development of Air Force officers and the relationship between the national and collegiate organizations.
Aggie Air Corps: According to its website, A&M’s Air Force ROTC program, officially called AFROTC Detachment 805 Cadet Wing, is the largest in the nation besides the Air Force Academy, with more than 500 members.
Special Operations Training Unit: Not affiliated with an ROTC service branch, the unit offers experiences in rappelling, rock climbing, land navigation, team tactics, self-defense, CPR training, weapons qualification, leadership exercises and field-training exercises, according to The Standard.
Pathfinders: This group teaches cadets about land navigation techniques, such as how to read a map, use a compass and know location by noting the environment.
— Compiled by Claire Heathman