Sea Cadets from all over the country gathered last week at Camp Casey to immerse themselves in Navy culture.
The winter training in Central Whidbey included the Navy League Cadet Corps, which is composed of children aged 10 through 12, and the Naval Sea Cadet Corps, with members ages 13-17.
The program aims to “build from homesickness and bed wetting” to students who are making decisions and taking on leadership roles, according to Scott Oram, commanding officer of the Oak Harbor Sea Cadet unit.
“We build leaders,” said Oram.
The Oak Harbor unit, called the Orion Squadron, didn’t exist until 2015. Oram was stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in 2014 after moving from San Diego, where he was regional director of the program. While in California, Oram had started five Sea Cadet units, and was well prepared for the cumbersome task ahead of him.
“It’s like starting a new business,” he said.
The Oak Harbor Navy League agreed to sponsor the program, which is nationally supported by the Navy League of the United States, and the commanding officer at NAS Whidbey Island provided space on the Seaplane Base.
In September of this year, the Orion Squadron had enough Sea Cadets to transition from a formation to a fully commissioned Sea Cadet unit.
“I went from nothing to the third largest unit (in the region) in less than two years,” said Oram.
The program is a nonprofit civilian youth organization, separate from JROTC, supported by both the Navy and Coast Guard. Training camps, such as the one at Camp Casey, are required for cadets to receive promotions within the organization. The winter training included classes in leadership, military honors and ceremonies, basic and advanced medical training, Navy League Cadet recruit orientation, and robotics as part of the science, technology, engineer and mathematics courses.
Twelve-year-old David Stasel, a Navy League cadet from Oak Harbor, joined the squadron in September.
“I liked the Navy and thought it would be fun,” Stasel said.
He became interested in the Navy because his grandfather had been a member. So far, he said he enjoyed his time in the unit and at the camp.
Sam Martin, 15, wanted to see if joining the military would be a career that interested him. Martin, in his second year of the program, lives in Freeland. There is no JROTC program in the school on South Whidbey, and Martin is one of only a few members of Orion Squadron to hail from the south end.
“I’m a rare breed,” he laughed.
His father served in the Army, which sparked his interest in potentially joining the military. He feels the Sea Cadet program has helped prepare him to meet the type of expectations the military has. He also appreciated what he was learning in the leadership class at winter training.
“You can always make a knife sharper,” he said. “This class is sharpening our leadership knife.”
The Orion Squadron will be hosting an orientation meeting at 11 a.m., Jan. 6, at the Oak Harbor Library. The next day when new members can join, is Jan. 27.