By Jason O'Boyd, Staff Writer
Friday, December 28, 2012 —
If you’ve never heard of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps, chances are you’re probably not alone. But David Waln is looking to fix that.
Waln is Commanding Officer of the Gunslinger Squadron that’s based in Montgomery and Stanly counties. The program recently completed its first year and is looking to expand its base of participating individuals.
The program is actually broken down into two divisions: Navy League Cadet Corps is the junior cadet program for boys and girls ages 11-14. The Naval Sea Cadet Corps is for boys and girls ages 13-17.
“We have a Greensboro division, we have a Charlotte division, we have a Raleigh division,” Waln said. “We’ve missed a whole area right here for the opportunity to be here.
“Truthfully, the commander of the region didn’t believe we had a need for it but he went ahead and endorsed the program to start the Gunslingers squadron in the area.”
The Sea Cadets program also has units in Asheville, Camp Lejeune and Wilmington.
Waln has 14 years of active duty in the Navy, “something I wish I never got out of,” he said. When he’s not working as a corrections officer in Montgomery County, he visits middle schools in Stanly and Montgomery counties to show sixth, seventh and eighth graders the benefits of the program.
The group meets on weekends typically at Albemarle’s Waverly Skidmore VFW Post 2908, which is the group’s main site. They participate in a wide variety of drills and activities that are meant to teach the students discipline, leadership, courage and self-reliance in a drug, tobacco and gang-free environment.
“To me, it’s an all-around great program for the age range they have,” said Jason Brown, one of the volunteer instructors in the group. “I wish I had known about it when I was a kid.
“I’m new to the organization and he told me what he (Waln) does. I asked him if I could come out with him one weekend and I saw the kids and what they were doing. I actually enjoyed it. I’ve got four kids of my own and it was something I wanted to put my kids in.”
The Sea Cadets program is sponsored by individual Councils of the Navy League of the United States, a non-profit organization. It was created in 1958 by the Navy League of the United States at the request of the Department of the Navy. The Sea Cadets program earned non-profit organization status in 1962 and was amended in 1974 to allow female participation.
There are basic requirements students must meet in order to join and maintain status such as being drug free, maintaining at least a C grade-point average, having parental consent and being able to pay dues and purchase a uniform.
“My purpose for starting this program is there’s a major need for something like this,” Waln said. “One of the things that was said to me by one of the training officers in the Greensboro division is we’re Boy Scouts with an attitude.
“We don’t shoot BB guns. We’ll actually train cadets on live fire with real weapons. They learn how to clean the weapons, maintain the weapons and all the safety regulations. You don’t get that in ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps).
“There are advantages to ROTC, there are advantages to the Boy Scouts. There’s advantages to us.”
Waln said that five members of the program went to boot camp in Virginia Beach on June 23-July 7. There they participated in numerous activities and drills and were also paid a visit by members of Seal Team 6, the group that killed Osama Bin Laden.
“Here you’ve got a group of kids that not only saw them come out of the sky but also got to shake their hands and meet them,” Waln said. “It's a classified group and you can’t take pictures of them. But they stayed the whole weekend and we ate chow with them.”
Waln also spoke of a $180,000 scholarship program that participants can qualify for to go to college. It also has an exchange program to 13 different countries.
And if college isn’t an option for a participant, a Sea Cadet can immediately enter the military and have a jump over those who would just be entering.
“If you want to get into college, you’re in a great program,” Brown said. “They offer a scholarship program, apply for it. It’s one of your chances to go to college.
“If you want to go into service, you are doing all the courses so that when you go into the Navy, when you go into the Coast Guard, you don’t have to re-take those courses because you’ve already done them. So you have a little bit of knowledge of what you need to know.”
For more information on the organization, you can visit seacadets.org and click on “Find A Local Unit.” You can also contact Waln at email@example.com.