Article by: Katie Foley
So you’ve accepted orders and are PCS’ing to Texas A&M at College Station. Gig’Em! Here’s the information you need to make your A&M tour rock:
College Station is one half of a set of twin cities known as Bryan-College Station. The twin cities are the 11th largest metropolitan area in Texas, but you wouldn’t know it from the town itself, as it is cleverly disguised as a small college town surrounded by farmland and ranches.
Bryan-College Station (BCS) rests quietly in Central Texas, roughly 2 hours north of Houston, 2 hours east of Austin, and 3 hours south of Dallas. It boasts a subtropical climate, with average low temps dipping into the 40s and highs reaching into the triple digits.
The local area sees rain year round, with July averaging 2 inches of rain, and October averaging about 5 inches. Winters are mild, lasting approximately 2 months, and summers are long, generally warming up early March and staying hot until mid-October.
BCS is smack dab in between I-10, I-35, and I-45, with highways 6, 21, and 190 branching out from the BCS area to meet the interstates.
There is a small local airport, Easterwood Airport. It regularly has flights to and from Dallas and Houston and is open from 4am to 11pm.
BCS is surrounded by farms and ranches, so the typical wildlife should be expected, i.e.: snakes,
wild boar, spiders the size of your hand, rabbits, coyotes, and deer- just to name a few. Hunting is
a big deal in the Brazos Valley- which surrounds BCS, with permits issued for things like alligators, duck and goose, white tail deer, and snipes. While tempting to add them to the list of wildlife, college students do not fall into this category.
Customs and Traditions
It is impossible to be stationed at College Station without acknowledging and accepting that you will live and breathe Texas A&M for the duration of your time there.
Everywhere you go in BCS, you’ll hear “howdy” being exchanged regularly, “WHOOP” is a proper response to almost everything, and “Gig’Em” is the equivalent of “Oohrah”, “Hooah”, or “Hooyah” and is said with one thumb up. Aggies (the residents of BCS) don’t boo, rather- they hiss.
There is a saying in the Brazos Valley- if we’ve done it twice, it’s a tradition. Some of the more popular traditions are putting a penny on Sully, proposing to your significant other under the Century Tree, attending the Bonfire Memorial, attending football games and tailgates at Kyle Field, and Silver Taps (monthly) and Muster (annually).
The Texas A&M Corps of Cadets is the largest Corps of Cadets as well as the largest producer of commissioned officers- outside of the service academies. Until 1965, participation in the Corps of Cadets was compulsory for attendance at A&M, but is now completely voluntary. Women were not accepted to the Corps of Cadets until 1974, after gaining admission to the University in 1963 on a limited basis.
The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band is the largest military marching band in the world, and is comprised of more than 400 cadets. They travel with the football team, as well as performing on their own at various events nationwide.
Yell Leaders– Texas A&M does not have female cheerleaders for its football team. Rather- it has Yell Leaders. Yell Leaders are traditionally 5 men, elected by the student body, and comprised of 3 seniors and 2 juniors from the Corps of Cadets. The Yell Leaders do not “perform cheers”. Instead, they lead the crowds with a series of signals. A spectator will find that a hundred thousand plus people in a stadium can be directed to chant, motion, and move around on demand with a single hand motion from a Yell Leader.
12th Man– This is a point of contention with some fans of the Seattle Seahawks, but Aggies claim the 12th Man tradition so furiously that they trademarked the phrase in 1990. The story goes that, at an away game, the football team had sustained so many injuries that the team was at risk of being forced to forfeit the game. Rather than take a loss, the coach pulled a Cadet from the stands and ordered him to suit up. While the cadet never actually played, he was termed as “the twelfth man”. Since then, the number 12 is practically a religious symbol to Aggies.
Points of Interest
Memorial Student Center– Upon approaching the Memorial Student Center (MSC), one will be inundated with “Stay off the Grass” signs. If you find yourself on a swath of grass, someone from the MSC is destined to magically appear before you to correct the transgression. The MSC is dedicated to Fallen Aggies who’ve served in all branches of the military and have died in combat. It houses several galleries, halls, meeting rooms, gaming areas, piano rooms, and dining options.
One of the most respected spots at College Station will be the Hall of Honor inside the MSC, a hall that displays large photos and bios of 8 Aggies who received the Medal of Honor.
Bonfire Memorial– The memorial is located at the entrance of Texas A&M, and is comprised of 12 portals- commemorating the lives of the 12 students who were killed in a bonfire collapse in 1999. Eighty Nine stones are arranged south to north- to commemorate the 89 years of bonfires before the collapse. The year JFK was assassinated, the bonfire was cancelled in honor of the late president. Twenty seven stones that join the portals commemorate the 27 injured in the collapse.
Kyle Field– Don’t call Kyle Field “The House that Johnny Built” or an Aggie might knife hand you. The stadium surrounding Kyle Field began the first stage of its most recent rebuild in 2013, seating 102,733 fans (though the record for attendees is actually 110,633) and becoming one of the 5 largest collegiate stadiums in the nation
Dixie Chicken– Dixie Chicken, located in North Gate, is a figure dating back to 1974. It isn’t much to look at, with carvings on every available space of wood, but the food is delicious. Other must try eateries: Fuego, Laynes, Raising Cane’s, Sodalaks Steakhouse.
Messina Hof Winery and Resort is located in Bryan, and is an award winning winery and B&B. The winery is run by the son of the founders (Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo) and his wife. The younger Paul is a Marine Veteran. If you are a Marine stationed at A&M, make sure to secure a ticket to the private Marine Corps Ball that Paul hosts every year at the winery. You won’t be disappointed.
North Gate is located on the northern edge of the University, and is the entertainment go-to for the college crowd. It is a series of country bars, dives, and restaurants, notably the Dixie Chicken, Harry’s, and Blackwater Draw Brewing Company (who boasts a killer brunch on Sunday mornings).
In 2014, College Station and Texas A&M were declared the Fittest College in America, and it’s no wonder. The town has more gyms than bars, and more running clubs than Greek clubs. BCS is home to the BCS Marathon, which pulls in runners from around the world. This writer once ran the BCS Half and while I did not die- I did meet people from around the world that I am only likely to meet again in Heaven.
Military Base Info
There is no military installation in College Station, though there is a small National Guard outpost outside of Bryan. There are extremely limited services available here, to include an ID office. There is no commissary, military treatment facility, or exchange. Active duty personnel stationed at College Station and their dependents will be assigned a civilian PCM, and dependents will have a co-pay for all medications and treatments not completely covered by Tricare. This writer estimates the cost of medications monthly for my family averaged $100- $150, so plan accordingly if you accept orders to College Station.
College Station is a unique experience and one that military families are sure to remember with fond memories long after leaving the area.
Author Bio: Katie is an independant contractor, is married to a Marine aviation student, and is the mother of three crazy kids. She spends her free time binge watching CSI: NY and stalking her favorite authors on Twitter. She was also the 2014 & 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Independent and Reserve Installation Marine Corps Spouse of the Year.