Cherokee cadets rendezvoused with the USS New York on Aug. 6 in Morehead City, N.C., to catch a ride on the ship’s final four days of a six month voyage as part of the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, which began on Feb. 7.
During the four day “Tiger Cruise” to their final destination at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, cadets lived the life of a sailor with full days of activities and training.
Upon their arrival, cadets were greeted by their sponsor, Electrician’s Mate Second Class David Byrd, a graduate of Cherokee and its NJROTC program who was stationed on the New York after his boot camp and Naval A School Training.
Each cadet was issued hearing protection, a schedule of events, name tag, water bottle, T-shirt and Personal Qualification Standards (PQS) to complete to earn their Tiger Warfare Pin.
Cherokee’s “Tiger Cadets” immediately went to work learning about the various officer and navy enlisted ratings and each sailor’s responsibilities aboard the ship.
The officers and crew kept the Tiger Cadets on a tight schedule, rising at 0600 (6 a.m.) for breakfast and getting around watch stations to get their PQS signed off before hitting their racks at 2200 (10 p.m.) for taps and lights out each night.
Some of the highlights of the cruise were the live gun exercise, during which sailors demonstrated the Bushmaster II 30mm close-in (CI) Cannon and the Browning M2 12.7mm (.50-caliber) heavy machine gun.
There were also demonstrations of the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) vehicles, which were taken to Virginia Beach during the Tiger Cruise.
Cadets also witnessed a refueling at sea (RAS) with the USNS John Lenthall, as well as damage control demonstrations during which Tigers performed live fire hose handling and learned about the different equipment and techniques used in the ship’s Damage Control Organization.
Each cadet also had an opportunity to try out the captain’s chair on the bridge as part of their PQS.
Among the cadets who participated in last week’s Tiger Cruise were Kendall Chamberlain, Jewel MacGregor, Elizabeth Massengill, Johnny Pearson, Kameron Sauceman, Christopher Seals, Gabriel Stowe, Andrew Villa and Heather Whitt.
“I learned a great deal of information from this cruise, like how a vessel refuels at sea to how the sailors and Marines on board interacted with each other,” Whitt said. "”Not only has this cruise been a fantastic experience, but it also inspired me to continue my dreams of becoming a naval officer.”
Chaperones for the trip included Cherokee Sr. Naval Sciences instructor Clyde Shumate and MIDN 1st Class Ashley Bowery.
“The officers and crew of the New York did a superb job explaining their role in the defense of our great country, and they truly embraced the Navy core values of honor, courage and commitment,” Shumate said. “Cadets and Tigers were in awe of the outpouring of support and happiness of the family, friends, relatives and Floridians gathered on the pier as they welcomed home their sailors and Marines for a job well done.”
Cadets who participated said they found the experience to be informative and inspiring.
“While being aboard the USS New York, I got to witness the lives of many sailors and Marines,” Massengill said. “They all worked long hours to insure that the ship and their fellow sailors remained in good shape. I got to see with my own eyes the things a U.S. Navy sailor does to ensure that our nation is safe. I was told how they had a burial at sea just a few days before all the Tigers embarked upon the vessel.”
Villa added, “The Tiger Cruise was a great way to realize all that the brave people in the military do for us. Going months without seeing their families and all the struggles they go through. Being able to experience all that in person has helped me a lot to love and respect the flag and America itself.”