Every year, Highland NJROTC takes a spring trip to one of four Navy or Marine bases around the east coast: Pensacola, Quantico, Parris Island or Norfolk.
As of April 15, the unit completed their visit to the latter, Naval Station Norfolk, and returned to the school.
NS Norfolk is the largest naval base in the world and is home to many different types of ships, museums, trainers, and many more sailors and marines. This year, the unit was so fortunate to get to board CVN-73, the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.
Further, in a particular event which almost never happens, we were allowed a tour the day before they left port.
We, very luckily, were able to see a fairly new, still occupied vessel the day before they went underway, as the crew was preparing and packing everything away.
The Washington was only the first ship we were allowed to board. Later in the week we also took a trip downtown, outside of the naval station and to Hampton Roads Naval Museum where we explored one of only two remaining battleships in the USN fleet: the USS Wisconsin. The weather decks were open and we were allowed down below to the second deck. The Wisconsin is still part of the Naval Vessel Register and is a part of the so-called “mothball” fleet of old, decommissioned ships maintained and left in reserve for emergency reactivation when necessary.
Aside from ships, we were able to procure tours of winged aircraft squadrons the “Sea Knights” HSC-22 (helo), and the “Valions” VFA-15 (hornet). We able to get extensive views of their aircraft, insights into the weapons, navigation, and propulsion systems, and even some views into the cockpit of the classified F/A-18C Hornet (no pictures were allowed of that). Unfortunately, the Valions couldn’t allow us to sit in the cockpit, thanks to the live ejection seat, we did, however, take a trip over to the flight simulator where the pilots that fly those aircraft train. At that simulator we were allowed to sit in the cockpit. Each cadet was able to fly for around two minutes.
Being with JROTC is not all work, though. We did get to have quite the time in a Damage Control trainer, which simulates a sinking ship. Blasted with freezing water, the cadets needed to take what tools they could find and plug up the seemingly infinite number of holes around the room. The water level rose to about three feet, smoke was everywhere, the lights went out a few times, and every single cadet loved it. If that sounds too threatening, don’t worry. Later that week, the unit reserved an entire bowling alley and spent the evening knocking down pins, playing pool, and eating pizza. Not too bad for a week we’d normally spend in class.
But these trips are not only a fun way to get out of school and see neat things, they are also a fantastic opportunity for cadets to get to know one another and learn leadership and discipline. The younger cadets learned that sometimes they need to control themselves and be respectful of their peers and the uniforms they wear. As the trip went on, they became more and more thoughtful and really made the older cadets proud. The older cadets, in turn, learned that leadership isn’t “I’m better than you so listen to me.” It’s actually about being respectful to those cadets who look up to you, showing them integrity and discipline, and being the example they need to see. Overall, the trip taught everyone valuable lessons, showed them that a little PT won’t kill you (even if it feels like it might), and brought the whole unit even closer together.
NJROTC at the Norfolk base. NS Norfolk is the largest naval base in the world and is home to many different types of ships, museums, trainers, and many more sailors and marines