Wren Hurricane Navy Visits the Fleet
Cadet Orientation Trip 6-9 November to Norfolk, Virginia
by Commander Kevin Borden, United States Navy (Retired)
Wren High School and Powdersville High School Naval Junior ROTC cadets, also known as the “Hurricane Navy,” had a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about the many facets of the United States Navy during their recent orientation trip to Norfolk, Virginia, the largest operational naval base in the world. Commander Kevin Borden, Senior Naval Science Instructor, and Master Chief Clifford Bailey, Naval Science Instructor, planned and coordinated well in advance to ensure 35 cadets and three chaperones were well indoctrinated and remained focused during their two-day fleet orientation experience.
After departing Wren High School and arriving late Wednesday to their open-bay barracks in Virginia Beach, all hands stowed their gear in military-like fashion before settling in after a long day’s drive. At TAPS, which is typically sounded at night in the military, lights were extinguished while the cadets posted the watch maintaining silence and security about the decks while their peers slept soundly through the night. Freshman Cadet Matt Hood mentioned that living in the barracks was “one of the best experiences so far because of the camaraderie and standing the watch at night.” Besides staying in the Virginia National Guard barracks, cadets ate many of their meals in the Naval Station Norfolk and Naval Air Station Oceana galleys.
Dawn comes early on a ship, and in this case the barracks. At 0600 the watch standers awoke the barracks promptly at morning reveille to begin their day in true military fashion. Experiencing a taste of military life would not be complete without conducting early morning physical training, or PT, on the nearby confidence course. Cadets warmed up quickly in the frigid Virginia dawn by performing their “daily seven” exercises before negotiating a series of team-building obstacles designed to challenge them together. Ultimately, they left no cadet behind in getting through the obstacles, safely completed the course, and built greater cadet camaraderie in the process.
Following morning PT, the Hurricane Navy cadets were afforded a quality opportunity to experience some of what makes our military so great on their first day of orientation. All hands got underway on a “landing craft, mechanized” or LCM “mike” boat with Assault Craft Unit TWO at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek. While underway, they learned about and directly experienced the importance of ship-to-shore operations on LCM-14, which has carried our Marines and their equipment forward from the sea. Petty Officer Third Class Michael Walker and his crew, only a few years older than the cadets, answered many questions about their unique craft, their professions in the Navy, and why they joined the military. By casting off all lines and getting underway on a naval vessel, all 35 cadets earned their sea legs and the coveted “sea cruise” ribbon.
During a driving tour of Naval Station Norfolk that afternoon, the cadets paid their respects at both the USS IOWA and the USS COLE memorials located at Sewells Point. Each memorial is a stark reminder of the dangers of the military profession and why those who serve, or have served, are well respected for volunteering to go in harm’s way. Many of the Sailors lost in both tragedies were only a few years older than the cadets making the stop very poignant for those interested in pursuing a military career after high school. On their waterfront tour, the cadets saw many of the aircraft carriers, amphibious ships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and military sealift ships that defend our nation’s freedom around the world.
Later that afternoon, the Hurricane Navy toured the USS BOISE (SSN 764), a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine designed to hunt enemy ships and submarines while submerged. Petty Officer Devin Mason and Lieutenant Vincent Kindfuller provided an excellent overview of their boat and gave the cadets a better appreciation for how compact life on a submarine can be for as many as 150 sailors up to seven months away from homeport. “It was a really great experience to go on the submarine,” said freshman Cadet Alfred Armstrong. In addition to fighting other ships and submarines, the nuclear-powered BOISE is capable of launching up to twelve Tomahawk cruise missiles against shore targets located far inland from the sea.
On Friday, the Hurricane Navy experienced naval aviation and what it takes to train pilots joining the fleet as well as how many man hours are necessary to maintain a single F/A-18 Super Hornet, or “Rhino” as the pilots affectionately call them due to a noticeable protrusion on the jet’s nose. According to the maintenance team, 21 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight is typical. Lieutenants Nathaniel Beaudoin and Tim Walsh gave the cadets an informed tour of VFA-106 “Gladiators,” the Navy’s fleet replacement squadron for fighter-attack pilots. “The highlight of my trip was seeing the cockpit of an F/A-18 fighter and watching jets takeoff,” said freshman Cadet Matt Hood. Cadets saw many of the 67 aircraft, including an F/A-18F up close which carries an instructor and a pilot used to train new and experienced pilots alike before they ultimately join their operational squadrons. The cadets also observed flight operations at Naval Air Station Oceana from the Gladiators’ Ready Room where pilots “stand by” their planes getting ready to launch on mission. The Ready Room is similar to a club room complete with coffee and popcorn machines, cable television, and comfortable seating for awaiting pilots.
Finally, the Hurricane Navy rounded out their orientation trip by reflecting on the Navy’s heritage and history at the Nauticus Museum and Battleship Wisconsin in downtown Norfolk. Cadets were able to learn more about the anatomy and legacy of the battleship, experience the importance of maritime commerce, and learn more about what it takes for the Navy to be good stewards of the sea and protect marine life while fulfilling its mission. Sophomore Cadet Nathan Baucom greatly enjoyed touring the battleship and connecting with how sailors lived onboard. “The dedication it took to keep the ship at sea...plus the work they put in day and night to keep everyone safe was impressive,” said Baucom.
The highlight of the Nauticus visit was assembling all hands on the battleship’s foc’sle for a group photo, but more importantly to recognize four cadets whose efforts to participate and perform above and beyond their peers were worthy of early promotion. Specifically, Cadets Sam Eutlser, a junior, and Erika Fernandez, a freshman, from Powdersville High School, and Cadets Wynter Beigay, a sophomore, and Lex Pryor, a freshman, from Wren High School, were meritoriously promoted to their next higher cadet rank. Overall, it was a proud moment for many deserving cadets, and to promote them on the bow under the turret of a premiere battleship and naval legacy will be an exceptional memory.
Wren High School’s Naval Junior ROTC program is an accredited curriculum that emphasizes citizenship development, as well as our maritime heritage and the significance of seapower. Combined with cadets from Powdersville High School, the Hurricane Navy promotes Patriotism, develops informed and responsible citizens, and promotes high school completion by developing principled leaders who have a greater pathway toward future academic, civil, or military success. NJROTC does not recruit for the military nor is any cadet obligated to commit to future military service. The Hurricane Navy’s orientation trip is designed to expose cadets to many aspects of military life and naval operations. More information about NJROTC may be found at www.njrotc.navy.mil.
8 Nov, Wren Hurricane Navy Cadets on foc'sle of Battleship Wisconsin during Orientation Trip to Norfolk, Virginia