Updated: Jan 25
Lt. Laura Garofalo, Youth Program Liaison, U.S. Coast
Whether you are a cadet preparing to enter high school or a senior stressing about
what your next step is, it is never too late to explore military options. If you have been a member of Sea Cadets for more than a month, then you have likely already experienced military customs and courtesies in some manner. Your unit drills and summer training experiences will provide a plethora of introductions to various military branches, trainings, jobs, and opportunities. But is this enough to make a decision that only about 1 percent of the population makes?
Enlisting or applying for a commission in the military is a big decision, and the armed forces are certainly not for everyone. What is your goal in joining the military? To develop a career? To earn money for college? Your unit may be one that focuses heavily on Navy careers, which makes sense, as it is the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, but your passion may lie with the Army or the Air Force; additionally, if your unit drills on a Navy base, and you really enjoy the prospects of a maritime service, you may not have access or insight as to what the Coast Guard does.
Whether an emerging leader or a senior leader within your Sea Cadet unit, talk to your chain of command about scheduling opportunities with all of the branches of military to help, not only you, but your fellow shipmates to make informed decisions about their future. League Cadets and Sea Cadets alike can benefit from learning about each branch and their unique missions. Most military units have a Public Affairs office, or at least one person assigned to perform Public Affairs duties; if you visit a unit’s website, you can search for Public Affairs and reach out to request a tour or a possible visit to your unit from personnel. For example, if you wanted to visit a Coast Guard Air Station, you can Google the name of the air station and add Public Affairs to your search. In most cases, this will take you right to the page.
Who should contact Public Affairs? You should! If you are seeking a visit for your whole unit, ensure you have your chain of command’s permission before making any commitments, but it is important for cadets to reach out and respectfully make the request. I know from experience that Coast Guard units prefer to hear from cadets and are often impressed by this level of responsibility and initiative. You may be able to build a rapport with the unit rep and be invited to important events or ceremonies.
Here are some tips for reaching out directly to specific military units:
1. Research various units that may be in your area and collect contact information for the unit(s) that you would like to tour/visit.
2. Determine whether you would like to email or call to inquire about a tour/visit.
3. If you decide to call, listen carefully to the person answering the phone and greet him/her properly. If it’s a Petty Officer in the Coast Guard or Navy, do not use Sir/Ma’am, use Petty Officer. Try to listen to the person’s rank to address him/her correctly. Good morning/afternoon/evening, Sir/Ma’am, Petty Officer, Sergeant, Lieutenant, etc.
4. Introduce yourself immediately as (Your rank) (Your First and Last Name) from (Your Division) of the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
5. Ask to speak with someone from Public Affairs. If they do not have anyone assigned, ask to speak to someone who can help to set up a tour (or whatever it is that you are asking for).
6. Have a date/time in mind but understand that you will likely have to be flexible to their schedule (have a contingency or back-up plan to present—perhaps another drill month).
7. Be respectful and polite at all times, even if they tell you they cannot accommodate your request. If this happens, don’t be discouraged. Try another unit or ask if there is a better time of the year that might work.
Take advantage of opportunities to educate yourself and your unit about the various branches of the military. Build relationships and seek out military mentors; talk to everyone you can to learn about different careers and military units. Making a military commitment is an important decision that is yours and yours alone, but making an informed decision to find the branch that holds your passion is key!
*Note: Due to COVID-19 restrictions and limitations, cadets and units may not be able to visit all military units, depending on state and local guidelines, as well as Health Protection Conditions (HPCON) within each service. Keep this in mind when requesting tours/visits and also consider that you may be required to wear a mask.
Lt. Laura Garofalo, USCG
Youth Program Liaison