US Naval Sea Cadets Learn Service, Training and Teamwork
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Story by Dawn Klavon | Photography Courtesy of US Naval Sea Cadet Corps
A sense of service—that’s what the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps organization develops in its students. Founded by the US Navy to build leaders of character, the organization’s 5,500 cadets, ages 10 to 18, learn self-discipline, service to others, accountability and patriotism.
“I can think of nothing more important than preparing the next group of adults for success in society,” said Andy Lennon, US Naval Sea Cadet Corps executive director. “Our adolescents are the group that needs to grow in confidence so that they can become productive, responsible Americans.”
Sea Cadets undergo a structured training program that covers various aspects of naval operations, seamanship and leadership. This includes valuable classroom instruction, hands-on training and practical experiences. Cadets also learn about navigation, naval history, military customs and even participate in physical fitness and drill exercises. The two programs within Sea Cadets include the Navy League Cadet Corps for middle school students aged 10 to 13 and the Naval Sea Cadet Corps for ages 13 through the end of high school.
“Being a Sea Cadet afforded me a number of incredible opportunities that helped shape me into the professional and leader I am today,” said Donte Mackey, a former Sea Cadet and current volunteer with the organization in South Carolina. “Being exposed to these opportunities, during the pivotal years of my youth, better prepared [me] to achieve my desired goals. Sea Cadets reinforced the importance of good character, patriot[ism] and a sense of belonging. It is no doubt that some of the most incredible people I have met was due to the relationships established through Sea Cadets.”
About half of Sea Cadets, from approximately 400 units across America, Guam and Puerto Rico, go on to join the military, according to Lennon.
“The Sea Cadets is a very highly disciplined environment [in] which young men and women need to grow and if you have thrived as a Sea Cadet in that disciplined environment, you’re going to do okay in boot camp, for sure,” Lennon said. “We have a good number of Cadets go to the Naval Academy, the Coast Guard Academy, a few at West Point and at the Merchant Marines Academy.”
The organization is a great way to prepare for service in the US armed forces, but there is no requirement to join the military. Sea Cadets can offer a productive head start in the military, though. Those who have gone through the Sea Cadets program and have served in the military agree.
“Being a Sea Cadet afforded me a number of incredible opportunities that helped shape me into the professional and leader I am today." - Donte Mackey
"My time as a Sea Cadet taught me the value of commitment, standards and selfless service to others,” said United States Marine Corps Major General Jason Q. Bohm. “This foundation prepared me for a 34-year career as a Marine. These same traits are as important for young Cadets as they are for senior leaders in our military."
The programming for the students is robust, with approximately 20 to 30 cadets in each unit who meet one weekend a month. In the summertime, groups undergo out-of-town weeklong special training. Each cadet must have a regulation military haircut, undergo physical fitness training and wear uniforms in the program.
Cadets get to experience life in the Navy firsthand through activities like visiting naval installations, visiting ships and participating in overnight training exercises. These hands-on experiences give cadets a taste of true military life and inspire a desire to serve.
“What we do is challenge these young men and women and when they are in environments where they are challenged, [they will begin] to work together to overcome some obstacles,” Lennon said. “We give [the Cadets] opportunities to step outside their comfort zone[s] in a safe environment where then they can grow in confidence.”
Success in any Sector
The rigorous training Sea Cadets undergo provides building blocks not just for a career in military service, but for a successful career in any sector.
“Sea Cadets prepared me to pursue whatever career would be best for me. I am currently in higher education, specifically in enrollment management,” said Mackey. “Additionally, I am an PhD student, which the discipline gained from Sea Cadets has helped me be successful [at], academically. Although I am not in the military, being a Sea Cadet equipped me with many skills that helped me advance my professional career.”
"The skills I learned as a Sea Cadet: discipline, leadership, knowledge, commitment, integrity and more established a foundation that gave me a leg ahead of my peers who joined the Marines with no similar experience." - Major General Jason Q. Bohm, United States Marine Corps
For those young Americans who join the armed forces, the Sea Cadets offers a nautical-oriented curriculum that provides a solid background in leadership, teamwork and citizenship. Cadets get the chance to build robots, sail, fly, SCUBA dive, work in the medical field, learn about STEM, try their hand at culinary services, learn about the security field, photography, submarines and receive special forces training.
"The skills I learned as a Sea Cadet: discipline, leadership, knowledge, commitment, integrity and more established a foundation that gave me a leg ahead of my peers who joined the Marines with no similar experience,” said Bohm. “I entered Officer Candidate School with an increased level of confidence, having previously served as a Sea Cadet."
The organization works with over 2,500 volunteers who donate over 278,000 hours annually. Volunteers must be of strong moral character, of sound mind and be capable of communicating and living out core Sea Cadet values. In addition, volunteers must be US citizens or legal permanent residents, free of felony convictions and willing to undergo a background check.
“As a volunteer, I currently serve in two capacities,” said Mackey. “First, I serve as a Training Group Director. Secondly, I am the Operations Officer for the Southeast Area, which is composed of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. The reason I continue to volunteer is a result of the major role Sea Cadets played in my life. I want as many cadets to be afforded even greater opportunities.”
The program is quite affordable, with annual enrollment fees for cadets in the program ranging from $150 to $250 per year, depending on the unit location. Add on uniform fees and summer and winter training, and the program runs families about approximately $650 a year. By being involved in the Sea Cadets, students may be offered various scholarship opportunities and career paths. One benefit of the Sea Cadet program is an exposure to potential careers students may not have considered. Lennon says details of the role of the Coast Guard and Merchant Marines are discussed, as well as those of the Marines and Navy. No matter which branch of the military or maritime services are highlighted, the goal is to develop outstanding character in Cadets.
“The most important thing to know about Sea Cadets is that we are an organization focused on the personal character development of our cadets,” Mackey said. “As volunteers, we aim to engage our Cadets with informative experiences and opportunities to help shape their futures.”
“What we do is challenge these young men and women and when they are in environments where they are challenged... We give [the Cadets] opportunities to step outside their comfort zone[s] in a safe environment where then they can grow in confidence.” - Andy Lenon, Executive Director
US Naval Sea Cadet Corps
Whether a student dreams of succeeding in a branch of the military or just hopes to gain valuable life skills and experiences, the US Naval Sea Cadet Corp can offer impactful opportunities.
"I would encourage all young men and women to consider joining the Sea Cadets,” said Bohm. “Doing so will teach you the skills, values and character needed to achieve your personal and professional goals in life."
Learn more about the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps by visitng them online at www.seacadets.org.