On Sept. 25 to 27, the West Lincoln High School Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC), the “Rebel Navy,” conducted its first orientation visit to numerous Navy commands in Norfolk, Va.
After a long bus trip to Norfolk, 18 curious “Rebel Navy” cadets began their trip with a hard-to-get tour of the USS ALBANY (SSN-753), a Los Angeles class attack submarine. The cadets were surprised at how much equipment and power were packed in a vessel this size. Space is at a premium, and the cadets were impressed at the capabilities of the USS ALBANY and the sacrifices and hardships the crew of a submarine endures.
On Thursday, the first stop was the Assault Craft Unit FOUR at Little Creek Amphibious Base. This unit is home to the Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC), a very large and impressive landing craft capable of carrying the largest M-1 tank or other vehicles and Marines from ship to shore at speeds up to 40 knots. The cadets received an in-depth tour and explanation of the LCAC’s mission and capabilities.
The next stop was Assault Craft Unit TWO at Little Creek, where the cadets were treated to a tour of Little Creek harbor on a LCM-8 landing craft. This included a safety brief, life jackets and a “fish-eye” view of the ships moored in the harbor.
After lunch, the cadets visited Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 (HSL-26). After an informative welcoming brief by the Commanding Officer, the cadets learned about the squadron and the SH-60B Seahawk helicopter and its many missions.
The final stop was the USS MAHAN (DDG-72), a guided missile destroyer recently returned from an eight-month overseas deployment. The cadets were given an in-depth tour of this impressive and modern warship and its varied mission capabilities. The USS MAHAN is one of the most potent ships in the world. The cadets learned about naval weapons, navigation, seamanship, damage control and ship command and control.
On Friday, the cadets visited the Farrier Firefighting Center, where they learned about firefighting and damage control. After an extensive briefing on techniques to save a damaged ship, they dressed for a hands-on opportunity to save the damage control trainer, the USS BUTTERCUP, from sinking. Simulated battle damage included broken pipes, holes in the ship, damaged doors, etc. Everyone got wet and tired, and they gained a true appreciation of the difficulty our Navy sailors will have in actual combat. This experience was a highlight of their trip to Norfolk.
One last stop was Old Dominion University in Norfolk. The cadets received a detailed brief about Navy ROTC and the opportunities offered by a Navy scholarship. They also toured the campus to get an up-close view of a major college campus and the many programs offered by ODU.
Next stop: Lincolnton. The cadets experienced an awful lot in a short time, a long way from home. This opportunity to see what the Navy and college has to offer was educational, exciting and fun. The next orientation field trip will be to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., where the cadets will live from a Marine Corps perspective.