By Greg Bailey, University Archivist, Texas A&M University
In the spring of 1917 Texas A&M College was selected as one of six colleges in the United States by the Council of National Defense to train a unit of the US Army’s Signal Corp.
On December 8, 1917 Detachment Depot Company K, Land Division of the Signal Corps under the command of Lieutenant M. C. Funston arrived at the train depot. The men were assigned to Goodwin Hall as their barracks. Two days later the initial 107 men began their twenty-two week specialized training under the supervision of Professor F.C. Bolton, Head of Department of Electrical Engineering, with courses being taught in the Electrical Engineering Building (Bolton Hall). Besides the military training of soldier in individual, squad and, company; the men received instruction in elementary electrical engineering, telegraphy, radio work, induction sets, pack sets, field work, visual signaling (day and night), telephony, dry and storage batteries, outside wiring, inside wiring, switch boards, construction of lance pole and tripod lines.
By the end of January the ranks of the company had swelled to 125 men, with as many as 45 of them being former students of the College. In March a change occurred, and the courses were reduced to be eleven weeks, from the original twenty-two. The designation was also changed to Signal Corps School for Radio Mechanics and was attached to the Air Division. Later a third change was made back to the Land Division with the designation as the 32nd Service Company, Land Division of the Signal Corp.
On April 10, 1918 the War Department created the Committee on Education and Special Training which in time would expand the use of colleges and universities for specialized training of men for the military. In early July at the request of the Signal Corps, the Committee took over the operations of the schools that had been established in 1917. All programs under the Committee of Education and Special Training were designated the National Army Training Detachments.
Eventually the Texas A&M College would see three lines of intensive military training. Two of the lines were from the Land Division of the Signal Corp, and the third a Training Detachment of Mechanics and Technicians, with an estimated 4000 soldiers receiving specialized training.