Former Chamber director prepares youth for U.S. Naval Cadet Corps

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Warren Savage Jr., former executive director of Santee Chamber of Commerce, is busy now schooling young people on skills necessary for the maritime services with the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps.

A jack of all trades, Savage has been a volunteer firefighter and instructor, as well as being a civic leader and advocate for Santee.

A commissioned naval officer for 20 years with 36 years service in the Naval Reserve, Savage’s military record includes four years on active duty.

Warren Savage Jr., former executive director of Santee Chamber of Commerce, is busy now schooling young people on skills necessary for the maritime services with the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps.

A jack of all trades, Savage has been a volunteer firefighter and instructor, as well as being a civic leader and advocate for Santee.

A commissioned naval officer for 20 years with 36 years service in the Naval Reserve, Savage’s military record includes four years on active duty.

But these days Savage finds himself tasked with being national president of the Cadet Corps, a federally chartered training program for youth ages 11 to 17 who train with the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and other military organizations. In that capacity, Savage oversees an organization comprising almost 400 units and 12,000 students and mentors nationwide.

“We bring young people in no matter what their situation is, even those with disabilities, and educate them in the maritime services giving them military training and discipline,” said Savage, adding the program isn’t just for those pursuing military careers, though the Navy classifies those completing the program as E-3s when they hire in.

“Our big thing is to try and give them the opportunity to develop an interest and ability in seamanship skills, let them know about citizenship, build strong moral character,” said Savage of the Cadet Corps purpose. “We also emphasize the real advantages of leading an alcohol- drug-, and gang-free lifestyle in the environment we train them in.”
Savage said Cadet Corps instructors, unlike himself, are not all military or ex-military.

“Most of them are parents, some are educators, they’re all people who are interested in maritime services,” he said adding, “All are volunteers, nobody is paid.”

Much like the Boy Scouts, Cadet Corps units meet on weekends, frequently spending time training at military bases or in local high schools.

The Naval Sea Cadet Corps, noted Savage, is a good way for youth to become acquainted with the military maritime services and test whether that is a career direction they’d like to choose. He said training curriculum emphasizes STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
“We’re really trying to help young people put together a path and plan their future,” he said.
Though he retired in June 2011 as Santee Chamber’s executive director, Savage remains active as a director.

Despite the lingering effects of the economic recession, he’s encouraged by the new business development taking place in Santee.

“We have new businesses opening all the time,” said Savage, counting In-N-Out Burger and Chick-fil-A among the new entries.

Savage is particularly pleased with the way Santee’s Town Center has grown and matured, something he had a hand in guiding when he was chamber director.

“I can remember when it was a rock in the middle of a field where the trolley line came through. Now it’s a (full-blown) town center and it’s doing very well,” he said.

One negative development though, Savage noted, is the expansion of the Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility in the center of Santee, now under construction, which is tripling the size of the facility from 15 to 45 acres.
“We (chamber) were not in favor of it at all feeling it would take away from the economic engine in the center of town, but the county voted in favor of it,” he said.

Nonetheless, Savage said Santee has a deserved reputation as a wholesome community to live, work and play in.
“When it comes to being sports-, family- and community-oriented, this is the place,” he said. “We’ve got a great elected group, and a great group of people who work for the city and the community.”
Santee has a solid economic base with which to build for the future.

“We have something like 125 to 130 national businesses in our community and growing,” said Savage, pointing out, “The big thing in our community is pulling together. We’ve been pretty fortunate,” he concluded.