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Led by Lieutenant Todd Dunn, three U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps divisions spent an action packed weekend on base at Naval Station Mayport. Cadets from Dunn’s Manatee Division, who drill in Yankeetown, invited the Tampa Bay Division, which drills at Mac Dill Air Force Base, and the Gulf Eagle Division, which drills in Ft. Meyers, to experience what life in the Navy might be like.
Lt. Dunn said, “It took hours of planning and coordinating, but allowing the cadets to be on base and hear firsthand about different opportunities is invaluable.” In all there were about 16 adult leaders and almost 60 cadets that made their way to Mayport on a Friday evening via carpools. Everyone was privileged to stay at the Navy Lodge right on the beach. Squads of six cadets took turns standing watch throughout the night.
At morning muster, everyone was buzzing with excitement. During reveille national anthems from Spain and Brazil also played after the United States anthem as there was a Spanish ship and a Brazilian submarine in port. After some marching and physical training cadets lined up in the mess hall for chow and were treated to pancakes, eggs and bacon.
A short drive later the group was at Fourth Fleet Operations Center. Before entering, cadets were officially welcomed to the Naval Station by the Navy League of the United States President of the Florida Region William Dudley. “Mr. Dudley was instrumental in making this event possible,” Dunn explained to the cadets.
“No cell phones, no cameras”, Warrant Office Bryan Vickers relayed to everyone. The building that would be toured held both secret and top secret rooms. Small groups were led into a secret room filled with computers and large screens by Lt. Tommy Groves who is responsible for public affairs at the base. He made it clear that the room had been “scrubbed” of any sensitive information. The commander of the room provided the cadets an overview of her responsibilities, which included knowing where the naval ships are around the waters of South America. She discussed the importance of the Panama Canal and the drills they do with the support of other countries on a regular basis to ensure the security of passage through the area.
In the afternoon, the group was treated to a tour of the USS Robert G. Bradley, a guided missile fast frigate. Staff on board led the cadets around the ship stopping at the bridge, the bow and down below in the mess deck. They were shown the various guns the boat is equipped with including the “sea whiz” with bullets that are larger than a man’s hand and can track a target over a mile. They were even able to climb through a hatch. Seaman Ricketts exclaimed, “I’ve never climbed so many stairs in my life”, giving evidence to the rigors of sea life.
Cadets had a thrill when they were each given an opportunity to use the fire hose on board. They learned how to aim the hose and then exchange the nozzle with the person behind them in line.
Once back on shore, everyone joined the party being thrown by the United Service Organizations, also known as the USO, for Military Appreciation Day. This was time for cadets to swim in the pool, surf at the beach or just relax and enjoy their fellow shipmates and talk about the day’s events.
Manatee Division drills at Coast Guard Station Yankeetown, in Yankeetown, Florida, on the second weekend of each month. To learn more about Sea Cadets, go to www.manateediv.org or call LT Dunn at 352-212-5473.