Lindsay Johnston Breaks Barriers in the Corps of Cadets

Traditionally, E-2, the outfit that the coveted Miss Reveille is in, is an all-male unit. However, starting next year, the outfit will not only be integrated, but will have Lindsay Johnston as the First Sergeant, the highest ranking junior position.

Johnston is currently a sophomore sports management major, but is considering changing her major to communications. She wants to pursue a contract with the Marine Corps to do field artillery and is also interested in working for a newspaper or news station.

Johnston said she joined the corps because she saw the potential challenge that it served, and the opportunity to strengthen both her leadership and interpersonal skills. She also said the good ole Aggie Network that the corps provides, supplies her with the opportunity for potential internships and job opportunities. Furthermore, she looked forward to the comradery and friendships that is found in the corps.

“The people that I’ve made friends with here in the past two years are easily the people that I’ve had the strongest bonds with, and I’m closer with them than I’ve ever been with anyone else in my life—next to my parents and family,” Johnston explained.

In her freshman year, Johnston was in S-1. When G-1 was reactivated, they began looking for upperclassmen to join their outfit. Johnston volunteered to be a part of it, then pursued a leadership position.

The process was grueling. She first had to submit short answers about her thoughts on the changes, benefits, and other ideals in the corps. Based on these short answers, Johnston was selected for an interview in front of a panel of the commandant staff and the major unit staff for the regiments. She was given a single sheet of paper with the prompt, ‘What do you believe are your most important roles as First Sergeant?’, 10 minutes to decide how to answer that question, and three minutes to deliver that answer to the panel. Next, she was given one minute to answer an impromptu question. Although she was a little nervous, she aced the application process.

When a corps member pursues a leadership position, they apply for the position, but not for a specific outfit. If a candidate seems to be a better fit as a leader in a different outfit, the candidate will then fulfill the leadership position they applied for in the indicated outfit. For example, since the commandant staff saw that the E-2 candidate who applied for First Sergeant would be a better fit for S-2, he was moved there. This left the First Sergeant position in E-2 open.  

After learning her future status from a friend, Johnston was ecstatic. She thought she had attained the position she applied for in her current outfit, G-1. Upon a second glance, Johnston realized she was named the first female First Sergeant of E-2, making history at Texas A&M. 

“It’s safe to say I sort of lost my mind for a little bit,” Johnston said. "I was wondering why and how as it sort of started to settle [in] with me. I just thought that I have really really really big shoes to fill.” 

Johnston recalled her mixed emotions from that day ranging from intimidation to flattery. As First Sergeant, she would be the highest-ranking junior within the outfit and would be in-charge of overlooking the accountability for the outfit.

The role also required her to have impeccable communication skills in order to be the line of communication between the commanding officer and the rest of the outfit body. As she puts her leadership skills to practice, the outfit looks to her for guidance. 

“I set the example as a whole for everyone in the outfit to understand this is what our C.O. wants, and this is how you are going to carry out that expectation,” Johnston explained.

With the integration of the outfit, Johnston furthermore acknowledged the difference in the male to female ratio, but did not let it deter her. On the contrary, she recognized the strength in being a woman in leadership.

“There are definitely more social factors to take into consideration, but it’s not like me being a female is going to make it any harder or any different,” Johnston stated.  

Johnston has received positive feedback from the male members of the corps, whom she claims make the transition smoother. The females in the corps responded ecstatically to the news as well, with Johnston saying they were "gung ho about it." However, though both the males and females reacted positively to Johnston’s new role, she was sure there would also be those who doubt her abilities to fulfill her roles adequately. But Johnston is ready to take on the doubters.

“People need to understand that when they go out into the civilian world or their professional field, they are going to—at least once—encounter a female that is going to be their superior," Johnston said. "How they respond to that is up to them."

Johnston said she is excited to see how the outfit handles and embraces the change from all-male to integrated as she looks ahead to the future. To her, this will be the only change. Neither the culture, nor the pace of the outfit will be affected by the presence of females. Women have made rapid progress in the corps, and Johnston wants to see that continue.

“I think as long as females continue doing what they are doing and continue to rise and go beyond the standard that is set for them," Johnston said, "the female population within the corps will be set up for success.” 

Females in the corps have now risen to the challenge, taking over positions as Commanding Officers and First Sergeants, but it has not yet become a norm. For women in the corps, there are still barriers to overcome. When Johnston expressed interest in becoming a yell leader, she received negative responses from some of the cadets. They even went as far to say a woman would never be yell leader.

“That was pretty disappointing,” Johnston said. "To see that there is still that perception that just because it’s always been a position that has been held by men, a woman can’t do it."

But Johnston wasn't the only one who felt this kind of backlash, other females were also discouraged to take on leadership roles. When some expressed interest in becoming Guidon, a position for the most fit and well-rounded cadet, they were said to be unfit by some cadets.

While total acceptance of females still lacks, there are a few instances that Johnston recalls the environment being overall supportive of females. She remains positive about the upcoming year.

"I think that with the changes and how responsive everyone has been, we will shatter all expectations that have been set for us, and we will go above and beyond what is expected of us.” Johnston said.

Her stance has created a platform for future generations of female corps members. Ryan Kreider, current public relations officer, voiced his approval of Johnston. 

“The way she’s handled this whole situation, the professionalism, it’s been very exceptional in my opinion. I’ve been very impressed with her and I think she is going to do excellent things with the outfit,” Kreider said.

She will make her first official appearance as E-2 First Sergeant during Final Review, May 6. On the first pass, she will be in her current uniform and position, but on the second pass, she will be in the uniform and position of E-2 First Sergeant. During freshman orientation week Aug. 16, she will begin to carry out her roles.

Johnston is a role model for any young woman who has been told she cannot reach her dreams simply because of her gender. Inspiring and vigorous, Johnston continues to strive for greatness, leading by example and breaking barriers.

“I don’t think that being a female is a factor that makes you inferior,” Johnston said.