By Kaylee LaRocque, Naval Air Station Jacksonville Public Affairs
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- A group of 104 sea cadets and adult volunteers reported aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville (Jax), Fla., for annual training July 17-30 as part of a program to help youths gain technical knowledge through hands-on training.
The cadets, ages 11 to 17, spent the week working at the Flight Line Cafe, Rescue Swimmer School, Chapel Center, Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, Fleet Logistics Squadron 58, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 14, Air Operations and Helicopter Combat Weapons School.
All were required to complete a "boot camp" at Naval Station Mayport or Fort Benning, Ga., before reporting to NAS Jax.
"The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps is one of the best-kept secrets in the country, and we want to change this situation. We have a lot to offer in the way of showing kids that gangs, drugs and alcohol are not good choices and what they choose now will affect their lives in their near future," said U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps Regional Director 6-2 Lt. Cmdr. June Tillet.
"We aim to instill a sense of self-preservation by providing structure and discipline which in turn builds camaraderie with their peers who are making those good choices to stay straight, stay in school and rise above the negative pressures placed upon them. We also teach them about leading a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious foods and less fast foods and the benefits of daily exercise," said Tillet. "There are about 10,000 active sea cadets in more than 300 units."
Seven Sea Cadets spent the week at the Flight Line Cafe, where they manned a variety of workstations, including the bakery, service line, vegetable and food preparation areas. While learning how a galley works, the cadets helped prepare many different dishes from scratch.
"I'm really having a lot of fun working at the galley. I worked here last year also and enjoyed it so much, I wanted to do this again," said Sea Cadet Arianna Rodriguez.
"These young folks are tomorrow's Navy. From the time they get here on the deckplate, our attention to them is investing in the future of the U.S. Navy. It's important that we teach them as much as possible," said Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Byron French, Flight Line Cafe leading chief petty officer. "They seek us out as the platform for this training, and we teach them and put them to work. They work in all areas of the galley – cooking, cleaning, serving and preparing food. They learn how the facility operates from end to end."
Three cadets also worked with religious specialists at the NAS Jax Chapel Center learning how the chapel functions, what services are provided and the day-to-day operations.
"I chose to work here because I wanted to learn more about different religions and branch out to learn something new. This is my fourth sea cadet training, and I'm learning a lot about what a religious specialist does in the Navy," said Sea Cadet Rebecca Corley.
NCMB 14 Ensign Todd Kisshauer said the cadets come from as far away as Indiana for the two-week training.
"They experience what Seabees do day-in and day-out — from welding, hanging drywall and installing insulation to learning weapons safety in the firearms simulator. We even create a Seabee mission in Africa, where we set up a perimeter and encampment at the base antenna farm. In this training scenario, sea cadets from the Helicopter Submarine Maritime Wing Atlantic Rescue Swimmer School portrayed "aggressors" and attempted to infiltrate the perimeter," said Kisshauer.
"We brought three cadets and three officers to NCMB 14. This hands-on training is invaluable, and our cadets will be talking about it for a long time." said Navy Sea Cadet Corps Lt. Diane Smith of Nashville, Tenn.
"Coordination of nine different training evolutions is quite tricky, especially in regards to logistics and moving all of the 104 personnel around the base. But the commands here have been extremely receptive, and we are grateful for their assistance," said Tillett.
The NSCC program is open to youths who have a desire to learn about the Navy, Marines and Merchant Marine. Members drill at their local units weekly or monthly during the year and are given the opportunity to participate in advanced training during school breaks at various locations around the country. Some of the areas of training include medical, firefighting, aviation, culinary arts, photojournalism, SEAL team, sailing and basic seamanship.