By Lt. Corinne Sims, USN
When I was 14 years old, my brother left for U.S. Navy boot camp. At the time I had no idea what that meant other than my annoying older brother finally left the house. Well, as it turned out, I missed him terribly and when it came time for his graduation, I was beyond excited to see him and hear about the great adventure he was embarking upon. We headed to Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, and during our visit I saw some amazing young Sailors marching in formation. I was mesmerized at how they worked together to move as one cohesive unit. It was at that moment I decided to join the U.S. Navy. I wanted to learn how to march and be a part of a team just like I had seen at my brother’s graduation. When we got home I went straight to my brother’s recruiter and told him I wanted to join. Of course, at 14 I was way too young, but he had the next best thing for me. He said, “Try the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets and see how you like it.”
So I did. I joined the Sea Cadets and never looked back. From the start of my journey with the Sea Cadets, I knew I wanted to be the one standing in front of the division, preparing the team for inspection and leading them through our drill weekends. Of course, you can’t start out being in charge and I quickly realized I had to learn to be a follower before I could be a leader. I diligently listened, observed and learned from everyone in my division — the officers there to guide us, the cadets in charge, and even those who were younger and quick to tell us when we were wrong. At boot camp I learned what it was really like to be a part of a team and to accomplish tasks that could only be completed with everyone’s cooperation.
Being a part of the Sea Cadets also afforded me great opportunities, like taking part in an exchange program with Japanese students, sponsored by a World War II Japanese Kamikaze pilot rescued by one of our ships. We went camping and learned survival and navigation skills. We participated in countless ceremonies, parades, where we were able to thank veterans who sacrificed so much for us and taught us what it really meant to serve. Inspired, I studied hard to complete my correspondence courses and pass the advancement tests. As I earned positions of real responsibility and leadership, I finally became the leading petty officer, standing in front of my division preparing them for inspection. All of these experiences were to prepare me for the real challenge ahead — enlisting in the U.S. Navy.
When the time came to seriously start talking with the recruiter I was sure of two things: first, I wasn’t ready for college and second, I wanted to be a civil engineer. In addition to my parents, I brought my Sea Cadet commander (who else would I trust to help me make such a huge decision?) with me to talk to the recruiter about all my options and the best plan to reach my goal. I decided to enlist as a Fire Controlman and went off to boot camp. We hadn’t been there for two days and my Recruit Division Commander came to me and asked if I was a Sea Cadet. Puzzled, I asked her how she knew and she quickly replied, “I can tell by your confidence in leading your shipmates.” It was then I realized how much more of an impact the Sea Cadets had on me. She made me the master-at-arms of the division where I stayed for the duration of boot camp.
From there things only got better. I graduated in the top of my class from Fire Control School and quickly earned a reputation of being a leader on my ship. I continued to bolster the skills and lessons I learned in Sea Cadets as I studied hard and advanced quickly. Once on shore duty, I decided it was time to pursue my second dream of becoming a civil engineer. I applied for a commissioning program called “Seaman To Admiral-21.” The program allowed selectees to complete their bachelor’s degree free of charge and commission as an Ensign upon completion. I knew the Civil Engineer Corps was the only option for me so I went for it. I was selected, completed my bachelor’s of civil engineering and was commissioned in 2010. My dream had come true. I am a U.S. Navy civil engineer.
Since commissioning, I have had the opportunity to lead Seabees and coordinate their movements around the world. I went to Afghanistan to teach Afghan leaders how to serve their communities by providing their citizens basic needs like fresh water for consumption, farming techniques and the building of safe housing. Now, I work on the largest Navy base in the world ensuring the Atlantic fleet receives the best possible service in order to deploy and protect everything we have worked so hard for.
None of my dreams would have come true if I hadn’t been in the Sea Cadets to learn how to be a part of a team and lead a team. I still have more goals accomplish and milestones to reach, but I know where it started — the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets — and for that I will forever be grateful.