Have you heard of the Navy League Sea Cadet Corps? I didn’t but since I discovered it a few years ago, I cannot stop talking about it.
A couple years ago at the Iowa Fair my sister dragged me to a small booth. There a teenager dressed in a sailor uniform standing next to a table. The booth was full photographs of kids doing fun stuff – scuba diving, sailing, rock climbing. The words above said “SEA CADETS“.
My thought was, this looks like Boy Scouts but maybe on water? Confused but very curious about the topic I started looking into similar organizations upon our return back to Chicago. I discovered that there are several similar organizations for the youth organized or lead in some way by the different military branches
There U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol – an aviation based organization for kids 12+, Young Marines – a program that mirrors the values of the Marine Corps for kids 8+, and U.S. Navy League Sea Cadet Corps – U.S. Navy sponsored organization for kids 10+.
Is it a Military Organization for Kids?
As you can guess, each of these organizations has something to do with a particular military branch. However, I also discovered that they often work together, host combined trainings, and overall maintain great relationships if there are indeed multiple units in the area.
My son was 10 at that time and while looking into my options I found a few Sea Cadet unit within a drivable distance with one locating at the Great Lakes Naval Base outside of Chicago.
Will Your Child be Expected to Join Navy?
While the Naval Sea Cadet program is sponsred by the Navy, it doesn’t require cadets to join Military. However, it incourages them in the way if they did complete certain requirements with advanced pay grades upon recruitment into active duty.
We actually had a few volunteers with the unit that have attended the program as sea cadets prior to joining the Navy.
I do have to say that only Navy and Coast Guard offer sea cadets advanced pay grades. Air Force and Marines don’t
What About the Program?
The training curriculum is approved by the U.S. Navy and standardized at all training sites. Cadets receive 106 hours of instruction, with a focus on the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment.
Monthly drills usually cover the Naval values and core knowledge as well as learning to march September through May. Many units also offer color guard training, STEM education, swim qualifications, first aid training, and so much more. A lot of these depend on the what is available to the unit in each area.
Each cadet is also expected to work on the course work to advance in ranks. This also is a requirement before they can attend a multi-day recruit training usually offered during winter and summer break. Yes, dear parents for roughly $100 you can send your child to a camp where they will be cared for by others and will learn to basic military skills while making new friendships.
While this training sounds like an infamous boot camp, it also opens a door to a number of fantastic trainings the program has to offer. I have seen a number of aviation, scuba, culinary, STEM courses, but with various courses offered throughout the country, the opportunities are endless. And the best part? They are very affordable
During the Coronavirus pandemic quarantine, the NSCC started offering virtual advancement training options for cadets and adult volunteers. My son in his first summer with the program, attended A Marine Biology Course, helped to recreate WWII battle between the U.S. and Japan in a Minecraft, and attended a Recruit training.
When Did Navy League Sea Cadet Corps Come to Life?
Sea Cadet Unit 9-1-1 in Great Lake, IL was the first unit for the Sea Cadet organization back in 1959. It is still one of the longest operating unit in the country. The first-year program included 10 officers and 48 Sea Cadets. Today there are more than 300 units operating around the country.
The NSCC receives federal grants to help to fund its programs. Today federal funding provides the majority of the program income.
Are the Sea Cadets like Boy Scouts?
The short answer is NO. Both organizations have uniforms, a curriculum, and ribbons, but that is where similarities end.
What About the Costs?
I found this program to be very budget friendly. After paying the initial fee which covers the registration fees, uniform, and helps with the operational costs for the unit we paid just over $300 for the first year.
Costs do vary from unit to unit depending on the support the unit gets from local business and operational costs.
Kids also get to wear standard issue Naval uniform (both everyday “working” uniform and dress uniform for special occasions).
Is it for Everyone?
It is for anyone looking to advance and learn new skills. It might be a good activity for middle-schoolers and high-schoolers alike, but it is certainly not for everyone.
Family support is incredibly import for this program. High-school based ROTC program is primarily relies on the child’s motivation. But within the Sea Cadet program family support plays an important role. With many families located throughout the area even the drive to the location is the commitment.
While the organization offers many exciting opportunities for advancement, family will be the one arranging for the transportation or driving cadet to the location of training.
As a Communication officer with the unit I was also approached by the school social workers looking to place a child with the unit. Unfortunately, it practically never works out if family cannot provide any support for the cadet.
Who Runs Navy League Sea Cadet Corps Units?
Often it is the parents-volunteers who run Sea Cadet units. The leadership follows the structure of a business – Operational Officers report to Executive Officers who report to the Commanding Officer. Other volunteers cover a variety of positions from handling finances to maintaining social interactions.
I joined the leadership shortly after my son became a League Cadet. I figured that rather than driving back and forth I could stay with the unit and help.
Have questions? Ask! Talking about Sea Cadets has become my favorite topic.