Sea Cadets Make Their Mark as Sea Service Leaders

Master Chief Vincent W. Patton III

“The Naval Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC) program was fairly new, at least in the Detroit area, when I joined in September 1969. I stumbled upon it while attending my weekly Boy Scout troop meeting, when our assistant scoutmaster, James Hannan told me that he was also volunteering with the NSCC program. He was a Naval Reservist, drilling at the Broadhead Naval Armory located near downtown Detroit.

Mr. Hannan knew I was interested in the U.S. Navy — no, make that, I was obsessed. My oldest brother, who is eight years older than me, joined the Navy right after high school. At the time, I was 10 years old. My brother has always been my No. 1 role model (still is), so I emulated pretty much everything he had done, and going into the Navy was just another path to follow him. 

He would send me pictures of all the things he was doing in the Navy, and it generated more interest. I couldn’t wait until I graduated from high school in 1972 so I could join up and be like my brother.

All of my friends knew that I was fascinated with the Navy. At my Boy Scout meetings, I talked about it, so it got the interest and ear of Mr. Hannan, who told me about the Naval Sea Cadet Corps and suggested I look into it. I did, and after talking it over with my parents, I quickly joined. I was able to juggle my time with the NSCC and my Boy Scout activities and went on to earn my Eagle Scout rank in December 1969.

While my motive for being part of the NSCC program was all about my brother, after a few months, it soon transformed me into learning a lot about growing up, setting goals, understanding roles and responsibilities, team-building, citizenship, and developing my own sense of core values, which translated to building what I now call my “3Ds” of “Determination, Dedication and Discipline.”

The NSCC program opened up a whole new world for me at age 15. I grew up in a fairly tough neighborhood in inner-city Detroit. I always knew that I wanted something better for myself, as I watched my oldest brother become successful in school, as well as his Navy career. I envisioned myself being just like him. I knew it would be hard work, and I was eager to learn as much as I could from many people. 

The NSCC provided me access to some phenomenal role models, who by their treasured time and patience, taught my fellow cadets and I about the value of learning and how to use it to help others. They also taught me how to think for myself and show me that courage and confidence are key ingredients to building a successful outcome. 

Incidentally, the Broadhead Naval Armory Naval Sea Cadet Corps program later was named in honor of its leader and my former assistant scoutmaster. The NSCC unit is now called the James M. Hannan Division and remains today as a proud and active program supporting the young men and women in the Detroit metropolitan area.

Obviously, as it turned out, I didn’t quite follow my brother’s footsteps, as I ended up in the U.S. Coast Guard — that’s another story. However, I will have to give a lot of credit to the NSCC [for that decision], because I soon learned from my three years of experience with the program how my confidence increased in myself. I found my own voice and developed my own path for success. 

Becoming master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard is evidence that the NSCC program really worked for me. My brother, who himself had a successful Navy career going from enlisted to officer, retir-ing as a captain in 1997, asked me how my life would have been if I did eventually end up in the Navy. I told him: ‘I’d be Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy!’”

Adm. Michael S. Rogers

“Ever since I was a boy I wanted to be a naval officer. I’ve always been an avid reader and a voracious consumer of stories about sailors and the sea. Nothing could deter me from going before the mast, as it were. 

At 13, I joined the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps. My family lived in Chicago, an inland city but one with a serious port facility on Lake Michigan, which ocean-going ships can reach by way of the St. Lawrence River. The Sea Cadets, of course, only fueled my excitement about the Navy — from boot camp to swim calls and jumping off the catwalk of one of those very old, very tall hangars at Glenview Naval Air Station in Glencoe.

I found the sailor’s calling to be one of action and adventure. It struck me as not merely a job or even a profession, but as a calling. I studied manuals and took tests like my fellow cadets, but what I really learned was that we were only as good apart as we were together.

My favorite memory is taking an old turboprop Navy transport (I think it was a C-54) up to a two-week exchange program on Vancouver Island, at Esquimalt Navy Base. We sailed aboard a Canadian patrol boat along the coast of British Columbia. It was absolutely beautiful. 

Upon graduating from Auburn University and Navy ROTC there, I was commissioned in the U.S. Navy and spent my first five years as a surface warfare officer watching the Soviet fleet in the last decade of the Cold War. In 1986, I applied for and was accepted to change my specialty in the Navy from surface warfare to cryptology, or signals intelligence. 

I never thought then that I’d be where I am today, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency [NSA]. I had heard a little about NSA, which seemed wrapped in mystery. Cyber Command, of course, did not even exist: “Cyberspace” back in the 1980s was literally something that one read about in science fiction. 

What brought me here was love of country, of service and of the Navy. Throughout my life, those closest to me — my father, my wife — have always said to me, ‘Michael, you love the Navy, and you love going to sea.’ And I do. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to live my dream every day.” 

Master Chief Vincent W. Patton III served as the eighth master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard, retiring in 2002 after 30 years of service. He currently serves on the board of directors of both the Naval Sea Cadets and the U.S. Naval Institute. Adm. Michael S. Rogers retired June 1 after a 37-year career in the Navy. Prior to becoming director of the National Security Agency, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and chief of the Central Security Service on April 3, 2014, he served as commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and commander of the U.S. 10th Fleet.