MARQUETTE - Some kids might have ideas of what military service requires based on movies or video games. The U.S. Naval Sea Cadets know first-hand.
Designed for teens ages 10 to 17, the cadet corps is a special nation-wide training program that gives participants the actual training received by new Navy recruits, teaching them emotional, as well as technical skills, they can use in any career, not just the Navy.
"It's designed to provide training for youth in leadership, teamwork," said ENS John Major, executive officer of the Darter Dace Division in Marquette. "It teaches them skills that can be used across many career fields."
The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps Darter Dace Division, from Marquette, marches in this year’s Fourth of July parade in Marquette. The program is designed to give youth basic naval skills and information — and a head start if they decide to join the Navy later. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Much like the Army National Guard, the cadets are required to attend one weekend of training per month, during which they learn marching drill and technical skills like navigation, signaling and team-building.
"All of the training, the testing, all that is all Navy book work," John Major said.
The cadets, which are split into League Cadets for those age 10-13 and Sea Cadets for those age 13-17, also follow the same ranking system as the Navy and are able to earn up to an E3 ranking.
While the Sea Cadets program is not a recruiting program for the Navy and cadets are in no way required to move on to military service when they reach the age of 18, if they do decide to join the Navy, their rank and testing results from the Sea Cadets are carried over to the Navy once they finish boot camp. That could potentially give them a two-year advantage over others who did not complete the Sea Cadets program.
"When you first start, they teach you marching maneuvers," said Cadet Sally Major, 15, John Major's daughter. "Through everything else, you're going to be marching."
The Sea Cadet training gives its participants the basic skills and information that would be learned by Navy recruits. On training weekends, they are expected to report at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Marquette at 7:30 a.m., practicing marching drill and training alongside the Coast Guard members. The cadets also go through physical training to meet the President's Challenge physical fitness standard.
"We can even run the ships for the Coast Guard," Sally Major said.
In addition to the monthly trainings, cadets are also required to maintain at least a C average in school to be eligible for the program.
They receive several sets of uniforms and have the ability to attend additional trainings, including a two-week camp in Chicago that provides roughly 40 percent of what a real Navy boot camp would include, giving the cadets a real chance to decide if they feel Navy service is something they're interested in. Other training opportunities allow the cadets to learn to operate submarines, participate in high ropes courses and other unique opportunities.
"They get used to ... how it would be if they were deployed on a ship," John Major said.
Both Sally Major and fellow Cadet John-Henry Kibit have participated in the boot camp training.
"It was challenging and fun at the same time," Kibit said.
Although challenging, Sally Major said the boot camp was worth while.
"I think it's one of the best times I've ever had," she said. "You build relationships."
As the cadets advance through trainings and experience, they have the opportunity to earn ribbons for specific achievements. Individual divisions also compete against others in a yearly competition.
Through all the training, however, both Sally Major and Kibit said what they take away from the Sea Cadet program isn't the navigation skills or the high ropes courses. It's the lessons they learn about leadership, self discipline and teamwork.
"For me, it's you always have to work as a team to get something done well," Sally Major said. "If someone isn't there, you're not going to succeed."
For Kibit, the Sea Cadet program is about the advantages it gives.
"It puts you somewhere in the future," he said.
The Sea Cadets program accepts new cadets anytime throughout the year. For more information, visit www.darterdace.com or contact John Major at 906-360-1200.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.