While their friends are sleeping in, watching Saturday cartoons or playing video games, 15 teens stand at attention at 7:55 am, in the rain outside Station Portland, a U.S. Navy and Coast Guard base on Swan Island. They are members of the Portland Division of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps and they will spend the next eight hours participating in a bi-monthly “drill’ that involves physical training, classroom instruction on military skills and history, uniform inspection, close-quarters combat exercises and exposure to the military lifestyle. High-ranking cadets bark orders and new recruits fall in line, as they march into the Naval Operations Support Center to begin their day.
According to Navy-sponsored USNCC organization “The Naval Sea Cadet Corps was formed at the request of the Department of the Navy as a means to ‘enhance the Navy image in the minds of American youth.’ To accomplish this, ongoing training illustrates to Naval Sea Cadets the advantages and benefits of careers in the armed services, and in particular, the sea services.” Joining the USNSCC can give cadets a head start on a future military career. About 11,000 11-17 year old cadets were expected to be enrolled in the program in 2011, many of whom will enlist in the military when they are of age (over 700 sea cadets joined the Armed Forces in 2009).