As the Navy League's Naval Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC) and Navy League Cadet Corps (NLCC) programs approach their 45th year, they are facing many of the same challenges as the sea services themselves: rising costs, accessibility restrictions to facilities and training areas, and a growing difficulty with recruiting young adults.
Unlike the Navy and Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs, the Sea Cadet programs receive very limited federal funding. Therefore, assistance from Navy Leaguers is more essential than ever to help ensure the NSCC and NLCC can provide the services, training and opportunities that have been their mission for nearly a half-century.
James H. Erlinger, new Navy League vice president of youth programs, said Navy League council support is one area that is especially critical as it becomes more difficult for cadets to find places to drill and receive required training, fill leadership and command vacancies, and provide services needed to keep units up to standard.
Although some NSCC and NLCC units in areas where there are no Navy League councils nearby, at present about 65 percent of the units overall receive council sponsorship. Civic groups and other patriotic organizations typically sponsor the rest.
Erlinger has made increasing council sponsorship of the cadet programs one of his priorities for the coming year. The former NSCC president and current chairman said he was considering some strategies to drum up council support to bring to the Steering Committee's first meeting in September.
Among them, he said, "I would like to see one requirement for being eligible as an Outstanding Council is to sponsor a Sea Cadet unit. The Sea Cadets are the Navy League's baby, we need to do as much as we can for them."
For the past five years, the NSCC and NLCC summer training programs have been funded primarily through a Congressional grant included in the annual defense appropriations bill. For 2005, the grant totaled $1.7 million. A 2006 request for $2 million in training costs is included in the budget request that is currently before Congress. Other operating funds come from the Navy League, the Combined Federal Campaign and individual contributions.
The money helps offset, among other things, individual summer training and enrollment costs - direct support costs for cadets and program volunteers was projected at about $2.2 million for 2005. Even with that funding, cadets must pay $4004500 per year for such out-of-pocket costs as uniforms, travel and unit training expenses.
Council sponsorship of an NSCC or NLCC unit does not require a substantial financial stake. Councils generally will dedicate $800-$ 1,000 a year for a typical NSCC or NLCC division of 20-25 kids, although some do fully finance their sponsored units, Erlinger said.
Some councils, however, do not make any direct monetary contribution to units they sponsor - but do offer support in such key areas as general oversight, ensuring their finances are in order or providing fund-raising assistance, according to NSCC Executive Director Mike Ford.
The Navy League formally established the NSCC and NLCC at the behest of the Department of the Navy in 1958 to provide an environment for youths to foster leadership abilities, broaden their horizons through hands-on training and educate them in maritime matters. Congress federally incorporated the NSCC Sept. 10, 1962.
There are now are more than 10,500 participants overall in the two programs - the NSCC is for young people ages 13-17, the NLCC for those 11-14 - with nearly 380 units in the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico and Iceland. That total includes the more than 2,000 adult volunteers who instruct cadets, operate units and escort cadets when they participate in events away from home.
Since NSCC and NLCC units are all-volunteer programs, individuals can help by providing adult leadership and logistical support, serving as escorts for summer training programs or simply taking care of behind-the-scenes matters, Ford said.
"Sea Cadet leadership is always looking for assistance," Erlinger said. "Our key need is adults. Even if a council does not sponsor a Sea Cadet or Navy Cadet division, they can always use volunteers. You don't have to go out marching with them, they need volunteers to provide transportation, handle bookkeeping, make phone calls. All you need to do is dedicate the time."
Despite the challenges, the NSCC and NLCC programs continue to provide a wide variety of unique training programs and opportunities for cadets. Standard local training includes classroom and hands-on practical instruction in basic military requirements, water and small boat safety and nautical skills, core personal values and cultural relations.
Special programs include cruises aboard ships such as the USS Ronald Reagan or USCGC Eagle, Petty Officer Leadership Academies, scuba classes, Sea Air Land orientation and Judge Advocate General training, but can run a gamut that features:
* Culinary arts training onboard the USS Kilauea in Alameda, Calif.;
* First responder training at Naval Hospital Great Lakes;
* Music training with the Atlantic Fleet Band in Jacksonville, Fla.;
* Air traffic-control training at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas; and
* A merit-based International Exchange Program.
"The opportunities offered to you as a Sea Cadet are truly amazing, from training with international cadets and foreign naval forces to assisting in the emergency room of a naval hospital, to standing bridge watch on a minesweeper in the Gulf of Mexico," Patrick Foley a Houston Division cadet, said as he graduated from the program last spring. Foley is now attending Cornell University on a Navy ROTC Scholarship.
Future military service is not an obligation for those who participate in the cadet programs, which is something Erlinger said should be emphasized when promoting the programs to potential recruits.
Those who do choose to continue on to future service - either through a ROTC program, going directly into the military or attending a service academy (7.5 percent of Midshipmen who enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy in 2004 were former cadets) - come away well prepared for its rigors and discipline, Erlinger said.
"The programs make better kids, regardless of what they do after they leave," Ford said. "And when an individual joins the Navy or any of the sea services, he's a keeper."
For information, contact:
U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps
2300 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201-3308
Tel: (703) 243-6910
© 2005 Navy League of the United States Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Sea Power