By Debbie Adams
A unit of the Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) was officially established at William Byrd High School on Feb. 23, 2023. The Establishment Ceremony was conducted by the students in the WBHS Cadet Corps and attended by many dignitaries, with a great deal of pride on display.
The Navy established the NNDCC in 2008 and offers the program to qualifying secondary educational institutions. The program provides schools who do not qualify for a Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) unit (due to enrollment numbers) an opportunity to provide a similar program designed to expand students’ opportunities to gain the values of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment.
To host an NNDCC unit, the school must be approved by the Secretary of the Navy and enter into an agreement with the Naval Service Training Command. The Establishment Ceremony at WBHS signifies the partnership between the Navy, Roanoke County Public Schools, the WBHS Cadet Corps, and the Roanoke County community.
The Establishment Ceremony at Byrd modeled the commissioning ceremony of a U.S. Navy ship, full of iconic traditions, with remarks by dignitaries and the reading and presentation of the unit charter and guidon.
Guests, who included parents of the cadets, William Byrd students, veterans, military personnel, and others, were welcomed by Master of Ceremonies 1st Lt. Cadet ENS Cole Binner. He then introduced the official party individually with a Navy tradition, the Boatswain’s Call using a pipe and bell.
Members of the official party included William Byrd Naval Science Instructor Senior Chief David Perrin USN (Ret.,) NJROTC Area 5 Manager LCDR James Landis USN (Ret.), William Byrd Principal Tammy Newcomb, Career and Technical Education Director for Roanoke County Schools Jason Suhr, Roanoke County School Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely, and School Board Chairman Brent Hudson.
Once the official party was greeted and seated, the Corps Color Guard paraded the Colors, the national anthem was sung by Taylor Davis, and Cadet Chaplain ENS Noah Nicely delivered the invocation, followed by remarks from Principal Newcomb.
“William Byrd High School has a long-standing tradition for, and appreciation of, those serving in our armed forces, and I am honored to have so many here today representing our military,” Newcomb said. “Thank you for your service and for being here. William Byrd High School is honored to be the home of this new cadet corps. Programs like this are part of our school’s history and part of our culture. These cadets we have here today are student leaders and I’d like to congratulate each of them for accepting the challenge to join this new cadet corps.”
Newcomb introduced Jason Suhr, Director of the CTE, who “was instrumental in helping this new Navy National Defense Cadet Corps become a reality.”
Suhr said that establishment of the new NNDCC program at Byrd had been in the works for about two years and thanked the school board and Dr. Nicely for “encouraging and supporting the installation of the program.” He went on to thank LCDR Landis for his support and Newcomb and her staff for working with the Navy to “accommodate the program at WBHS.” He also thanked “fearless instructor retired Chief Perrin for his tireless efforts to ramp up the Navy program over the past year.”
Suhr noted that the program is available to students in all five county high schools, with bus transportation provided by the county.
“I look forward to observing the leadership development our students will learn and utilize as they progress through the Navy program,” Suhr said.
Cadet Binner continued with the Establishment Ceremony, saying, “In Navy tradition, the act of placing a ship in commission marks her entry into active Naval service. At the moment when the commissioning pennant is broken at the mast head, a ship becomes a Navy command in her own right and takes her place alongside other active ships of the fleet. The ship is staffed and is prepared for sea. Today, we will emulate that Navy tradition by establishing our unit and having our cadets and unit take its place alongside of other NNDCC and NJROTC units throughout the country.”
At that point, the company was called to “Fall-in” for the reading of the establishment letter by LCDR Landis.
Landis noted that there are 60 NNDCC units in Area 5 which includes Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. He reflected on the legacy earlier unit, established in the 60’s and 70’s, have left on students and communities—and the impact the new unit will have on the lives of cadets, future cadets and their own community. Landis noted that NNDCC units are established with the purpose of encouraging the core values of honor, courage, and commitment and that those will be incorporated into Senior Chief Perrin’s instruction as a significant part of the program.
The commander described the NNDCC as a citizenship development program based on a military model with a major goal of completing community service projects which make a positive impact on the local community.
Landis read the formal establishment letter and presented the scroll and unit guidon (company identification flag) to Cadet LCDR Katelin Patrick, Company Commander. She, in turn, presented the guidon to Unit Guidon Bearer Cadet Hector Garcia-Nunez.
The Armed Drill Team then performed the 16 Manual of Arms, a sequence used in the U.S. military, commanded by Cadet Jamie Rowlett.
School Board Chairman Brent Hudson spoke next, expressing his hope that the NNDCC program is a forerunner to establishing a full NJROTC program in Roanoke County Schools as enrollment grows. He noted that many military leaders started out in programs such as the NNDCC.
In his remarks, Dr. Nicely said, “It’s a new day for Roanoke County Schools,” and emphasized the importance of programs like the NNDCC in helping Roanoke County students become Opportunity Ready with deeper engaging purposeful learning in whatever field they choose to enter.
The program will use the school system’s C-Change Framework to teach students skills of collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and citizenship. Students will learn leadership skills invaluable in being successful in the military, the business world, or in community leadership, along with discipline and responsibility.
The superintendent noted that several years ago, William Byrd led the way in starting a JROTC program at the school. He thanked school board members, Suhr, Newcomb and her staff, and the Navy for their partnership in establishing the new program.
Nicely congratulated Chief Perrin on the inaugural group of student cadets and expressed his pride in them.
The Establishment Ceremony concluded with a “Pass and Review,” a formal, time-honored ceremony dating back to Civil War times. It honors the cadets’ hard work and dedication and renders honor to LDCR Landis and the other VIP’s in attendance.
Student cadets participating in the Establishment Ceremony included: Cadet LCDR Katelin Patrick, Company Commander; Cadet Lt. William Sloan, Company Executive Officer; and Cadet SCPO Zackery Charles, Company Senior Chief Petty Officer; along with First Platoon Cadets Cadet ENS Noah Nicely, Cadet ENS Vernon Ragnone, Cadet ENS Cole Binner, Cadet ENS Lenorah Garcia, Cadet PO3 Jamie Rowlett, Cadet SA Faith Carter, Cadet SA Hector Garcia-Nunez, Cadet SA Jamey Umberger, Cadet SA Devin Clark, Cadet SA Alexis Cook. Cadet SA Izabella Fleischer, Cadet SA Nancy McFalls, Cadet SA Holley Morehead, Cadet SA Andrew Murphy, and Cadet SA Elyse Rider; and Second Platoon Cadets Cadet ENS Mason Perdue, Cadet PO3 Mason Truslow, Cadet SA Dameon Gee, Cadet SA Shannon Armstrong, Cadet SA Trevor Robinson, Cadet SA Charles West, Cadet SA Terry Nolan, and Cadet SA Jordan Davila.
Cadets Robinson, West, Armstrong, and Perdue made up the Color Guard.
The Armed Drill Team included Cadets Rowlett (Drill Commander), Nolan, Ragnone, Garcia-Nunez, Umberger, Fleischer, Garcia, Clark, Agee, and Davila.
Other distinguished guests for the ceremony included Vinton Mayor Brad Grose, School Board members Tim Greenway, Cheryl Facciani, David Linden, and Mike Wray, Vinton VFW Commander Earl Baskett, Southeast Virginia AMVETS Commander Jeffery Fowler, and SMSGT. Paul Richardson.
William Byrd student Justin Patrick served as videographer for the event.