Much like adult men and women enter the military for training in various job fields, youths aged 101Ú2 up to 18 can gain experience to achieve career goals with a little help from the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
Lt.j.g. Robert H. Bledsaw, retired U.S. Navy, is the commanding officer of the Carson City Division of the Cadet Corps.
"This is the adventure of a lifetime," Bledsaw said. "I wish I knew about it when I was a kid."
The program is designed to instill leadership, cohesiveness, self-esteem, responsibility, and to help students follow their dreams. They are required to be enrolled in school, but they are not required to enlist in the military.
"We will help them find ways to get an $80,000 education," said David Treinen, commanding officer of the Reno Division and regional director of the program.
"It's not all free to the cadet," he said. "It will cost them hard work, they must stay in school, until graduation, and do well. We know not every kid is an A-plus student. But they should do well."
Treinen said the student can enroll in the military for six years in any field they choose. While enlisted, they will work at the skills job. When the enlistment is completed, they can earn a degree and, most important, work experience.
"We also have a course which allows a person to 'test' the waters to see where they may want to do something," Treinen said.
"There are 11 countries with an exchange program, including Korea, Japan and Australia, where they can learn a trade, in addition to a different culture and way of life."
Bledsaw, 39, is a former Navy hospital corpsman and a self-proclaimed "bedpan commando." He is also a pastor, volunteer coordinator at the Carson City Senior Citizens Center and the official piper for the Carson City Sheriff's Department.
He plans to visit area middle and high schools to talk with counselors about the program. He wants students to know what options are available for furthering their education and careers.
Bledsaw is looking for potential cadets. He can be reached on his cell phone at 720-1156 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on the sea cadet program can be viewed at www.seacadets.org.
"It only takes one kid to get started," he said. "Like the reserves, we ask for one weekend a month and two weeks of their summer off from school. During that two weeks, they may go on a commissioned ship or aircraft carrier and assist with the launching of aircraft from the deck.
"Can you imagine helping launch a jet that goes from 0 to 170 mph in 3 seconds?" Bledsaw said. "That's just awesome.
"We take kids from every walk of life, from single-parent homes, and get referrals from all kinds of people and groups. There's one kid in Reno from a broken home, and since entering the program has become an honor student. They also have an appointment to attend the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md."
"You have to be hungry and have heart to go a long way," Treinen said. "We want to help young men and women stay off drugs, out of gangs and get parents involved.
"We'll also need financial sponsors for the program to help pay for uniforms, training, books and printing of materials. This is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization. The cost to the cadet is about $75 in the first year for their uniform, insurance, ID card, ribbons and related incidentals."
The cadet program began in September 1962. After completing recruit training, cadets can train aboard small harbor craft to large, nuclear- powered aircraft carriers. Youth ages 101Ú2 to 13 are called "leaguers," ages 14-18 are called "sea cadets."
Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at email@example.com or 881-1223.