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.