Devens, Mass. -- As the premier training installation in New England, Fort Devens has been part of the personal and professional development of thousands of America's finest. That decade's old tradition continues today, as more than one hundred Sea Cadets from the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps (USNSCC), aged 13 to 18, hit the fleet after graduating from Recruit Training Command New England.
Leaving the comfort of their homes, these young people traveled from all over the U.S. to learn valuable lessons in leadership. Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Donahue, the USNSCC regional director and Massachusetts state trooper, was on hand to ensure the recruits were prepared.
"For some of these kids, this is their first time away from home," said Donahue. "13 years old and going away for two weeks. No cell phone. No electronics. You just have other petty officers telling you where to go and what to do."
The Sea Cadets train their recruits much like their U.S. Navy counterparts. Recruits attend a two week boot camp, located on Fort Devens.
"Every cadet has to go through boot camp, which is what we're doing here," said Donahue. "Once they've completed boot camp the entire program is open to them. Anything the Navy offers could be a training for them."
"I've had the opportunity to see the cadets roam the base, and hear them during PT (physical training)," said Lt. Col. Lindsey Halter, garrison commander, U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Fort Devens. "It seems that over these past few days that they've stood a little taller, their cadences got a little louder, and their actions were more assured. This can only be the result of the confidence, discipline, and resiliency instilled during their time here."
"The program is absolutely incredible," said Donahue. "You can see such a change from when they first came in. I have so many success stories. When I first came in, I had a kid who couldn't pass his PRT (physical readiness test). Three years later, he's the captain of his wrestling team and trying out for the Olympics. That's what happens here. We provide them with whatever they need."
Sea Cadet supervisors are volunteers. Many used their own personal leave or vacation time to mentor the recruits.
"Our staff missed birthdays and anniversaries to be here," said Donahue. "To volunteer their time to ensure the proper training of these cadets. We're here to support their goals. We're not recruiting. We provide them with whatever they need to achieve their goals."
The USNSCC operates an additional program, the Naval League Cadets, for ages 10-14.
For more information on how you can do your part to train the next generation of leaders, or for more information on a USNSCC program, check out www.seacadets.org