The Fish Drill team celebrates its 75th anniversary
At the end of World War II, the population of Texas A&M University swelled overnight as soldiers returned home. To accommodate the wave of new cadets, the university leased Bryan’s Army Airfield facilities, which became known as “The Annex”. Today, the RELLIS campus, The Annex was home to over 5,500 Aggies from 1946 to 1950. With their own Yell leaders, intramurals, and even a newspaper called The Little Batt, freshmen have made The Annex their own little Aggieland.
In the fall of 1947, 36 freshmen eager to promote the unit and focus on military precision formed the Fish Drill Team, a competitive rifle drill team. Seventy-five years later, the group founded to occupy time and build community now boasts dozens of national championships and plays a vital role in the university’s mission to develop leaders of character dedicated to serving the greater good. .
learn to follow
Learning to follow is crucial for any first-year student in the Corps, but joining the Fish Drill team requires a unique form of following. “The Fish Drill team aims to follow and achieve a standard of excellence that has been set for years,” said Matthew Caputo ’22, the organization’s current senior commander. For over a decade, the team has won the Tulane Naval ROTC National Drill Competition in New Orleans.
Even with this legacy of distinction, the Fishing Drill Team does not exclude any first-year cadets from joining. Each week, cadets learn to maneuver their 8.7-pound rifle with confidence and precision through hours of intense practice. “It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve hit a gun in your life or done drills before,” Caputo explained. “We have a culture of camaraderie that allows each member to reach a caliber to compete nationally very quickly.”
For Cole Hudson ’25, the current freshman CO, the desire to meet those high expectations came naturally even though he had never heard of the Fish Drill team before attending Texas A&M. “I quickly learned from the upper classes that this lesser-known tradition has a reputation for precision and perfection,” Hudson said. “I wanted to be part of something that inspires excellence and hard work.”
In the weeks since joining the team, Hudson experienced what it was like to push himself further than he thought possible. “They say the hottest fires forge the strongest steel. On the Fish Drill team, the fire is sometimes unbearable. You are pushed to your limits every day,” he remarked. you have to be mentally present and physically ready because the people around you are counting on you to do your part.”
After a rigorous selection process that began with 55 members of the Fish Drill team vying for the position of commander, Hudson found himself responsible for more than his fair share. In his leadership position, he is responsible for 90 cadets. At his best, his role allows him to celebrate the accomplishments of his peers. At worst, he is personally responsible for each member’s faux pas. “If someone makes a mistake, I make a mistake. If they do push-ups for being an inch apart, I do push-ups right next to them,” Hudson explained.
Tribute to tradition
Although the daunting expectations and fierce responsibility sometimes seem unrelenting, knowing that decades of team members have met these standards encourages cadets to persevere. “It’s a great confidence booster to meet the high expectations of the Fish Drill team,” Caputo said. “It’s incredible to know that you’ve given yourself up for something bigger than yourself: tradition.”
The team’s focus on tradition produces cadets who display Aggie’s six core values, but most importantly respect and excellence. “The Fish Drill team is a tribute to the people who started it,” Hudson added. “Unlike tributes that take the form of a statue or a building, we are people who strive daily to respect the past and achieve high levels of excellence.”
As the years pass and new members join the team, the lessons learned remain unwavering. The lesser known but much revered tradition of the Fish Drill Team instills in its members strong mental and physical strength that follows them for the rest of their lives. “I know there will be times in life when the standards and expectations are overwhelming,” Hudson explained. “The Fish Drill team taught me that even when something seems impossible, we can remember the people who came before us and who proved it could be done.”
Learn more about supporting the Corps of Cadets and special initiatives like the Fish Drill Team by contacting Matt Jennings ’95, Senior Director of Development, at 979-845-7604.