High school senior makes chief petty officer

Seventeen-year-old Cody Blackshear receives his cover from Chief Petty Officer Gayle Marino as a symbol of progression from junior to senior enlisted. Cody was being promoted to chief petty officer within the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, located at March Air Reserve Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt Amy Abbott, 452 AMW/PA)

Seventeen-year-old Cody Blackshear receives his cover from Chief Petty Officer Gayle Marino as a symbol of progression from junior to senior enlisted. Cody was being promoted to chief petty officer within the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, located at March Air Reserve Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt Amy Abbott, 452 AMW/PA)

Carole Glovak pins chief petty officer insignia on her son Cody Blackshears collar assisted by Senior Chief Petty Officer Craig Cook.  Cody was being promoted to chief petty officer within the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, located at March Air Reserve Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt Amy Abbott, 452 AMW/PA)

Carole Glovak pins chief petty officer insignia on her son Cody Blackshears collar assisted by Senior Chief Petty Officer Craig Cook. Cody was being promoted to chief petty officer within the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, located at March Air Reserve Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt Amy Abbott, 452 AMW/PA)

Cody Blackshear shakes hands with various other chief petty officers after being promoted to chief petty officer himself, but within the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
Cody was being promoted to chief petty officer within the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, located at March Air Reserve Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt Amy Abbott, 452 AMW/PA)

Cody Blackshear shakes hands with various other chief petty officers after being promoted to chief petty officer himself, but within the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps. Cody was being promoted to chief petty officer within the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, located at March Air Reserve Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt Amy Abbott, 452 AMW/PA)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- Cody Blackshear is 17 years old, a high school senior and, on Saturday, just became
a chief petty officer.

No; not in the actual Navy, but in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps during a ceremony
conducted at the Navy Operational Support Center here. Nonetheless, to Cody, it was
just as significant.

"This is a huge milestone. Until now, I couldn't even talk. This has been beyond words," Cody said.

After the invocation, a special Chief Petty Officer's Creed that had been modified for the sea cadets was read. Cody's mother, Carole Glovak, and Senior Chief Petty Officer Craig Cook, pinned chief petty officer insignia on Cody's collar. Though he does not wear the actual rate, the chiefs thought it was a symbolically fitting act to include in the ceremony. Chief Petty Officer Gayle Merino, a regional director for the Sea Cadets, then placed the traditional cover on Cody, signifying the promotion from junior enlisted to senior enlisted.

"The ceremony was a lot more than I thought it would be," said Cody. "I joined (the
Sea Cadets) because I wanted a jumpstart on something patriotic before I join the military.

I joined to have fun and ... I went farther than I thought I would."

Cody is part of the Point Divide division and, in the past 15 years, he is the first cadet from his division to progress to the rate of chief petty officer. In order to be promoted, the cadets have to have six months within grade and complete a wide range of course work - the same course work that is done by actual enlisted members. As cadets progress within the chain of command, the requirements get harder, making petty officer third class (E-4) the average rate cadets complete.

For Cody, who has been a Sea Cadet for five years, his training was much more extensive than simply reading books and answering questions. The division drills at March alongside the traditional Navy reservists and active duty contingents. So, in order to make it a fully encompassing learning experience, Cody was required to petition the help of other real Navy Chiefs.

"The chiefs made it harder as well as realistic," he said. "I had to ask them for help and to pick their brains. One of your goals is to learn that you can't just rely on yourself."
In the early afternoon on Saturday, those chiefs, along with other cadets, military members, f r i e n d s and family, g a t h e r e d together at the Navy Operational Support Center for his promotion. And just as the chiefs had taken him under their wings, both helping and challenging him along the way, they saw it fitting to hold a traditional ceremony, honoring him like an actual chief.

"The chiefs here decided to put the ceremony on, since they had trained him. They also took him into their mess hall earlier and gave him 'guidance,'" said Sea Cadet Ensign Tom Blackshear, operations officer for the Point Divide division and Cody's father. "This takes a certain type of person. Cody is a very good boy and he's dedicated. He puts on his uniform and I can see he's grown up."

Though Cody put in a lot of hard work to get where he is, fun is still included. Two years ago, he had the opportunity to travel to the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. and he has participated in two different medical training courses.

The cadets get exposure to a variety of career fields the Navy and Coast Guard offer, to include everything from SEAL to legal to weapons training. They also have overseas exchange programs with other nations Sea Cadets, or similar organizations, in countries as far reaching as Russia, Australia and Bermuda. Cody's twin sister, a petty officer first class in the division, recently went to Scotland as part of the program.

"It teaches them honor, courage, commitment and then self respect on top of that," said Mr. Blackshear. "They come here as good kids and the program reinforces that."

Almost three years ago, Mr. Blackshear attended a boot camp with Cody. There he said he saw something he had never witnessed before - 200 kids being respectful and behaving.

"It was a complete revelation to me that they were actually doing what they were told. You do not get that in regular life. That is why I like the Sea Cadets. I get to help kids do the right thing with their life," Mr. Blackshear said.

For now though, Mr. Blackshear is simply reflecting on his son, who he said worked very hard to get to where he is. And as for Cody, he has already learned the first lesson in leadership - to not be afraid to ask for help.

"This made me feel very significant. They were taking their time off for a kid," said Cody. "I can't thank the chiefs enough for what they have shown me about the real Navy. I can't even scrape the surface of what they go through, but they painted me a great picture."