September 10, 2004 3:40 AM
joined Corps 30 years ago
By BRETT NAUMAN
Eagle Staff Writer
A1 Friday, the cutline for a photo of women
cadets marching in formation should have said the event
was a 1976 football game against SMU.
helped usher in a new tradition at Texas A&M
Eagle photo/Butch Ireland
A&M University freshman Brynn Hayes of College Station
has followed her mother, Dawn-Marie Baletka, in joining
the Corps of Cadets. Baletka was in the Corps when she
attended A&M in the 1980s.
Special to The Eagle
of the first group of women admitted to the Texas A&M
Corps of Cadets march in formation as Company W-1, as
it was known then, during the 1976 football game against
cadet refused to shake Roxie Pranglin’s
hand when she first asked about joining Texas A&M University’s
Corps of Cadets 30 years ago
Pranglin and the 51 other women who first integrated the
all-male organization in the fall of 1974 were the target
of harassment and countless insults, she remembers today.
But the women banded together and did not let those who believed
women would ruin the Corps overshadow the life lessons they
learned in the military-based organization, several members
of that first class said.
Many will return to College Station on Friday to commemorate
the 30th anniversary of when women were first allowed to
join the Corps. A reunion and the opening of a museum exhibit
dedicated to women in the Corps will mark the event.
Several of those pioneering women said there was an overwhelmingly
negative reaction on campus to the integration. At the
time, the entire campus referred to the women in the female
unit, W-1, as “Waggies.”
While most of the harassment came from men in the Corps,
other female A&M students and former students took
part in the insults, former cadet Ceil McKinney said.
People would call yell insults across campus, calling the
women cadets whores, sluts and other degrading terms, she
We had men telling us we didn’t have the right to be
there,” McKinney said, likening the atmosphere to the
civil rights movement of the 1960s. “I really understood
what it is was like to be a minority who is despised.”
Roxie Pranglin came to A&M from Mississippi in 1974.
Her father, Harrison Pranglin, graduated from the school
in 1943 and fondly told her stories of his days in the
Corps, she said.
So, when university officials announced during her freshman
visit months before the fall semester began that women were
being accepted in the Corps, she decided to join.
Pranglin said she never will forget the cadet she met during
that trip at an informational meeting about the Corps. The
cadet stood in a hallway and greeted potential Corps members
at the Memorial Student Center.
After greeting her father, the cadet stood with a blank expression
on his face and refused to acknowledge the 18-year-old as
she walked into the meeting.
The cadet, he couldn’t say anything,” Pranglin
said. “We just walked on and left him. I can still
remember us walking down that hallway. It has stayed with
The values and traditions she learned about during that
meeting made her want to be part of the Corps, she said.
knowing the experience would be rough, she had her father’s
If he had felt this was not a good decision or if it had
made him angry, I probably would not have joined,” Pranglin
said. “When I told him my decision he said, ‘I
guess you’ve made your choice.’”
But the male cadet’s reaction to her at the meeting
was mirrored by too many others when Pranglin arrived at
A&M months later, she remembered. Many upperclassmen
refused to “whip out” or shake hands with women
cadets, she said.
The first women in the Corps also didn’t have uniforms
or a place to live during the first year. They were scattered
in apartments across A&M’s campus and in the
While the nickname “Waggie” was meant to demean,
Pranglin said many women her unit embraced it. One of her
friends even personalized the license plate on her Volkswagen
Within the next couple of days, all four tires were slit,” she
The integration of women into the Corps was a gradual part
of A&M’s transition from a small military college
to one of the largest public universities in the nation,
university archivist David Chapman said.
While many argue A&M should have integrated the Corps
sooner, Chapman said, the question is whether that would
have been possible because women were first admitted in
Although the first years in the Corps were difficult for
women, the campus gradually became more accepting of them
each year. Pranglin said the naysayers were just a loud minority
by her senior year.
However, by the late 1970s women still were not allowed to
serve in leadership positions or groups within the Corps,
such as the Ross Volunteers, Parsons Mounted Cavalry and
the Aggie Band.
Melanie Zentgraf, a female cadet, filed a class action
lawsuit against A&M in 1979, saying the exclusion of women from
such groups was discriminatory. A federal court decision
finally forced A&M to open the groups to women in 1988.
Zentgraf grabbed national headlines with the lawsuit and
drew the ire of then-A&M President Jarvis Miller. Miller
refused to shake her hand when Zentgraf graduated in 1980.
The lawsuit divided the campus and led to a backlash against
women who were in the Corps, according to Dawn Marie Baletka,
who entered the Corps in 1980.
There are those who would sing her praises from sunrise to
sunset, and there are those who would not,” Baletka
said. “Some thought she set women in the Corps back
Baletka said she owes much to the 26 women out of that first
group of 52 who refused to quit, despite what seemed like
Her daughter, Brynn Hayes, entered the Corps as a freshman
this year and is one of 162 women cadets scattered throughout
the Corps. Women-only units such as W-1 and S-14 — an
Air Force squadron — were phased out in 1990.
Hayes said she is one of only two women now in the Corps
whose mothers also belonged to the organization.
On Saturday afternoon, she will walk onto Kyle Field with
the Corps for the first time during the A&M football
game. Hayes said she owes that privilege to women like
Pranglin who laid the groundwork.
Marching out onto Kyle Field Saturday will be one of the
most memorable experiences of my life,” Hayes said. “I
wouldn’t have been able to do it if it hadn’t
been for those women who fought for us. They paved the
The mother and daughter will attend the reunion this weekend.
Baletka said she is excited about seeing some friends she
hasn’t seen in years. Friendships will be instantly
reignited, she said.
Pranglin, who rose to commanding officer in W-1 by her senior
year, said she, too, will attend the reunion with her husband,
son and daughter.
The 48-year-old works for West Texas A&M University as
assistant director for continuing education and hopes the
weekend might inspire her twins, Harrison and Bailey Albriecht,
to attend A&M.
Although her years in the Corps presented the toughest physical
and emotional challenges of her life, they built character,
Pranglin said. While many cruel things were done to the women
of her unit, she did not complain, she said.
Even during her sophomore year, when upperclassmen stuffed
pig manure in the air conditioning ducts of the W-1 dorm
building, she kept going. That was one of the many stories
she kept from her parents in Mississippi, she said.
My mother had a fiery enough personality,” Pranglin
said, “that she probably would have picked up the
phone and called the president.”
• Brett Nauman’s
e-mail address is email@example.com.