BY NATALIE AUCOIN
Sponsored by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, Sea Cadets is a youth program focused on developing leaders of character among 13- to 18-year-olds (there is also League Cadets for children ages 10-13). I am in the Alexandria, Virginia, division, one of hundreds of divisions around the country. Once every month on a weekend, we meet and participate in many fun volunteer activities, travel to different military sites, such as Norfolk Naval Station, and learn about the U.S. military. We also go on a camping trip in the fall.
Having grown up overseas, with the majority of time in Africa, I came back to the U.S. with the desire to do something beyond what I had done overseas. I wanted the opportunity to be part of a program that could offer unique experiences, allow me to make lifelong friends, and really help define what I wanted to do in life. Over the last year, Sea Cadets has provided these things, but this summer was especially special.
I had just completed Recruit Training at Lake Frederick in Highland Mills, New York, at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The feeling of accomplishment that went through me when I graduated is indescribable; completing nine days of intense training was a big step for me, a 14-year-old, as it is similar to basic military training. Although Recruit Training was hard and challenged me, I felt a sense of relief and pride upon getting through it.
But why would someone want to go through Recruit Training and not just jump into the fun stuff? To take interesting advanced trainings (think medicine, aviation, field operations, culinary, sailing, diving, STEM, and much more), a cadet must take Recruit Training. The advanced trainings are offered only to someone who is part of the Sea Cadets program, meets the age requirement, and has successfully completed Recruit Training.
Sea Cadets helps teenagers find out what they want to do after high school and, most important, make everlasting friendships.
Completing Recruit Training is the first step in advancing in rank. For example, during Recruit Training, I took the CPR course, and now I will try to take basic medicine in December and a leadership course in the spring, even if it requires me to travel.
Held in the spring, summer, and winter, trainings vary in lengths and topics. They are found all over the country, not just in one specific location. Sea Cadets even offers international exchange programs around the world, such as in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand.
So why Sea Cadets? Sea Cadets is a great program to help teenagers build leadership skills and explore multiple career fields that are of interest. It is also an opportunity to find out if the military is for you, and if you really want to be part of it, before you must make the decision when applying for college. Overall, Sea Cadets helps teenagers find out what they want to do after high school and, most important, make everlasting friendships.
To join Sea Cadets, visit their website at www.seacadets.org. Find the division that interests you (I highly recommend the Alexandria division if you’re in the District of Columbia–Maryland–Virginia region). It will help you get started. I have only been in the program for about a year and am loving it every day I show up.
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