October 19, 2011

Corps of Cadets Growing, Largest Freshman Class In Quarter-Century

corps members marching

The Corps passing in review

More young men and women are choosing to be in the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets this fall than at any time in the past 14 years, with current strength standing at 2,128. This is largely attributable to the largest freshman class since 1987.

All indications point to the Texas A&M Corps continuing to be the largest uniformed group on any campus and in good position to continue to consistently produce more officers for the armed forces than any institution in the nation, except for, in both categories, the service academies, Corps officials note.

With Army, Air Force, and Navy/Marine ROTC instruction available, Texas A&M is one of the few schools to offer military commissions in all branches of service. A total of 179 cadets were commissioned into one of the branches during the 2010-2011 school year, including 33 more at the end of the summer session in August, 2011. That’s despite the datum that the Department of Defense is allowing fewer young men and women to have opportunities to receive commissions, a result of national budgetary constraints and other considerations.

The fact is that most members of the Corps of Cadets choose to be in the all-volunteer organization because of the camaraderie and leadership opportunities that will serve them well, notes Brig. Gen. Joe E. Ramirez, Jr. (US Army-Ret.), a 1979 Texas A&M graduate who returned to his alma mater this year to serve as commandant of the Corps of Cadets.

“For 135 years, the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets has built a solid, leadership foundation first for young men, and then young women as well, to transition into their professional lives,” continues Gen. Ramirez. “It is no longer only military commissions that the Corps supports, but also those who wish to seek careers in the public and private sectors. The Corps of Cadets provides a balanced and structured lifestyle that helps them achieve academic excellence and gives cadets the opportunity to master management and organizational skills and become leaders — now and throughout their lives and professional endeavors.”

General Ramirez

Brig. Gen. Joe E. Ramirez, Jr.

Gen. Ramirez has made academic excellence, recruiting and retention and diversity his top priorities.

“Academic excellence is strongly emphasized as a member of the Corps of Cadets,” explains Gen. Ramirez. “The main reason these cadets are at Texas A&M is for a college education. As a member of the Corps, they have opportunities to work within their outfits and with the Office of the Commandant’s staff to best achieve their academic success. With mandatory study time, access to tutors and access to many academic advisors, a cadet has many advantages a regular student does not. It has to be a priority for all of us, and we stress that the cadets can achieve academic success within the structure of the Corps.”

A major factor in the increased size of the Corps this year is the number of freshmen—fish, as they are called — who signed on this fall: 822, including 107 women, the most fish since 1987 and 77 more than 2010. The current overall Corps strength stands at 2,128, which is 180 more than last year, including 238 women.

Increasing the numbers in the Corps of Cadets is not as easy as it may appear, the general emphasizes.

“One aspect that certainly narrows our field of play is the rigorous admission standards set by Texas A&M,” clarifies Gen. Ramirez. “We have so many kids each year that would love nothing more than to be in the Corps of Cadets, but they simply do not have the test scores, grades, or involvement in extracurricular activities to get into Texas A&M. It’s frustrating for them, but we certainly understand that Texas A&M is one of the best universities in the nation, and must set stringent admissions standards. If a prospective student cannot get into A&M, they cannot join the Corps. There is a misperception out there that there is a way to join the Corps regardless of the admissions process, but there is not. To become a member of the Corps, you must be accepted as a student at Texas A&M.

The Aggie Corps recruiting program is quite complex. Long gone are the days when most anyone interested could just come to Texas A&M and become a member of the Corps. High school college fairs are frequent areas of interest for a number of our former students or other interested parties. These “Aggie Corps recruiters” work around the state and surrounding areas in conjunction with Corps Recruiting in identifying and working with prospective cadets. The cadets themselves have a recruiting company that contacts and corresponds with prospective students as well as leads and mentors them at various events on campus like “Spend the Night with the Corps”.

“We have a hard-working recruiting department whose only goal is to get young men and women into the Corps,” says Gen. Ramirez, “but as the old saying goes, ‘it takes a village’, we certainly couldn’t do it alone. That personal connection from former students, outside recruiters and especially our cadet recruiting chain makes all the difference in the world.”

Cadet Thomas Hatten

Cadet Thomas Hatten

As with any organization, retention is always a challenge. “The Corps is a very rigorous lifestyle and many find it too challenging to adapt to the structured lifestyle,” explains Gen. Ramirez. “So, throughout the year and the Corps strength fluctuates, but we are focused on increasing retention, inducting new cadets to the lifestyle in a positive and productive way and retaining as many of them as we can. “We are already seeing positive results from our efforts.”

The current fish retention rate as of the end of September is 91% (9% attrition) compared to 88% retention (12% attrition) same time last year, Six outfits in the Corps still currently have 100% fish retention.

Diversity is another priority for the Corps of Cadets as it is with Texas A&M as a whole.

“The Corps has made some progress in the area of diversity over the past 10-20 years, but it is an area that still needs work in my opinion,” says Gen. Ramirez. “I want the Corps to reflect today’s society. We’re not there yet, but our continued recruiting outreach and regional programs, and working alongside the University and their diversity efforts should begin to reap its rewards in the near future.”

the Ross volunteers

Ross Volunteers

The Corps of Cadets has a storied past, a dynamic present and a promising future, the general notes.  With a targeted Corps strength of 2,600 by 2015, there is much more hard work to be done, but the path has been set and the Corps of Cadets is marching onward, he concludes.

For more information about the Corps of Cadets, go to corps.tamu.edu or call 800-TAMU-AGS.


Media contact: Lane Stephenson, News & Information Services at (979) 845-4662 or Annette Walker, Corps of Cadets, (979) 458-1706


12 Comments to Corps of Cadets Growing, Largest Freshman Class In Quarter-Century

  1. Why are we not focused on the best cadet prospects period? Qualifications are most important…not color of skin or ethnic group. Choosing someone because of some arbitrary “Diversity” standard is racist. We should not care what someone looks like or what group they are from……just..will they be excellent cadets.

  2. Joe Bourgeois 89 on October 20th, 2011
  3. I hope that they are not sacrificing quality for quantity.
    You now have females at 10% of the total number of cadets.
    Indicative that the physical fitness standards are being lowered.

  4. Wesley Godwin on October 20th, 2011
  5. Joe, I didn’t read it that way. I felt the article made it clear that the qualifications to get into the Corps are high:
    “Academic excellence is strongly emphasized as a member of the Corps of Cadets”;
    “One aspect that certainly narrows our field of play is the rigorous admission standards set by Texas A&M,” clarifies Gen. Ramirez. “We have so many kids each year that would love nothing more than to be in the Corps of Cadets, but they simply do not have the test scores, grades, or involvement in extra-curricular activities to get into Texas A&M. It’s frustrating both for them, but we certainly understand that Texas A&M is one of the best universities in the nation, and must set stringent admissions standards. If a prospective student cannot get into A&M, they cannot join the Corps.”

    Instead, it appears that General Ramirez wants to increase the marketing of the Corps amongst the growing population of Aggies who are minorities. This will only strengthen the Corps, IMHO.

  6. Joshua Graham on October 21st, 2011
  7. I am sad to hear that someone thinks that physical fitness standards are being lowered because women make up 10% of the Corps. Really???

  8. Casey Hanning on October 21st, 2011
  9. I feel that 179 students commissioned from a corps numbering more than 2,000 and a graduating class of more than 6,800 is abysmal. Norwich University in Northfield, VT, the home of ROTC commissioned 119 students in May from a total graduating class (civilian and corps) of 407. The Corps there in not a glorified fraternity.

  10. Donna on October 21st, 2011
  11. I usually do not post opinions on articles like this, but I felt compelled to after reading some of the comments. I am a recent grad, May of 2010, and I spent my four years as a member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band and the Corps of Cadets. It is one of the best experiences I have ever had. I am also a Hispanic female. I am sure your opinion of me has already changed mentioning that fact. The truth is that it’s not easy coming to a predominantly white university and joining a military male dominated organization. The bottom line is I HAD TO MARCH WITH THE AGGIE BAND. That’s all I wanted and it is my sole purpose for being in the Corps. Many cadets share the same sentiment. I am glad that number of commissioned officers is increasing, but I am not surprised at how many cadets do not take a military contract. Although, I may not have a military contract, the experiences that I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned through the Corps will be everlasting.

    I can also assure you that the quality of cadets is ever increasing. For one, the university’s acceptance standards are changing. People do get denied admittance. Second, quality is not weakened by diversity. On the contrary, I would say that diversity only strengthens the qualities that make a good leader. A place of diversity allows a person to learn how to communicate and work with others they may not usually interact with. It allows them to broaden their views and open their minds. Gen. Ramirez is working on recruiting minorities to ensure that this university and this organization is accepting of people of all races and colors. It seems that minorities have to work twice as hard to gain acceptance because others think they are there to just fill some quota.

    I am also glad that the number of female cadets is on the rise too. For some outfits it doesn’t matter because they are still all male units, but this is very important for units in the band and others. Women and men are together in the workplace, so why should it be any different here? The Corps is supposedly supposed to prepare you for life’s challenges, and I’m sure that for some men talking with women is challenging! As for the physical standards, they are the same standards that the Army uses for male and female cadets. I do not see how this is indicative of physical standards being lowered. In fact, there are plenty of female cadets who pride themselves on physical fitness. If a cadet fails a pt test, they are put in remedial pt, male or female.

    I do not know what I expect to gain from posting this. Acceptance? Rejection? Ridicule?

    All I know is that I love Texas A&M University. I hope that this is at least one thing us Aggies will always have in common.

    Thanks and Gig ‘em.

  12. Laura on October 21st, 2011
  13. The Texas A&M Corps of Cadets has three commissioning ceremonies a year, I believe Norwich only has one. We’ll still expect 50-60 in December. From all the AMSCUS schools, Texas A&M consistently commissions more than any school outside the service academies. Occasionally the Citadel will get a few more yearly than us. Norwich is a distant third. Currently 48% of the Corps is seeking commissions and since 2004, 1,119 officers have been commissioned from Texas A&M. It is not a glorified fraternity and you can ask the thousands of cadets who served in the military since 1876. Also, the thousands who have lost their lives in America’s wars including nearly 20 former cadets from this last war.

  14. Anne on October 21st, 2011
  15. Have you ever heard of a First Sgt not being able to pass the PFT? There’s one in the band and she can’t pass it…. (Not being sexist.)
    A First Sgt though…

  16. John Smith on October 21st, 2011
  17. Not for very long. Any more then I’ve heard of people keeping key leadership roles, staying in very long or moving further if they don’t keep their grades.

  18. Jon on October 28th, 2011
  19. The corps has sacrificed quality for quantity. Why do you think retention is up. Additionally the wrong people are being recruited. Me and many of my buddies were either good ole boys or athletes. These tend to make the better cadets due to their involvement with team sports and work ethic. The trend I saw during my tenure and today is an emphasis on diversity, grades, and retention. While some of those are important to a degree, many people join the corps for a rigorous physical challenge and the camaraderie a military style organization brings. To be honest I would not have joined if all outfits were integrated. Say what you will but throw a female in with a group of guys and you totally change the chemistry of the outfit. It would be like throwing a women in a men’s football locker room. Am I advocating no women in the corps? No. However, I do think more outfits should be able to exist without them. If I were an incoming freshmen, you couldn’t pay me to join. Soft is the word I would describe

  20. bill on October 28th, 2011
  21. Some people say that the quality of cadets are increasing, I strongly disagree with that statement. What made the Corps a valuable training environment was the strenuous mental and physical load. Now all I see are changed to make it more “professional” and sacrificing that which made the Corps, the Corps. Ask any current cadet and they will agree. The Corps is soft and losing its point. To those that speak of the qualifications required to join the Corps, let me inform you that there currently are none. Its all about “retention” at the lack of quality. Id rather have a smaller Corps of better quality than a large group of fat, disgusting Cadets march on by.

  22. Steven on October 28th, 2011
  23. Look, I’m a dead zip not too far removed from the Corps. I’m also a Marine Corps vet. I can honestly say that the current Commandant (much like the last one) is sacrificing quality for quantity. I am 100% serious about this – if you were to put me and one of my fellow enlisted Marine Corps buddies in charge of the Corps instead of this man, we would produce a superior product than what we are seeing now. I trained many freshmen with a philosophy very different from the previous or current Commandants and the fish under my charge all turned out to be great successes in the Corps and beyond – and it was because of the challenge and training they received as freshmen in my outfit.

  24. Travis on October 28th, 2011
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