Navy Firefighters Teach Sea Cadets the Ropes

130608-N-CE356-005 DAHLGREN, Va. (June 8, 2013) Naval Support Faciilty (NSF) Dahlgren firefighter Matt Ellis shows Navy League Cadet PO2 Elijah White-Stansel how to tie a figure eight knot. The training was part of a monthly drill weekend for the Pentagon Division of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, which is hosted on NSF Dahlgren by Naval Support Activity South Potomac. (U.S. Navy photo by Andrew Revelos/Released)

06/26/13 12:00 AM

DAHLGREN, Va. -- The Pentagon Division of the Naval Sea Cadets Corps and Navy League Cadets Corps recently enjoyed demonstrations and interactive activities with Navy firefighters at Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren during a summer drill weekend.

The Pentagon Division is hosted by Naval Support Activity South Potomac at Dahlgren, where the unit conducts monthly training for the Sea Cadets, sometimes with direct involvement by military or civilian employees on the installation.

The Cadets spent their June drill weekend with NSF Dahlgren's fire department personnel, learning about ladders, hoses and ropes and as might be expected, had plenty of questions for the firefighters.

One group of cadets wondered what it was like to be inside a fire and whether or not firefighter broke down doors and windows very often. "If there's a legit fire, we'll bust out the windows," said Firefighter C. J. Newton.  "When we go in, we see nothing. When it gets like that, we ventilate [the burning structure] so it will cool down and so we can see better."

The Sea Cadets were not only responsible for paying attention, but also for retaining the knowledge they were presented. After a detailed look at a fire truck and its capabilities, Steven Brown, a former Marine who helps teach the Pentagon Division drill team, quizzed the cadets.

"How many gallons does the truck hold?" he asked. The cadets answered correctly. "Five hundred."
Cadets practiced rolling and unrolling hoses, which firefighters refer to as lines. Those lines have little in common with regular garden hoses and require draining and drying before they go into storage.

Brown wanted the cadets, as well as his daughter Faith, who was attending a Sea Cadet event for the first time, to understand the dedication and skill it takes to be a firefighter.

"I want them to have a little bit of exposure of what the fire department goes through, what their job entails," he said, during an interactive knot-tying demonstration. "The knots are something they could use to help another cadet during training. Tying knots, if they end up going into the Navy is one of the things they need to learn."

Firefighter Matt Ellis led the rescue knot-tying class. As he instructed cadets, they practiced tying the knots, which got progressively more complicated. Most were based on the figure eight: the figure eight on the bight, a double-looped figure eight and a bowline thrown in for good measure.

Airman 1st Class Mary Grace Ballaban, assigned to the 614th Air and Space Operations Center Detachment 1 at NSF Dahlgren, volunteers with the Pentagon Division and supports physical training. She was a quick learner when it came to knot-tying and patiently helped the youngsters along.

"I really love being with the kids," said Ballaban, who began working with the cadets last month after running into them in the chow hall. "I kind of got hooked."

Ballaban thought the knot-tying was very useful knowledge. "I think emergency training is useful in every branch [of the military]," she said.

As Ellis presented knots at the front of the classroom, Battalion Chief Tracy Hall offered the cadets pointers. Colin, who was attending his first Sea Cadet event, was perhaps a little over-confident after achieving quick success with the relatively simple figure eight. 

Hall helped Colin with the more complicated knots that followed.  "Dress it up," advised Hall.  "Clean it up so you can see if there's anything wrong with it."

When Colin figured it all out and tied the knot, Hall offered a victory fist bump. "Give me some knuckles," he said.
Colin used the classroom time to ask Hall a technical question, whether a fire hose was really powerful enough to throw a person around, as he'd seen on TV. Hall kept a straight face and offered a reply. "It's powerful enough to throw you around, fella," he said.
When the cadets finished up, Hall advised them to "practice, practice, practice" their knots.

It was all a rather enjoyable day of activities for Sea Cadet E3 Tiffany Ray, who came away with a greater understanding of firefighting. She hopes to one day attend the Naval Academy and become an engineer.

"I used to think firefighting was easier, but now I see all the procedures and stuff that goes into it," she said. I see it is more work than I thought. You think firefighting is all about fire, but you see there is more to it like knots and ladders and steps and procedures."

For Sea Cadet E2 Joseph Ammaturo, the activities were less of a surprise and more of a confirmation. "I always thought firefighting was pretty cool."

For more news from Naval Support Activity South Potomac, visit



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