What's Next for the Class of 2016

It is no surprise that Sea Cadets aspire for greatness. Following years of testing their limits through training focused on progress and advancement, it’s only natural that our cadets dedicate themselves to the next step after graduation. Whether that’s enlisting in the armed services, joining the workforce, attending college, or pursuing a commission through ROTC or a service academy, Sea Cadets strive to excel. There is not one path that is better than another; what unifies our cadets is their drive to do more, learn more, and be more. That drive is instilled in cadets from the first days of Recruit Training through the final days of their cadet careers.

One place where this determination is abundantly evident is within the John T. Dempster, Jr. Division. Based in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, the cadets train hard all year, participating in local activities, national training events, and even international opportunities. A 2015 graduate, Paul Treacy, was selected to train with Sea Cadets from around the world during a two-week international exchange to Australia. Calling this trip the “experience of a lifetime,” he enlisted in the Navy in late 2015 and is pursuing his goals in the field of Information Technology. As a direct result of his involvement with Sea Cadets, he was promoted to seaman after successfully completing the Navy’s Recruit Training.

While cadets are not required to join the armed services upon graduation, they do so at very high rates. Our units report that every year a growing number of cadets choose to either enlist or pursue officer commissioning programs such as the service academies or ROTC. In 2015, our units reported 655 of our graduating seniors either enlisted in the armed forces or entered a commissioning program. According to former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral
Gary Roughead, each cadet who enlists saves the Navy more than $14,000 in life-cycle training costs.

The achievements of this year’s graduating cadets from Dempster Division are impressive against any measure. Boasting two cadets entering West Point and two entering the Naval Academy, Dempster Division is also sending four cadets to ROTC programs, and six cadets will be pursuing two-and four-year degrees at schools around the country.

Elizabeth Herington, 18, will attend Harvard University on a full-ride Naval ROTC scholarship. Although she joined the Sea Cadet program later in her high school career, she believes it changed the course of her life. “It has taught me how much I love hard work, discipline, a military lifestyle, serving my country and leading others. As a result of everything I learned about myself as a part of the USNSCC, I applied for and received an NROTC scholarship to Harvard University.”

The Sea Cadet program provides opportunities in all of the Navy’s career fields, many of which also translate to the civilian workforce. As a junior in high school, Neely Campbell attended Marine Mammal Research training in California. She credits this training for shaping her ambitions. Next fall, she will take the next step toward achieving her goals as she begins her studies in Marine Biology at Eckerd College.

The drive for improvement in all areas, but especially in the field of leadership, is encouraged from the time a recruit joins to the day they staff their last training. The only way to create leaders is to provide opportunities for them to them lead. Leadership is valuable in classrooms, boardrooms, and battlefields around the world. Bennett Mirabito, 18, feels the value of that experience. “Having accepted my appointment to the United States Military Academy, I am now facing the prospect of being trusted to lead America’s sons and daughters, potentially in a combat situation, as little as four years from now. I can honestly say that because of my experiences as a Sea Cadet, both as a leader and as a follower, I will be far ahead of my classmates regarding my readiness to lead.”

The Sea Cadet program challenges every participant. Accomplishing something you thought as impossible is a confidence booster.

Gretchen Mario, a senior who will be attending the Naval Academy, puts it this way: “Anyone who knew me five years ago can attest to the impact that the Sea Cadet program has had on me. When I first joined Sea Cadets at the age of 12, I was quiet, self-conscious, and terrified that I was not strong enough or a good enough leader to achieve my goal of attending the Naval Academy and serving in the Navy. As a member of the Dempster Division, however, I found my voice.”
As a program, we use phrases like “test your limits” and “chart your course” to inspire and motivate our cadets. What we really mean is: do that thing you thought you couldn’t, reach for something that seems just out of range, have a vision for what you want to achieve — and then pursue it, doggedly.

On June 30, 2016, the Naval Academy’s Induction Day, Mario, along with her Dempster shipmate Jenna Kugel and more than one hundred other former Sea Cadets from around the country, will begin their journeys as Naval Academy Midshipmen. A few days before, Mirabito and fellow Dempster Cadet Connor McDonald, will report to West Point. Around the country, hundreds of former Sea Cadets will begin their “next thing.” Whatever their aspirations, we know that former Sea Cadets will continue to strive to do more, learn more, and be more.

Sea Cadets Excel at CyberPatriot National Finals Competition

During the week of April 11, 2016, teams of Sea Cadets from Centurion Battalion of Winter Park, Florida, and Fort Fisher Division of San Diego, California, competed at the CyberPatriot VIII National Finals Competition in Baltimore, Maryland.

Both Sea Cadet teams performed well with Centurion Battalion’s Team Netrunners placing first in the nation in the all-service division. The all-service division is comprised of 1,281 teams from JROTC, Civil Air Patrol, and the Sea Cadet program. Team Netrunners, which is sponsored by Black & Veatch, is the first Navy-associated team to place first in the competition’s history. This victory awards a $2,000 scholarship, provided by the presenting sponsor Northrop Grumman, to each of the six team members.

Sponsored by the Air Force Association, CyberPatriot prepares competitors for careers in computer security or related fields. According to its website the competition “puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. In the rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services in a six hour period.”

Both Sea Cadet teams have a history of success in this competition. Centurion Battalion has been participating in CyberPatriot for three years. In their first year, they made it all the way to the National Finals, placing ninth in the all-service division with their coach, Ensign Kenneth Steffey, receiving the honor of CyberPatriot Coach of the Year. Fort Fisher Division’s Team Left Coast, coached by Joe Gombos, competed at the CyberPatriot VII National Finals in 2015, placing third in the all-service division and winning the Cisco Networking Challenge.

To give some perspective, there are 13,052 CyberPatriot competitors and only the top .8% of teams make it to the National Finals. On a percentile basis, it’s harder to get to this competition than it is for an NCAA basketball team to make it to the Final Four.

Taking its name from a Linux operating system, Team Netrunners spent three to six hours each week at practice and countless hours at home working to hone their skills. This time was spent in addition to their typical Sea Cadet, school, and extracurricular activities – and it paid off big this month when the team heard their name called at the awards ceremony.

The team captain, a high school senior Chief Petty Officer Peter Steffey, felt honored to be part of this year’s team and hopes that this win will “encourage more Sea Cadet units to join the program.”

In addition to the honor of winning, the CyberPatriot program provides tangible benefits to its participants in the form of life-long skills. Steffey plans to attend the University of Central Florida in the fall and hopes to continue to participate in cybersecurity competitions with the university's two-time national champion team.

Praising his team’s focus, determination, and teamwork, Ensign Steffey says, “It’s different for Sea Cadet units as they meet out-of-school and have to juggle many other demands on their time.” Their competitors in the all-service competition, including many JROTC units, are often able to practice during and after school. Steffey feels this factor further highlights the incredible commitment of Sea Cadet teams. Sea Cadets have to work even harder than their competition to master the skills required to succeed at this level, he says.

Sea Cadets are no strangers to commitment. Cadets often cite the Navy’s core values of honor, courage, and commitment as core to their personal ethos. Their consistently high level of performance at competitions like CyberPatriot is just one of many ways in which Sea Cadets embody this universal value.
BRAVO ZULU to both of our teams.

Centurion Battalion's Team Netrunners: CPO Peter Steffey: CPO Nolan Johnson; PO1 Sam Precourt; SN Monica Vogel; SN Leilani Morales; SA Jacob Dawson; ENS Ken Steffey; INST Chris Walcutt; MIDN Jesse Rodriguez; and INST Rachel Thompson.

Fort Fisher Division’s Team Iron Server: PO2 Nick Winham; PO2 Maya Morales; SA Jonathan Truong; SA Garrett Swift; SA Laura Lopez; INST Joseph Gombos; ENS Dina Swift; and their escort officer ENS Bobby Wen.

Sea Cadet Rescues Swimmers

On Sunday, May 1, Sea Cadet Joseph Wilkins, 17, was spending the day like many coastal Californians do – surfing. What started as a normal day on the ocean took a dramatic turn.   

“I was paddling out and felt that the conditions were pretty rough. As I’m paddling out, I see that a group of five were caught in a rip current and my immediate thought was to jump into action,” Wilkins told us.    

Wilkins is a Sea Cadet with Ben Moreell Battalion. Having surfed at Hueneme Beach before, he was familiar with the strong rip currents that are common to this area.   

Wilkins was able to see that three of the five were capable swimmers so he gave them specific instructions on how to ride the waves back to shore and moved his attention to the other two individuals.   

“I could see that the other two couldn’t swim, so I put them on my surfboard and let them use it to get to shore,” Wilkins recounted. He got everyone safely to shore and placed the two individuals in rescue positions. Reassessing the situation, he saw that one of them was in bad shape. Thinking on his feet, he asked a bystander to call 911 and relay to the operator that he had two individuals in “red condition” and three in “yellow condition.”  

First responders arrived quickly to assist. Duncan Shuler, one of the first on the scene from the Ventura County Fire Department, said, “Without the actions of this individual, two of the swimmers would have drowned; and the other three may have been in a much worse situation.”   

Wilkins said that his time as a Sea Cadet and his training with the Ventura County Lifeguard Team gave him the skills he needed to act quickly. All of the cadets in Ben Moreell Battalion were certified in CPR and First Aid this past October, reports the unit’s commanding officer Lt. Randy Montrose.   

On May 8, Wilkins was honored for his quick thinking and bravery at a ceremony where he received the NSCC Honor Ribbon. Also in attendance were the Mayor of Port Hueneme, members of the City Council of Port Hueneme, the Chief of Police of Port Hueneme, members of the Ventura County Fire Department, his school’s assistant principal, and various teachers.   

Wilkins is a senior in high school and plans to join the Navy after graduation. He would like to become a Master-at-Arms (MA).