Delta Company Gives Student Veterans A Community Within The Corps
The Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets counts more than 2,500 students among its ranks, many of whom will commission into the U.S. military upon graduation. With a national reputation of serving veterans that dates back more than 100 years, the university also enrolls more than 1,100 former service members.
These two communities – one preparing for service and the other returning from it – support each other’s missions through a unit called Delta Company, a non-traditional outfit formed in 2007 for men and women who have had military experience, but wish to join the Corps of Cadets in order to regain the sense of community that veterans sometimes lose during the transition to civilian life.
The individuals who join the 24-member outfit are full members of the Corps of Cadets, but are afforded several additional privileges by virtue of their service. They wear the same uniforms as every other cadet, but are allowed to wear their active duty ribbons and some even have the patches of units they were last deployed with sewn into their left sleeves.
Delta Company cadets can also be distinguished by their tan belts, compared to the white and black ones worn by the rest of the Corps. Freshmen Delta Company cadets are not subjected to the typical fish year experience. They are not required to cut their hair short or go through any “boot camp” type training, as they have already had those experiences in the military. They are also not required to live on campus.
Delta Company was formed in 2007 as an opportunity for combat veterans returning from conflicts in the Middle East to retain the camaraderie of the military and allow them to continue to serve their community. The entry requirements have changed to allow any person who has at least one full year of deployment, currently carries an active duty status or has fulfilled one enlisted contract, but the mission of Delta Company is the same.
“Delta Company’s mission is to continue service through the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University by spreading enlisted based knowledge, and skills to the traditional outfits,” D-Company’s current Commanding Officer, Vincent Velasquez ‘20, said. “It also gives veterans a structured environment to transition from service life to civilian life.”
For example, cadets across the Corps have benefitted from Delta Company. Every week they are invited into outfits to teach skills they have picked up during their time in the military, such as hand-to-hand combat, fire team tactics and first aid.
Velasquez added that the environment within Delta Company is mutually beneficial for cadets and veterans, as they are surrounded by people who have similar life experiences.
“The relationships that I have here in D-Co are more like a family bond,” Velasquez said. “Being prior service, and combat veterans, we all have something burning inside that wants to come out. It’s when it comes out that having another veteran, or prior service member there who understands, makes it really worthwhile to be part of D-Co.”
For D-Co cadets, service didn’t end when they filed their DD-214 and left the military. They continue to serve the university, the Corps and the local community.
“We get the opportunity to interact with other veterans around the Brazos Valley and it’s really rewarding hearing their stories and having that camaraderie,” Delta Company senior Ashlyn Sharp said.
Corps Commander Luke Thomas was quick to acknowledge the benefit of having former enlisted veterans on the quad.
“Delta Company is an asset to the Corps because cadets are able to learn from prior-enlisted leaders,” Thomas said. “They have provided wisdom and expertise from their leadership experience in the military and we are able to adapt our training based on their knowledge.”