Before the Corps

The Corps of Cadets is the largest, most visible student organization and leadership program at Texas A&M University. The Corps is home to over 2,300 cadets who learn and practice leadership skills through a military framework. It is also a place where cadets grow, learn, and create lasting relationships for a lifetime. Fortunately, for three young men from El Paso, Texas, the Corps of Cadets was only able to strengthen their friendships as they started the Corps journey together four years ago.

Austin Crossland ‘19, Ryan Lam ‘19, and Chris Hernandez ‘19 are three cadets from Coronado High School in El Paso, Texas. As sophomores in high school, Ryan and Chris became close friends as they attempted to start their high school’s first Junior ROTC (JROTC) program. Their shared involvement in extracurriculars brought Austin, Chris and Ryan together on several occasions. Eventually, a friendship within the trio formed and the three young men became good friends for the remainder of their time in high school. As the high school seniors graduated, Ryan and Chris had previously committed to attend Texas A&M University and join the Corps of Cadets. For Austin the decision to join the Corps wasn’t made until his new student conference, just a few weeks before classes began. After discussing with a former cadet what the Corps had to offer him, Austin recognized that the Corps of Cadets was the perfect organization through which to challenge himself.

“The continuation of the family community from El Paso to College Station has been really comforting,” said Austin. “It’s also neat because in El Paso it was as if the mountains brought us together, and here it’s the campus that brought us together.”

During the Corps

The friendship between the three young men began long before they each joined the Corps, but as they have testified, it only grew since beginning the Corps experience together. The Corps experience gave their friendship an aspect that only they can understand, and ultimately shaped them into leaders of character for the future.

“The three of us—in almost the same positions, doing the same things, and attending meetings together every week—are the closest we’ve ever been,” said Chris. “It’s just the nature of what our position is and the shared experience.”

Austin, Ryan, and Chris each gained incredible insights on leadership and character since joining the Corps of Cadets. The leadership roles, personal interactions, and values of the Corps left a lasting impact on each cadet that they will take with them as they embark on their future endeavors.

“We are extremely blessed every single day that we got to interact with these people on a daily basis because they are all amazing,” Ryan said. “I think that is a testament both to the organization and the university, and it’s just been my greatest privilege in college, maybe in life, to get to know these people on a regular basis.”

According to Austin, aside from the interactions and relationships made in the Corps of Cadets, what is most important is what was learned from those interactions and relationships. He suggests that the life lessons gained from this organization are much more than what cadets could even begin to understand.

For four years, Ryan, Chris and Austin lived on the Quad, a collection of dorms, leadership learning centers and a dining hall, located on the campus of Texas A&M. Every day they walked through the main entrance to the Quad, under four brick arches.

“The words we walked under every day on the arches say ‘We Make Leaders.’ It doesn’t say ‘the Corps makes leaders,’” he said. “It’s all about the lessons that you learn from the people above you, below you, your buddies, and those from the past whose footsteps you get to walk in.”

Each of the three young men agreed that it is the way the Corps placed them together, in an environment of opportunity and challenge, that has created a lasting mark on their lives.

These cadets also held leadership positions throughout their time in the Corps of Cadets that only broadened their experiences and prepared them for the future. Austin served as a Guidon Bearer and Squad Leader, Sergeant Major, and as the Major Unit Commander for 2nd Wing. Ryan served as a Fire Team Leader, First Sergeant as well as the Major Unit Commander for First Regiment. Chris was an Assistant Fire Team Leader, Sergeant Major his junior year, and served as the Second Regiment Commander. Collectively the three of them led over 750 cadets as Major Unit Commanders. Their devotion to leadership and leading by example within the Corps of Cadets molded them into young men who will lead future generations to success in countless fields of endeavor. Although their Corps experience has ended, the cadets were able to sum up their Corps experience in a few words: buddies, passion, and character development.

“I think the most important thing I’ve learned is the passion and drive to continue to develop my character,” said Chris. “The goal of the Corps is to develop qualities to assist you after you graduate and I think that [character development] was something that the Corps really helped guide me toward.”

After the Corps

For the three seniors, the Corps journey ended on Saturday, May 4th, at the annual Final Review, which marks the culmination of the school year for the Corps of Cadets. Austin, a Sports Conditioning major, will graduate in December with plans to commission into the United States Marine Corps. Ryan, an Industrial Distribution major, and Chris, a Political Science and German double major, both graduated this May. Ryan commissioned into the United States Navy and Chris commissioned into the United States Marine Corps. Honor, courage, integrity, discipline, respect and selfless service are all values that each cadet learned and embodied throughout their time at Texas A&M and the Corps of Cadets.

These three young men join a 142-year legacy of leadership excellence that has become the hallmark of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets. They will continue their success in the future, having learned the values of the Corps of Cadets and having established friendships that will last a lifetime.

By Kaitlin Villa ‘22