USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) - Nine Sea Cadets from the Naval Sea Cadet Corps are underway aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) from Jan. 3-20 to experience life on an aircraft carrier.

The Naval Sea Cadet Corps is an organization for youth who want to learn new skills and gain confidence while aboard Navy and Coast Guard ships.

Founded in 1958, it is run by an all volunteer force and supported by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. Sea Cadets range from ages 13 to 17, with a junior program for adolescents ages 11 to 13.

Sea Cadet Seaman Vincent Andersen, from Sacramento, Calif., has been a Sea Cadet for three years. He joined at the age of 13 at the recommendation of his parents.

"One day, my parents were pretty angry with me," said Andersen. "They said that they were going to send me to a military school. That's when they found the Sea Cadets. At first I thought it was going to be horrible, but the first day I went, we had a shooting day. We had M16s, M4s and we actually had a .50-caliber sniper rifle."

Sea Cadets usually meet one or two weekends a month. During that time, they receive training on anything from diving to firefighting.

"I've done search and rescue training, amphibious warfare training, and I'm waiting to go to SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) training," said Andersen. "You get to see all different parts of the Navy, like on this underway."

Only a few Sea Cadets were selected to go on the underway aboard Ronald Reagan. Andersen volunteered, then later found out he was chosen. In order to qualify, the Sea Cadets had to be able to take time off from school and get the approval of their unit's commanding officer.

Once aboard, each Sea Cadet was assigned to a different department, like Engineering or Supply. The Sea Cadets learn everything about that department. They receive hands-on training from the Sailors, and they even participate in drills.

Anderson is assigned to the Deck Department, where he has experienced everything from standing watch to steering the ship.

Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Jordan Springer is one Deck Department Sailor who's been helping Andersen along while he is on board.

"He usually comes up on watch with me," said Springer. "We're getting him all signed off on his helm and lee helm PQS (personal qualification standards)."

Andersen is also getting qualified as a look out and line handler. He's also been able to observe an underway replenishment and boat operations. Deck Department is ensuring Andersen has a truly unique experience.

"Here on the ship, it's hard to get as much sleep as you want," Andersen said. "You go to watch and then you go to work."

While underway, Andersen's been keeping busy and learning, but some crew members are also learning from him.

"It's fun to see their faces about the things we do every day that we take for granted," said Springer. "You see how much they enjoy doing it. We go through the same routine every day. I've learned to appreciate what I do and know that I've got a better job than most people sitting behind a desk all day."

Andersen, now 16, has experienced a lot for his age. He's looking forward to putting everything he's learned to good use.

"I want to be an officer in the Navy," said Andersen. "Once my Sea Cadet career is over, I want to go to the U.S. Naval Academy."

Ronald Reagan is currently underway preparing for an upcoming deployment.

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