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Saturday Promotion Ceremony Features Top Honor For Cadet
Newly pinned as a Chief Petty Officer, Escalon teen Ben Millard, left, received the new rank insignia from his mother, Elizabeth, right, during a special promotion ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 26 at Hogan-Ennis Park. He then presented her with the bouquet of flowers seen in the foreground. Marg Jackson/The Times

Escalon High School junior Ben Millard was promoted to the highest rank possible in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet program on Saturday, Sept. 26.

In a pinning ceremony hosted at the city’s Hogan-Ennis Park, Millard was promoted to Chief Petty Officer, signifying his entry into the elite officer corps.

Receiving his new rank insignia, pinned on by his mother Elizabeth, the ceremony was overseen by Lieutenant JG Nicholas Millard, his father, who serves as Commander for the Modesto unit of the Sea Cadet program. That unit is known as the Night Stalkers and they operate out of the California Army National Guard Armory in Modesto.

They had been meeting virtually during the pandemic but during the summer gathered with a Stockton unit for training at the park adjacent to the Community Center and, on Saturday, gathered again for the promotion ceremony.

Several other members of the unit received awards and certificates for completion of a variety of training programs and achievements.

“This is what these cadets work so hard for,” said Commander Millard, as he presented the awards.

Family members were invited to attend the proceedings but had to adhere to social distancing guidelines and many also wore face coverings, though the ceremony was outside.

“This is why you invest the time in to them and this program,” Millard said to family members gathered, indicating the Sea Cadet training lays the groundwork for later success as adults, instilling core values in participants.

He also said the chief pinning ceremony “is rare” and is comparable to achieving the Eagle rank in Boy Scouts. It takes time, dedication and plenty of hard work to get there, he noted.

Ben Millard has been involved with the program for more than six years, At EHS, he does cross country, plays golf and is involved in the FFA. When students are able to return to campus, he would like to start a club for those interested in joining the Sea Cadet program.

He said he got involved because of his desire to become a U.S. Navy pilot in the future.

The program is designed for those from 10-years-old to graduating high school and it is sponsored by the US Navy. Those ages 10 to 13 are Navy Leaguers while the older participants are the Sea Cadets; all work to achieve rank and learn leadership skills.

The younger Millard had been a Petty Officer First Class prior to his promotion to the Chief Petty Officer level on Saturday.

Dad Nicholas introduced Elizabeth for the pinning, explaining that she has spent the last six years “every summer and winter break” making sure her son got to the airport and on the plane as he traveled to attend training and then picked him up at the airport when he returned home.

“I didn’t do this on my own,” Ben confirmed following the ceremony, speaking to a group of family members attending the program. “The love and support everyone has given me, I can’t thank you enough. If I could, I’d give everybody here a hug … but a deep thank you to everyone for the support and love.”

Members of the Night Stalkers unit of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet program out of Modesto participate in the Pledge of Allegiance to begin an awards and promotion ceremony on Sept. 26 at Escalon’s Hogan-Ennis Park. Marg Jackson/The Times