Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) police officers offered a special training session Apr. 14 to cadets from the Pentagon Division of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps (NSCC) and Navy League Cadet Corps (NLCC) onboard Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren. The group included 30 young people age 10 to 18, and even before the training session ended, the cadets announced the law enforcement training constituted the "best drill weekend ever."
The cadets' day began bright and early with a 0530 wakeup and a colors ceremony at the Aegis Training and Readiness Center (ATRC) at 0800. From there, the cadets marched to the base's JD's Conference Center, where they met NSASP police officers. After an introduction and safety brief, NSASP police chief Robert Brooks started the training session with an exercise that became very familiar with the cadets over the course of the day: push-ups, and lots of them.
If cadets did not keep count properly, the group did more push-ups. When one of the cadets' two squads did something better than the other, more push-ups were requested.
"It pays to be a winner," Brooks told the cadets.
But the rewards of victory were short-lived for the winning squad: when the losing squad assumed the push-up position, Brooks asked the winners if they were not on the same team as the losers. The message was quickly understood and the winning squad did the push-ups alongside the losing squad.
"[The cadets] have to work as a team or they'll fail," said Brooks. "One of the reasons we do so many push-ups is not as punishment, but to reinforce the idea of the team concept. No pack is stronger than its weakest wolf; no wolf is stronger than the pack. If you could summarize the theme of the training today, it's teamwork."
Virtual marksmanship training
Parents of middle and high school-aged kids may have been surprised to see the young cadets not only embrace such training, but also have a great time doing it. "The [police officers] were really nice," said Elizabeth Hayes, Sea Cadet and leading petty officer (LPO) for the Pentagon Division. "Normally, people are either too harsh or too easy with younger people, but they treated us just right."
Of course, having an idea about how cool the rest of the training day would be may have added to the cadets' incentive to perform. After the physical training (PT) session, cadets learned safe and proper weapons handling with simulated firearms before putting those skills to use inside NSASP's law enforcement training facility and virtual training simulator. An excited gasp came over the young people when the latter was described to them as a really "big video game."
At the simulator, the cadets practiced their marksmanship and form under the watchful eyes of Senior Chief Master at Arms Chris Merz, assistant chief of NSASP police, and Sgt. Steve Mullen.
Mullen was impressed by the smallest shooter at the Pentagon Division, 10-year old Hayleigh Mellinger. The young NLCC cadet took out nine simulated targets in seven and a half seconds with no misses.
"I guess big things do come in small packages," Mullen told a very proud Mellinger.
An older cadet, Caleb Bunde, impressed the police officers with his speedy and accurate shooting.
"You can tell he's been trained and trained correctly," said Mullen.
Bunde let everyone in on the secret: his father is a retired Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) tech who competes in United States Practical Shooting Association (US PSA) and International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) matches. The younger Bunde had clearly absorbed much of his father's knowledge.
"Video games" were only one part of the law enforcement training, however. Pentagon Division learned basic room clearing and entry techniques inside Building 217, where they practically fell over themselves to get a chance to swing the battering ram.
Learning about several night vision devices and how they help police officers navigate the darkness was another big hit with the cadets.
"I did like the night vision," said Hayes. "I thought that was cool. It was a little difficult to navigate but it wasn't that bad."
Hayes has participated in the Sea Cadets for four years and hopes to eventually join the Navy. "I want to do an ROTC program when I'm in college or Annapolis, if I can get in," she said.
Hands-on look at law enforcement
The NSASP police officers were happy to provide the hands-on look at their lifestyle.
"We like to, as a police department, train with all levels of the naval services, whether they're cadets or military [service members] or fellow police officers," said Brooks. "This is a great opportunity, especially with these young people, to introduce them to some of the basic tactical stuff that they may learn later on in their careers if they go into law enforcement or into the military."
Brooks and Mullen both emphasized how impressed they were with the young men and women of the Pentagon Division. "They are a very disciplined group of kids," said Brooks. "The ages range from 10 to 18, but you don't see the typical wandering attention spans. "
"The kids were very focused and I'm very impressed with that. I think they've done a great job with their attitudes and the learning curve, for that matter, was that of police officers I've taught at the academy."
"Watching these young people learn... it's awesome," added Mullen. "I was really impressed with their capability to learn and apply the knowledge immediately. And they don't have any bad habits or preconceived notions. They listened and they did great. I see potential in quite a few of them."
Corporals Randy Brown and Bryan Mason assisted Brooks, Merz and Mullen for the Sea Cadets' training. Pentagon Division executive officer, Ensign Teresa Crater, said the training made a very positive impact on the cadets.
"It's pretty special," she said. "There are a lot of things they have to do with paperwork and coursework and those are kind of boring. This is one of the [drill weekends] that's action-packed and they love it. They were up this morning at 5:30 and they were waiting to go."
Crater thanked the officers for their service and for the training.
"This could not be possible without them," said Crater. "They're giving up their time and their weekend to help these kids out... we can't thank them enough. It wouldn't happen without them. They have the knowledge, the skills necessary and they made a difference in 30 cadets' lives."