By Greg Bailey, University Archivist, Texas A&M University
The Student Army Training Corps (SATC) was initiated on the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas on October 1, 1918, temporarily replacing the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) until the Armistice. The SATC program was formed on May 8th by the Committee on Education and Special Training, a part of the War Department. As the ranks for the US Army continued to grow, there became an ever increasing need for junior officers to command these soldiers. With many qualified men enlisting in the Army and Marine Corps, the pool of men qualified for Officer Training School (OTS) was shrinking and it was taking longer to identify these men. Another problem that the War Department was facing was the high attrition rate of junior officers the forces the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) were experiencing. The War Department hoped the SATC program would slow the enlistment of the men most qualified to enter OTS. The War Department also looked to leverage the “executive and teaching personnel and the physical equipment of the educational institutions to assist in the training of our new armies.”
As the Committee on Education and Special Training continued their research to implement the SATC, the idea of rolling the Vocational Training Detachments, already in operation around the country at colleges and universities, into the new program was brought forward. It was decided that this would streamline effort and reporting and thus a new plan was put in place. This plan called for two sections, the Collegiate or “A” Section and the Vocational or “B” Section.
Instituted at approved Colleges, Universities and Technical Schools around the country, Section “A” had men that would voluntarily join the SATC and thus inducted into service as a private, with a choice in which branch to join precluded them from the Selective Service Draft. At A&M they had the option of US Army or US Navy. At any point during their training members of the SATC could be recommended for OTS, which meant that enrollment in the SATC was not a way to avoid service in the military. Eligibility was limited to 18-20 years old, who had graduated from high school, and were enrolled at a college or university. These young men would be held to military discipline and were initially required to complete 11 hours of military training and 42 hours of academic training work in a week. Upon review of this requirement it was deemed to be excessive and just before the Armistice was signed, the requirements were adjusted to 9 hours of military training and 36 hours of academic work, two hours of which were supervised each day. They were also required to attend courses on the “Issues of the War”.
The program called for eighteen years old to receive nine months of training, nineteen years old six months of training, and twenty years old three months of training, after which time those who had performed satisfactorily would be sent to OTS, NCO School, or cantonments. The SATC program saw an approximate 1100 men enrolled in Section “A”, 100 being opting for the naval branch.
Men who had been assigned to Vocational Training Detachments by Local Draft Boards were placed under control of the officers running the SATC in Section “B” units. Since December 1917 men had taken part in three lines of on the A&M Campus. Additionally, 210 students who had been enrolled as members of the two-year course of study but couldn’t meet the requirements to be assigned to Section “A” were transferred to Section “B”.
If men performed well enough with their training in Section “B”, they could be recommended to be transferred to Section “A”.
With all men in both sections of the SATC being privates, they were required to live in dormitories, reserved to Section “A” members at A&M, or barracks, which were built to house the Section “B” men. They also received uniforms, rifles, and sustenance free of cost.
Just as the SATC program was being implemented on campus, the Spanish Influenza hit Brazos County. This severely limited the training on campus as sickness spread and a quarantine was put in place. By early November the influenza had mostly run its course and the epidemic had passed. Just as soldiers were becoming healthy and strong enough to return to their normal training, the Armistice was declared on November 11. Shortly after this, the College received orders from the War Department to being demobilizing the SATC. Section “B” began demobilization on December 2, while Section “A” started on December 4. For those in Section “A” the College decided to continue the curricula that was in place for the remainder of the first term, which would end on December 21.