Learning without landlines

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SEATTLE — It’s 9 a.m. on a Monday morning.

Lockers slam in high schools across the country as thousands of students shuffle to class.

But for a small group of students at Bremerton High School, the day begins a little differently.

Today, they are earning a sea cruise award ribbon.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael S. Sheahan, a boatswain's mate assigned to Coast Guard Cutter Sea Devil, an 87-foot patrol boat attached to Coast Guard Maritime Force Protection Unit Bangor, Wash., explains how to operate the cutter's on board weapons system to a group of Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets from Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Wash., while underway in Puget Sound, March 24, 2014. The Sea Devil and its sister ship, Coast Guard Cutter Sea Fox, were established to assist the Navy in providing security for U.S. Navy Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarines transiting in the vicinity of their homeport of Bangor, Wash. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael S. Sheahan, a boatswain’s mate assigned to Coast Guard Cutter Sea Devil explains how to operate the cutter’s on board weapons system to a group of Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets while underway in Puget Sound, March 24, 2014. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer.

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Sea Devil partnered with the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps unit at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Wash., to provide a daylong underway field trip aboard the cutter.

The NJROTC program, established in 1964, now has more than 600 units, including seven overseas. More than 75,000 students participate each year. The curriculum, taught by retired naval military personnel, includes instruction on citizenship, naval history, navigation, seamanship, leadership and physical fitness.

“The program teaches kids how to be good citizens, more than anything else,” said retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Gary Brooks, NJROTC instructor at Bremerton High School. “It teaches them how to be respectful of their communities and respectful to adults.”

The crew of the Sea Devil enjoyed hosting the students and sharing their knowledge of all things nautical.

“We train for such a unique mission set,” said Chief Warrant Officer John D. Rice, commanding officer of the Sea Devil. “It’s nice to be able to get out and do normal Coast Guard missions.”

The Sea Devil and its sister ship, Coast Guard Cutter Sea Fox, are assigned to Coast Guard Maritime Force Protection Unit Bangor in Silverdale, Wash. They are manned by Coast Guard crews, but owned and outfitted by the Navy.

“Our partnership with the Coast Guard has been wonderful,” said Brooks. “It’s tough, even in a Navy town, to get the students underway.”

Once aboard the cutter, students watched the crew remove the brow and cast off lines. They got a tour of the decks and crew living spaces, and witnessed a demonstration of the cutter’s on board weapons system.

Rice assembled all the students on the bridge and quizzed them on their Coast Guard knowledge. Students asked questions about the vessel’s limitations and stability in rough seas.

“The kids love coming out to see any branch of service,” said Brooks. “They see things other kids don’t get to see.”

The cruise ended in a demonstration of damage control equipment and shipboard firefighting gear. Members of the crew helped students dress in firefighting ensembles and connect to self-contained breathing apparatuses.

About 40 percent of all NJROTC program graduates enlist in the military following high school graduation, while about 58 percent pursue post-secondary education, including ROTC programs and military service academies.

No matter what they decide to do after graduation, Rice and his crew are proud to have had the opportunity to host the group of students.

“It’s nice to work with NJROTC when we can,” said Rice. “We jump at the chance to show off the ship. We look forward to doing this again.”

When the NJROTC students returned to school that afternoon, they had a few more stories to tell around the lunch table about the Coast Guard, shipboard life and what it means to serve.

Click the photo for more from the cruise

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