LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The Starks Fire Department was busy holding training sessions throughout the day on Saturday.
However, this training was not geared towards current firefighters, but future ones. They’re all a part of the U.S. Navy Sea Cadets, training in all different forms of military and service.
“This is a youth program designed to give kids a taste of what it’d be like in the military," Caleb Stegall said. "We are hardcore on the navy core values, we teach the sailors creed.”
Stegall has been in the program since he was 12 years old, with the goal of going into the Navy after he graduates college.
“There’s training for just about anything you want to do in the navy," Stegall said. "There’s all sorts of medical training, there’s coast guard training.”
While it does prepare you for the military if that’s your goal, Commanding Officer Shannon Cox said the real purpose is to prepare youth for whatever they end up doing in the future.
“It gets them ready for a lot of things,” Cox said. “Life itself. If they want to have a job with the fire department, we’re doing this right here. So, it’s not just military. It’s anything that they may want to do.”
The Sea Cadets drill two Saturday’s a month for six to seven hours, and this week’s training exercise was with Ward Five Fire District One.
Fire Chief Harold Edgington said getting a glimpse into the life of a volunteer firefighter teaches lessons far beyond just putting out a blaze.
“You’ve got your normal life activities, where you’ve got your own job providing for your family, and then in the middle of the night, 12 o’clock, one o’clock, you get a call to go out and assist somebody in a car wreck, or a house fire," Edgington said. "It requires a lot of time and dedication.”
It’s experiences like this with the Sea Cadets that Stegall said have grown him into the man he is today, ready for whatever life throws at him.
“It changed my life," Stegall said. "I used to be one of those shy quiet kids that didn’t say a word, and now just a few weeks ago, I gave a speech in front of our recruit training graduation. So it can change your life, and it will change your life for the better.”
If you’re interested in being a Sea Cadet, you can learn more about the program here.
Cox said they accept youth ages 10 to 18, and little to no prior experience is required.
Edgington also said their fire department is always in need of new volunteers.