When Chris Stebbins ’15 enrolled at Texas A&M, he wasn’t just following in his father’s footsteps, he was also following one grandfather, an uncle, two aunts, and an older sister. With a pedigree like that, it’s tough to see how Chris could have been anything but a Fightin’ Texas Aggie, especially given his plans for the future.
“My dad and uncle were both in the Marine Corps,” he says, “my grandpa was in the Navy, and my Mom was in the Army. So, ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to be in the military. Combine that with the A&M thing ….” He grins. “Let’s just say I figured the Corps of Cadets was the best way to get started on my career path.”
Now, as anyone who has been in the Corps will tell you, balancing life on the Quad with life in the classroom can be a challenge, even with the help of dedicated study hours and your outfit’s Academic Mentor. At the beginning of his freshman year Chris, an applied mathematical sciences major, wasn’t sure he could pull it off.
“You come in and go through FOW [Freshman Orientation Week], and it’s all new to you. You feel kind of overwhelmed. After that week, you think, ‘Okay, I made it through. But now I have to throw in academics and balance that!’ Some people can’t quite do it.”
Chris eventually got his Corps routine down, making it easier to focus on academics, but time management remained a challenge throughout the year. And that was before he added the Fish Drill Team to the mix.
As most Aggies know, the Fish Drill Team is a special unit in the Corps. When it comes to precision rifle drill, there is none better; the team has been winning national championships since it was founded in 1946. These cadets’ commitment to excellence is legendary. Translation: They put in hours and hours and hours of grueling practice.
“It’s like being in a whole, different, more intense outfit,” Chris explains. “It feels like you start your fish year completely over again. You train with a completely new group of people that come from outfits across the Quad, and practice after practice, you grow close to each other, just as you grow close to your buddies in your outfit. We didn’t start until late November this past year, and the national meet at Tulane was in the first half of February. So we had a really short time period to learn and perfect the drills. There were times we practiced five or six days a week. It was definitely one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.”
Maybe so, but all that practice paid off. The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Fish Drill Team came in first again. That makes three national championships in a row. You know, in case you’re counting.
According to tradition, freshmen cadets are “trying out” for the Drill Team. They don’t become full-fledged members until after they march at Tulane and Parents’ Weekend, when they finally receive the coveted maroon-and-white cord signifying membership. That moment was especially meaningful for Chris Stebbins.
“My dad was on the Fish Drill Team, class of ’78. When I got my cord, he walked up with me. I didn’t know he was going to do this, but when they tried to give me a new cord, he pulled one out of his pocket and said, ‘Here, put this one on.’ It was his cord, that he got back in ’74.” Chris smiles as he remembers. “That was one of the defining moments of my fish year; getting to wear his cord. It was older than me!”
Having followed in his father’s footsteps this far—enrolling at Texas A&M and joining the Fish Drill Team, where he will serve as a trainer this year—Chris sees no reason to change course now. Col. Stebbins retired from the United States Marine Corps, and if all goes according to plan, Chris will join the Few and the Proud after graduation—hopefully, as an aviator.
Until then, he’ll continue to develop as a leader, both in Company N-1 and the Fish Drill Team, where he currently serves as a sophomore advisor, training next year’s national champions. Hard work? Sure. A challenge? You bet. But well worth it, according to Chris.
“It is,” he says, “an amazing experience.
For more information on the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets, including the various special units, please visit http://corps.tamu.edu/.
Kathy DiSanto, Communications Specialist
Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs