SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE, Va. – Virginia Military Institute cadets got a taste of the tough job firefighters and sailors face.
In three days, 30 VMI cadets learned the ins and out of navigating the waters in a new program at Mitchell’s Point Marina.
By learning how to tie knots, call out safety commands and drive boats, the cadets got a taste of seamanship that 50 Smith Mountain Lake volunteer firefighters and naval members experience.
“It’s a whole new experience especially for some who have never been out there,” Smith Mountain Lake Volunteer Fire Department Chief Todd Ohlerich said.
The program was one of the coolest experiences, according to Alex Feher, a second-year cadet at VMI.
He aims to be a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy.
“To come out here and keep people safe, I have a lot of respect for the people that do that,” he said.
Feeling the water pressure coming out of the hose, Feher learned how to balance his weight as the boat swayed.
“When that turned on, it had a lot more impact on how the ship moved than I thought it was going to,” he said.
Normally, once a year, the cadets get to ride the tides in Norfolk, but the coronavirus pandemic put dents in those plans.
That’s why Lt. Emily Shrum, serving nearly seven years in the U.S Navy, said this tailored hands-on learning is crucial.
“So as we are here right now, I can quiz them and say this is what I meant,” Shrum, a naval science instructor, said. “This is what you will actually see and seeing that lightbulb go off is priceless.”
Sparking a new tradition, agency partners plan to offer the training again for cadets in the future.
“The next time they come out they are just going to get that much further ahead,” Ohlerich said.