Thursday, February 11, 2010

Time For Sea (Cadet) Stories

Before I start, let me fill in a little background for you. I had the good fortune to have been a part of a really good youth program, the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps. I started as a cadet when I was 13 years old and stayed with the program for 15 years, eventually becoming a midshipman and then a commissioned officer in the Corps (that's pronounced "kore" for those of you who listen to presidential speeches). In the end, I was privileged to serve as Commanding Officer of a unit located at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California. During that time I would often volunteer for several weeks each summer to take charge of a recruit training programs for the cadets, a 'boot camp" for the new recruits. Sea Cadet units from all over the western United States would send cadets to these "14-Day Intensified Recruit Training Programs" which generally "piggy-backed" on the real programs being conducted at that time for Naval Reservists (using the same instructors and facilities but being modified to take the young age of the cadets into consideration).

One summer a group of us "cadet officers" had gotten a little ambitious and had decided to put together the biggest and best program ever. We organized a 6 week session which included 3 back to back programs of about 50 cadets each. We got together a staff of instructors and had gotten the base to assign us a barracks and area to use exclusively for the program.

We were lucky enough to have amongst us a young cadet officer (I'll just call him Larry to protect the innocent) who was the best scrounger I have ever seen. He decided that we would be needing transportation including buses and trucks to move the cadets around. The problem was that we were technically civilians and the base did not feel it was right to give us motor pool privileges. Larry was not the type to take 'no' for an answer. He went to work on it and 2 days before the training was scheduled to start I arrived at our building to find 2 buses, a half ton truck and 2 jeeps, courtesy of the local Army National Guard. Not only that, but the jeep he had "assigned" to me was complete with Army MP markings and a blue light and siren!

I knew Larry for several years and he never stopped surprising me with the things he was able to secure for our cadets. He was also able to get all the officers and instructors Marine Corps Drill Instructor Hats (you know, the "Smokey the Bear" Hats) and had replaced the Marine Corps Globe and Anchor Insignias with Naval Sea Cadet Pins. This little contribution was surprisingly effective in boosting our unit pride and the sheer fun we had running the program.

By the time we were ready to start the training program and the cadets were set to arrive, Larry had managed to get us set up with all the trappings of a complete training command. We had our our vehicles, our own "lounge" for instructors and staff, which included a slate pool table, a coke machine stocked with beer and even a Korean War surplus PBX telephone system (connecting every office, training area and each staff members private quarters). He had even gotten the base Naval Air Rework Facility Graphics Department to design us a Cadet Training Command Logo and make us a sign for the front of the barracks.

In the next few blog entries I will tell you more about the summer I spent with this outfit. We had a lot of fun, but there were shoals ahead that almost stopped the entire program and could have damaged to lives of some outstanding people.....

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