PHILADELPHIA – Sea stories are an essential part of Sailors’ lore. Tales of distant lands, adventures, experiences of fun and even dangers; they have the power to turn complete strangers into fast friends.

These stories can also hold great educational potential for those with little to no experience in the military. This is why Sailors, assigned to Navy Talent Acquisition Group Philadelphia, partnered with the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC), to share their experiences of the fleet in a virtual learning environment during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. With the initiative from the New Jersey John T. Dempster Jr. Division, NSCC, local Sailors took to virtual drills in a project titled ‘Real Sailors, Real Sea Stories,’ which premiered live April 28.

“The catalyst of this project was to develop an engaging program that maintains an interest in the Sea Cadet program during these challenging times,” explained Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Sheets, commanding officer, John T. Dempster, Jr. Division. “The Sea Cadet program was placed in a stand-down resulting from the social distancing initiatives. This has caused us to cancel our monthly drills and in-person training activities that are the cornerstone of our program. Since we cannot perform our in-person Drills, we had to develop alternative methods of engagement.”

Young adults in the Cadet Corps already know the basics of the Navy; they joined the program to experience the military and to make informed career decisions for their future. They study regulations, learn history, and conduct a variety of drills, but they don’t have the experience of being in the fleet. According to Sheets, that is why the cadets naturally gravitate towards speakers with personal experience serving in the military, learning to appreciate the first-person discussions from speakers who have "been there, done that."

“Knowing that these discussions were valuable to the sea cadets, I reached out to a dedicated supporter of our program, Commanding Officer of the NTAG Philadelphia, Cdr. Kemi Elebute, for assistance,” said Sheets. “Cdr. Elebute enthusiastically approved the idea and began to mobilize his staff in this project. The effort came together quickly: significant talent from NTAG came aboard, subject matter experts of engaging fields in the Navy joined in to provide their stories.”

In the early preparation stages of the project, 18 Sailors have already volunteered to do live, 45-minute presentations, including Cdr. Elebute, who will share his experience of service as both enlisted and officer. He shared that he looks forward to the presentations and being part of the project, and he is excited to discuss his own experience and path in the Navy to the position he holds today.

“The Navy Sea Cadet Corps is a great example of a partnership that has developed over time working towards shared objectives,” said Elebute. “Recruiters from NTAG Philadelphia can provide training on naval capability, to include weapon systems and platforms. They can also discuss life in the Navy from personal experience, which would give cadets an opportunity to ask questions on what they could expect if they decide to join the Navy. Even if they decide not to join, they will walk away with a better understanding of what the Navy is all about, and will be in a better position to recommend it to someone else.”

“This is the first of many more projects I expect to have with the Navy Sea Cadets,” he added. “It is a great organization with exceptional students; they continue to be great partners of Navy recruiting.”

The task of appearing in the premier live presentation fell to Naval Aircrewman (Tactical Helicopter) 1st Class Michael Price. He spoke about his job in the Navy, the training and life-saving skills that naval aircrewmen acquire throughout the service, and touched on the mental and physical conditioning necessary to complete each mission. He also spoke about the benefits of life in the service, including the life-long friendships and cherished memories that it has given him.

“I am honored to be selected as the first representative for our NTAG, and even more honored to represent the AWR [Naval Aircrewman (Tactical Helicopter)] community. The AWR is a very proud community and a very tight knit group. We take our profession very seriously, but we also have a lot of fun along the way too,” said Price. “I think it is extremely important for Sailors to connect with their local communities and youth. The benefits that the Navy has to offer are incredible but a lot of people miss out on those opportunities due to the fear of the unknown. I completely understand why so many young men and women are intimidated by the thought of joining the Navy, but meeting Sailors, experts in their respective fields, learning more about their experiences and hearing their sea stories helps ease that anxiety and make them more excited for the service.”

Using the benefits of streaming live, the cadets had the opportunity to ask questions and have immediate responses from Price on a wide variety of topics, including training advice.

“The benefits of these virtual drills are that we can provide exciting and informative content that maintains an interest in the sea cadet program and the Navy,” shared Sheets. “It is highly motivational. This first-person account of life in the fleet demystifies what it is like to serve in the Navy. The program that is being provided in the ‘Real Sailors, Real Sea Stories’ project turns the academic content into something that is real.”

The project is scheduled for every Tuesday and Thursday, streaming live for the cadets, offering a variety of topics and experiences covering the Navy ratings, to include information on Seabees, nuclear power, navigation, interior communications, oceanography, and many more. Viewers who were unable to see presentations live will have the opportunity to stream recorded videos for educational purposes and even complete quizzes designed by NSCC as part of the classroom environment.

“It became obvious that sea cadets across the country would enjoy these presentations,” said Sheets. Using conferencing technologies, it made sense to make this a national program. Our Sea Cadet National Headquarters immediately appreciated the value of what we were creating. They embraced the effort and helped publicize the project to all of our members.”

“I can absolutely see the benefits of continuing with this type of program into the future,” he added. “Sea Cadets today are Shipmates tomorrow! This first-person interaction with Sailors who perform these roles in the Fleet is invaluable for their education and future career decisions.”

NTAG Philadelphia encompasses regions of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia, providing recruiting services from more than 30 talent acquisition sites with the overall goal of attracting the highest quality candidates to ensure the ongoing success of America’s Navy.

USNSCC is a national youth leadership development organization that promotes interest and skill in naval disciplines while instilling strong moral character and life skills through leadership and technical programs modeled after the Navy's professional development system.



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Updated March 1, 2017 (kbh)