Winter Garden resident Jared Fairchild, 17, recently was promoted to chief petty officer, the highest cadet rank attainable, with the United States Naval Sea Cadets.
“It was weird, because it felt like the time just flew on by,” he said of achieving the honor. “I was just happy the whole time.”
Fairchild joined the Wolverine Division, based in Monroe, Michigan, when he was 13 years old as a Navy League Cadet. He and his family then moved in 2019 to Florida, where he joined the Ocoee-based Lone Sailor Division.
Both divisions are part of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, a national youth leadership development organization that promotes interest and skill in naval disciplines. In doing so, members learn strong moral character and life skills through leadership and technical programs modeled after the Navy’s own development system.
Larry Reinhart, Lone Sailor Division commander, said there are currently three chief petty officers in the division; Fairchild is the newest one. Command Chief Olivia Schwab and Operations Chief Alessia Velasquez are the other two CPOs of the division.
Fairchild’s parents, Tara and Scott Fairchild, were in attendance at the promotion ceremony, as well as his brother, Devin, who is also a part of the Lone Sailor Division as a sea cadet, and his grandparents, Travis and Ginny Fairchild.
“There’s a program for all of the cadets when they get promoted to chief,” Reinhart said. “Jared’s parents pinned the anchors to his lapels and then, Chief Schwab, who is my command chief, placed his chief pin on him. That was part of the ceremony (and it) symbolized he is now part of a brotherhood of chiefs.”
Prior to become a chief petty officer, cadets have to complete Petty Officer Leadership Academy. They are then able to start staffing trainings, which places them in in charge of cadets at different camps, such as recruit training, MAA, scuba diving, among others.
After that, the cadets go through a leadership training course. Cadets have to complete a staffing of two recruit trainings — once as a petty officer second class and the second time as a petty officer first class. Once that’s done, the cadets are submitted to become a chief petty officer.
“In addition to that, you have to also earn that title,” Reinhart said. “So there has to be a lot of respect among the cadets and the officers within the unit that that person really is the future leader, being as an adult or as a teenager.”
One of the main hardships Fairchild had to overcome during his years at the Lone Sailor Division was his shyness.
“I know that as I went through my time in the program I just bloomed, and kind of came out of my shell,” he said.
Fairchild has participated in many training opportunities during in the past three years, such as master at arms, marine science, equine veterinary and recruit training at Great Lakes, where he coached in coordination with actual U.S. Navy recruits. He also has been able to give back while serving multiple times as a leadership staff cadet. During the Christmas break in 2021, Fairchild attended Camp Geneva in Fruitland, Florida, where he acted as staff lead petty officer for the Navy League Cadets orientation training. At this orientation, Fairchild was able to lead the next generation of cadets.
“It was difficult, because they were the younger ones, they were 10- to 13-year-olds,” he said. “And of course their minds were wandering and racing everywhere. … I learned there’s a lot of different ways to teach them, because they are young and you have to treat them a lot different than one of the 14- or 15-year-old recruits coming into the program.”
Reinhart said Fairchild is deserving of his new rank.
“He is a very understanding person, he commands through setting the correct standard,” he said. “He doesn’t yell, he sets the expectation, and he exemplifies it. It’s the way he dresses in his uniform, it’s the way he commands himself, and by doing so, he allows the other cadets to follow his path. … He doesn’t have to yell at them in order for them to do things. He just says this is what we are doing and how we are doing it, and the cadets — they understand what he’s saying.”
Fairchild currently has under his command both the League Cadets (ages 10 to 13) and the Sea Cadets (ages 14 to 18).