Cadet Virginia Volpe, 14, of Austintown Jan. 8 was officially promoted to the rank of petty officer.
Volpe is a member of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets, Knighthawk Squadron, based at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.
"She's a fine example of a sea cadet, and I'm happy to help her achieve in her life's goals," said Lieutenant Cmdr. Douglas Cabarle, the Knighthawk Squadron commanding officer.
For Volpe, it all started during a sporting event she attended with her parents, Joseph and Nicole Volpe.
"I was at a Cleveland Browns game with my parents and I saw some female Army and Navy soldiers in their dress uniforms doing color guard during the national anthem." Volpe said. "I told my parents I wanted to do that. I saw some pictures on the internet from another sea cadet unit and showed my parents, and we searched and found that we had a local unit [at the Vienna air base] on the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets website ..."
The Knighthawk Squadron program is one of many across the nation that was established as part of the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Corps (USNSCC) association, which was established in 1962 and is the only federally-sponsored nationwide youth association within the Department of Defense.
The program is a federally-chartered nonprofit youth organization for young people, ages 11 through 17. The USNSCC is comprised of two units - a senior program, the Naval Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC) for ages 13 through 17, and a junior program, the Navy League Cadet Corps (NLCC), for ages 11 through 13.
The NSCC's mission is to give youth who have a desire to learn more about the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines a glimpse at naval life, to develop a sense of pride, patriotism, courage and self-reliance and to maintain an environment free of negative influences.
The NLCC strain cadets about the seagoing military services, community service, citizenship and understanding of discipline and teamwork so they are prepared for membership in the NSCC.
At the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, the Knighthawk Squadron were established July 2, 2008, and is in its ninth year. The local cadets meet once a month at the air base and travel two times a year to various training programs.
The cadets also can keep the rank they earn in the program if they decide to join the military at age 18.
"It's a fantastic program that not many people know about," Cabarle said.
Volpe can attest to the many activities and enjoyment a cadet gets from being a part of the Knighthawk Squadron. She started by completing her basic training at Camp Perry Military Base in Port Clinton, Ohio.
"It was hard and a challenge physically, but after it was over I was proud that I did it," she said.
Last year, she traveled to Fort Indiantown Gap military base in Pennsylvania and took the Sea Perch training program, where she built a remotely operated underwater vehicle, or ROV.
"I got to learn about then assemble the ROV in a classroom with other cadets from different units around the country," she said. "The best part of the training program was after we built the ROV we got to test them out in the water."
Volpe also attended Emergency Medicine Seminar training at Newport Naval Station in Newport Rhode Island. This training was academically challenging for Volpe with daily quizzes, a lot of notes and homework, and studying biology each day and night along with the usual physical training every morning. She graduated the course and is now cardiopulmonary resuscitation certified and can use an automated external defibrillator as well as administer first aid.
Volpe also is a member of the unit's color guard, and she and her fellow cadets recently got to perform at the Harlem Globetrotters game at Covelli Centre. They also march in a Memorial Day parade and many other public functions.
For the future, Volpe said she plans to enlist in the Navy and pursue a career as a hospital corpsman, or an enlisted medical specialist.
Cabarle said a lot of sea cadets choose to join the military. With their prior training as a cadet, they may be able to join at an advanced pay grade. This means that a cadet who enlists may be eligible for a higher rank and pay than his or her non-cadet counterparts, Cabarle said.
Cadets who choose to enlist in the military also tend to do better and stay in longer, Cabarle said. Each cadet who enters the armed services is a disciplined, well-trained individual who typically adjusts better to the rigors of military service than those with no experience, Cabarle said.
Volpe's parents believe their daughter's experience is a life-changer for the better.
"We are both very happy she joined the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps," Joe Volpe said. "On the very first day she joined she came home and told us she loved being part of the unit, and we have been supportive ever since. The program is fantastic, and we noticed positive change in our daughter almost immediately. She quickly learned respect, honor and commitment. She instantly became serious about learning and memorizing her 11 general orders and completing her BMR (Basic Military Requirements) assignments. A program like this can really help keep kids on the right path."
Volpe said she's already gained from her experiences with the Knighthawk Squadron.
"Sea cadets has helped me in school in many ways, such as making me more conscious about my grades, giving me confidence and determination to reach my goals and courage to stand up for things I believe in," she said.