Carson City Sea Cadets Division promotes first female chief

The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps’ Carson City Division’s first female chief is driven to encourage her peers to excel, and she intends to lead by example.

“I want everyone to know we’ve always been constantly doing what the kids want and making it educational and motivating,” Hailee Whitten, Carson High School junior, said Monday. “I want them to understand this (program) has been a work in progress.”

Whitten has worked her way up through the ranks in the program as a seaman recruit, apprentice, petty officer third, second and first class and chief petty officer. She was required to pass exams and complete physical training as she progressed through the ranks.

She was promoted on Nov. 18 at St. Teresa of Avila School in Carson City, where she was able to select two family members or friends to join her for the pinning and she chose her grandfather Jerry Garrett and her mentor from elementary school, Michelle Wise-Bellard.

“She’s very intelligent and organized and she relates well with others,” her commanding officer, Lt. John Hannah, said.

Whitten hopes to attend medical school when she graduates from Carson. She’s already on track by taking Advanced Placement classes, participating in her school’s HOSA Future Health Professionals organization and working a part-time job at Black Bear Diner and participating in roller derby in her free time.

But she’s highly dedicated to helping her younger cadets develop their skills and interests and devotes more of her energy to her unit.

“It’s opened me up to opportunities to helping kids in the program,” she said, describing nearly six years of learning about herself and her peers as a cadet.

When Whitten first joined the Sea Cadets as a recruit, Hannah said she was shy, but she’s acting with more confidence and serving as a mentor to her peers.

“She’s able to handle herself with an aura of maturity she didn’t have before,” he said.

The Carson City Division’s Sea Cadets program has about 20 cadets in the 13- to 18-year-old age group. Hannah said he hopes it grows to about 25 and to enroll another 15 or 20 in the League Cadets for 10- to 13-year-olds, the middle school program.

Hannah, who founded the Carson City Division in 2013 after first observing Sea Cadets participating in a Virginia City Veterans Day Parade in 2012, said his own leadership has improved. He was a former Sea Cadet himself while in high school from 1983 to 1987. He then joined Navy as a nuclear field mechanical operator and now supervises the Nevada State Computer Center facilities.

He said he’s used his own experiences to help prepare these younger cadets between the ages of 10 to 18 for good citizenship, whether they choose civilian or military life.

“(The program’s) helped me out a lot when it came to my service in the Navy,” Hannah said. “It put me way ahead of the curve in terms of leadership and way ahead as far as ratings go. As an E3, it gave me a jumpstart as far as my peers went.”

Units have their own drilling schedule and training opportunities and can go anywhere in the U.S. to train. Volunteers and students are limited only by the amount it takes for parents to send their children if they were to stay on the U.S.S. Hornet, for example, to learn what it’s like to be a part of the Navy and live on a ship. Such trips can cost $150 for a full week of training, though some grants can help subsidize the total and ease the burden for families, Hannah said.

Carson City is self-funded and receives financial support from sponsors. The division encompasses Carson City, Minden, Gardnerville, Douglas County, Dayton and Washoe County. With two Sea Cadet units in Carson and Fallon, which does its drilling at Naval Air Station, Hannah said Northern Nevada’s program is growing, and it’s encouraging.

He said it’s important to have members like Whitten involved to help it expand.

“If a cadet has a problem, she can decide what’s best,” he said. “She has a pretty important role. Everybody’s pleased with her.”

Whitten, who previously had the nickname “Giggles,” said her new role has given her focus and is inspiring her to inspire others.

“It’s made me a lot more responsible,” she said. “I’m taking charge of a lot more in my own schoolwork and my personal life. I used to be lazy and not do anything as a kid. … But I’m trying to be better.”

For information about the Carson City division, go to


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