ACHS NJROTC visits Naval Station Norfolk (a return to ‘normal’)

ACHS NJROTC Commanding Officer C/LCDR Rilley Harkins showing off her extremely large piece of pizza from Dematos in Norfolk, Virginia.
Anderson County High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps usually takes a spring-break trip each year to a Navy or Marine Corps base to allow cadets to experience firsthand what military life is like and to give them an understanding of what sailors’ and marines’ daily life resembles.

The unit has visited Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida; Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia; Naval Base Anacostia, Washington, D.C,; Marine Corps Station, Cherry Point, N.C.; Naval Air Station, Mayport, Florida; Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida; and Naval Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The past two years the unit has been unable to make such trips due to COVID issues.

This year, the bases opened, and the unit took 26 cadets on their spring break to Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. Naval Station Norfolk is the largest naval base in the world, with the largest concentration of U.S. Navy forces through 75 ships alongside 14 piers and with 134 aircraft and 11 aircraft hangars.

The base houses the largest concentration of U.S. Navy forces in the world. Air Operations conducts an average of 275 flights per day or one every six minutes. It is the hub for Navy logistics going to the European and Central Command theaters of operations, and to the Caribbean.

ACHS NJROTC was berthed in the Sea Cadet barracks onboard Naval Station Norfolk from Monday, March 14, to Thursday, March 17.

ACHS NJROTC would begin the day at 6 a.m. reveille and ready for physical training each morning at 6:10 outside the barracks. PT was conducted each morning to get the cadets ready for their busy day ahead. Breakfast would be eaten at 7:15, and their day would begin.

The unit visited Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 40, which was commissioned on July 1, 1960, and is tasked with providing carrier onboard delivery services to the U.S. Navy’s Second, Fifth and Sixth fleets. VRC-40 operates the Gruman C-2A Greyhound aircraft and reports to Commander, Airborne Early Warning Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. The unit gave the cadets a personal tour of the aircraft and their workstations in their aircraft hangar.

The unit then visited Virginia Beach and played some “sock” football on the beach.

The Nauticus Museum featuring the battleship USS Wisconsin (BB 64) in Norfolk was also visited. The Nauticus is a maritime discovery center located along the waterfront in downtown, Norfolk, VA, offering a unique form of experiential learning for all ages. Through interactive exhibits and STEM to STERN programming, the Nauticus uses the museum, battleship Wisconsin, sailing center, and Schooner Virginia to tell the story of the maritime environment, industry, and the military. The cadets spent an entire afternoon exploring the museum and the battleship USS Wisconsin. Berthed at the Nauticus, the USS Wisconsin is one of the largest and last battleships ever built by the U.S. Navy. Cadets were amazed as they walked the teakwood decks of this historic ship that earned six battle stars in World War II and Korea. The USS Wisconsin fired the last naval gunfire support mission of the Gulf War, making her the last battleship in world history to see combat. The cadets also visited Assault Craft Unit Four onboard Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Virginia. The U.S. Navy Assault Craft Unit (ACU4) is equipped with the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) a class of air-cushion vehicle (hovercraft) used as landing craft by the United States Navy’s Assault Craft Units. The LCAC can transport weapons systems, equipment, cargo and personnel of the assault elements of the Marine Air/Ground Task Force both from ship to shore and across the beach. ACU4 gave the cadets tactical tour of the craft and answered questions the cadets had about the LCAC.

The cadets enjoyed a late evening ride along pier side to view all the ships that were currently in Norfolk.

It was a great opportunity for the cadets to see firsthand what is taught in the NJROTC classroom about Naval ships and the history of the United States Navy.

The evening hours consisted of playing softball onboard Naval Station Norfolk directly adjacent to the carrier piers where they are berthed while in port. The views of the ships in the evening were a perfect ending to each day. The cadets also enjoyed a night bowling at Pierside Lanes next to the naval piers in Norfolk.

The cadets ate their meals in the Naval Station galley (Ships’ Cabin) including breakfast, lunch and dinner. No cadets went hungry while on the trip, to say the least. Additionally, for lunch the cadets ate at Benny Dematos Pizza in Norfolk. Which featured extremely large pizza slices.

The unit is led by Commanding Officer, Cadet Lieutenant Commander Rilley Harkins, Executive Officer Cadet Lieutenant Commander Keith Chapman, Operations Officer and Cadet Lieutenant junior grade Kaylee Rutherford. The unit instructors are Major J. T. Young, USMC (Retired) and Chief Allen Davis, USN (Retired).