Peninsula School District Receives Approval for Naval Cadet Program

The junior officer program will expose students to the rigors of training and demands of service, and could provide a boost to those entering the service after high school.

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The Peninsula School District is moving forward with plans to offer the Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) program at Peninsula High School in 2021.

The Peninsula NNDCC was given the go-ahead from the Navy in April after an evaluation process. “We showed how we can meet expectations for space, scheduling, instructors, and serve the number of students required to maintain the program,” said Erin O’Neill, executive director of College, Career and Life Readiness at PSD.

The Navy supplies curriculum and some equipment for the Corps, but instructor salaries and operational expenses are paid for by the school. PSD hopes to control expenses where they can by working with existing resources.

“We have started partnering with other established units as well as our Navy NDCC area manager,” O’Neill said. “This will help in the acquisition of uniforms and equipment as our neighboring units acquire new ones from the Navy.” PSD leaders are also seeking to take advantage of the strong military presence in the Puget Sound.

“We are hoping to interact with all of our local military partners so that students can see careers in action,” she said.

Establishing a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program of some kind in the district has been one of the main goals of recently-elected school board member Natalie Wimberley.

“It’s something that I felt was missing when we came here,” Wimberley said in a 2019 KP News interview. PSD’s press release describes Wimberley as a “key member” of the effort to bring NNDCC to PHS.

“The cadet corps will provide our students with opportunities to lead our community through a variety of ceremonial and volunteer events, exemplifying the values of service and belonging to something greater than the sum of its parts,” Wimberley said in a statement.

The NNDCC focuses on topics similar to those of other training programs: physical fitness, drill, ceremony and service branch-related instruction. Course subjects include oceanography, naval history and seamanship. Instructors are retired Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard personnel certified by a Navy board. NNDCC members who choose to pursue a Navy career are eligible for pay increases depending on their number of years in the program. The cadet corps’ senior naval science instructor can also nominate up to three students for consideration for the U.S. Naval Academy.

NNDCC will be available to high school students 14 and over and is currently scheduled to begin in the 2021-22 school year. The program will offer four course levels; PSD will start with the first level and add another each year. Between 50 and 100 students are expected in the initial year. The program will be hosted at PHS, but will be open to all eligible students within the district.

The NNDCC was established in 2011 for schools that do not qualify to offer Naval JROTC. The programs are functionally identical, but NNDCC programs are funded by the host school rather than by the Department of Defense. The number of JROTC programs that the Navy can support is limited by their available funding, and applications are kept on file until the Navy decides to expand. NNDCC, while still subject to a review process, offers schools the chance to get a JROTC-like experience off the ground without having to wait for federal funding to become available.

Although the NNDCC funding comes primarily from the school district, opening the program also gives PSD a chance of converting to a full-fledged NJROTC and obtaining more extensive government backing. “If another program closes, we may have the option of becoming one and with that comes additional financial support,” O’Neill said.