Jefferson City Sea Cadets unit celebrates 25 years

Raymond Ritchey, right, ties a 25th anniversary banner to a local Sea Cadet Corps' unit flag during a ceremony Sunday afternoon.

A local U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps unit marked its 25th anniversary Sunday, one of a handful of Midwestern units to exist for that long.

About two dozen members of the Thomas Jefferson U.S. Naval Sea Cadets gathered with their families at the Ike Skelton National Guard Training Site to mark the occasion. Several cadets told KRCG 13 they were interested in joining the U.S. Navy after they graduate high school and see the program as a good way to get to know how the Navy works. Victor Pruett said a recruiter recommended Pruett join the Sea Cadets after he asked if there were any clubs that could teach him the Navy's customs. He said his grandfather served in the Navy and he saw military service as a way to honor the veterans in his family.

Andre Whittaker and Raymond Ritchey, who have both been in the program for several years, said they enjoyed getting to learn skills and values they normally would not have learned otherwise. Whittaker said he wanted to become a biomedical engineer and was considering enlisting in the Navy.

Scott Thomas, the unit's former commanding officer and current executive officer, likened the program to test-driving a car. He said it gives young people a chance to get a taste of military life before deciding whether they want to commit to military service.

According to the program's official website, the U.S Naval Sea Cadet Corps was created in 1958 and received a federal charter in 1962. It is targeted toward young men and women ages 13 to 17 and includes about 9,000 members in more than 380 units nationwide. There is also a junior version, the Navy League Cadet Corps, geared toward people ages 11 to 13.