CULP trip – 2016 – Cadet Suski

The CULP assignments for the Summer of 2017 have recently been released, so I thought it would be a good idea to publish my backlog of CULP trip reports from previous years.  Cadet Suski visited Vietnam this past Summer.  We have sent Cadets to Vietnam in the past.  Cadet Suski applied as a freshman and the opportunity to test his leadership capabilities was one of the highlights of his trip.  Here’s his report.

 

suski2.jpgWhen I applied for a CULP slot, I didn’t know what I was getting in to. I was told that if I was selected that I would be sent overseas for a laid back and relaxing trip, and that I would have experiences and make memories to last a lifetime. Arriving to Fort Knox was a shock. Everything we did was strictly regimented, far from the laid back idea that was falsely placed in my mind. Even though the days were long and hot, I was pleasantly surprised to be placed in barracks with a bunch of other cadets that I didn’t know. It pushed me to reach out and gave me the opportunity to learn from others, as every battalion across the nation brings different ideas and concepts to the table. Learning from them and my Cadre continued throughout the entire trip.  In simply making conversation with them, I learned so much about the Army, everything from common courtesies to career paths I may take in the future.

Arriving in Vietnam, my team had very little knowledge about our mission, and we were under prepared for what was ahead. It wasn’t until the third day in country that we understood the purpose of our mission. Vietnamese military doctors are preparing to deploy with United Nations forces into South Sudan. In order for them to deploy, these officers must show a competency in the English language. Our mission in Vietnam was to conduct English language classes to build relations between our nations and to aid in their progress to becoming deployable doctors for the United Nations. This is important because it will make Vietnam a valued force on the global scale. Being a part of a mission that is bigger than me is an honor and a privilege.  Just a year ago I was graduating High School, and a year later I’ve become a positive active member in the global community. Towards the end of our mission, I was given the opportunity to be our team’s Assistant Team Leader. As a freshman I had never had a taste of leadership in this capacity. It was a great developmental experience, pushing me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to make mistakes that I learned from. Opportunities that the Army offers are endless, and I look forward to all that lies ahead of me.

Another part of our mission was to learn about and have firsthand experiences with Vietnamese culture. Before this trip, when I thought of the nation Vietnam, I thought of our war with them not long ago. This country is so much more than that. They are a nationalistic society that takes pride in everything they do. The people strive to be the best that they can be, and they work very hard to develop their nation, and make their home a better place for the future. For example, many students will self-educate beyond their formal schooling. They will often come to United States universities to further their education. When their education is complete, the Vietnamese students’ usually return home. In contrast, many other foreign students from different countries will come to American universities and will stay in the United States to start a new life. The Vietnamese students return home to use their information and knowledge wealth for the benefit of their home country.

Learning from new cultures and learning how to interact with them is a huge advantage for my development as a Soldier. Working with foreign nationals and armed forces is something that I will be doing for the rest of my career. Developing these skills early on will provide me with the tools necessary for being the best that I can be, as a soldier for my nation.

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Lessons learned from last year’s process

This blog post should have been published back in June, but it’s not too late to share the info.  I like to think I’m pretty helpful with the scholarship process.  We are just through the first round of offers for this year, and I’m hoping I can replicate my stats from last year.

The Army ROTC high school scholarship process is a over for the class of 2020.  It was another good year for me and I’m happy with the way it went for my applicants.  Because my high school campaign is my priority, and it is where I can set the Battalion up for success, I look closely at the statistics to see how we did.  So what did I see this year?

  • 80 applicants started an application and listed one or more of my schools (Clarkson, St Lawrence, SUNY Potsdam, or SUNY Canton)
  • 60 of those applicants provided enough information to be seen on the PMS list in our system and visible to us without having to hunt for them.  That means they were in an interviewee status and were eligible to interview with a PMS
  • 35 of those applicants got an offer.
  • 20 of those offers were to the Golden Knight Battalion
  • 9 accepted their offer to the GKB
  • I was able to offer one additional 3AD offer, which was accepted.

What else did I learn?

It looks like the uploading of offers happened quicker and the release of results was almost instantaneous this year.  For the last round, by the time I could see offers being posted the status in the applicants website was changing.  We (programs) were still instructed not to contact winners until offer letters were mailed, but we got the go ahead quicker.

I also spent some time poking around the application website and realized that if an applicant would spend a little time reading all the information on the website many of the answers to frequently asked questions are right there (go figure). This process is not something that can be explained in a paragraph or two, so careful reading of provided information is always a good practice.

 

CULP trip – 2016 – Gabon – Cadet Broderick

Another interesting CULP report from Cadet Broderick who spent part of his Summer in Gabon.

This summer I had the opportunity to travel to Libreville, Gabon to conduct training with the Gabonese military. I was able to obtain this opportunity by applying for a spot in the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) program. Fortunately, I was picked to conduct my mission of teaching English and become more culturally diverse. Every weekday there were nine cadets conducting English classes for around 30 Gabonese military members from 0830 to 1130. We were assisted by a member of the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in how to go about instructing our lessons. Along with these regularly scheduled instructions there were times that the cadets were able to visit different schools with ages ranging from 4-24 years old collectively. Typically, the ages were on the younger side but a couple of the schools also had students that were older. The main purpose of visiting these schools was to give basic English instruction and experience the culture of the country, but a very important part of interacting with the students was to give them hope. Other activities that were conducted after our morning English lessons, besides the school visitations, were going to the American embassy and making presentations at a Department of State affiliated location called the American Corner.

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The American Corner was a place where people would go that were looking to come to the United States or wanting to know more about it and learn English. Cadets prepared two presentations each, one on their university and another on a US based interest item. After presenting information on our universities it was made apparent that the Gabonese only wanted to know about how to get to the United States. A smaller group of cadets was put together to compile this information and brief it to the Gabonese who were present at the American Corner. Information on visas, exams, different universities, and the process itself was given to the Gabonese in the hopes of them taking the initiative to try their hardest and come to the US. There were also two Saturdays at the American Corner where the cadets interacted with children and a member of the Department of State in order to teach English.

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Gabon Team 1 CULP American Corner

At the embassy, the cadets learned about the Department of State. Presentations were given by the Regional Security Officer, Defense Attaché, a nurse, a member of the Marine Security Guard, the Deputy Chief of Mission, and the Ambassador. These people gave us a wealth of knowledge and a great amount of insight into their world. We also ran a 5K with employees from the embassy for a fundraiser. The cadets were also invited to a lunch with members of the Young African Leaders Initiative from Gabon at the ambassador’s residence by the ambassador herself. There was also a barbecue that we attended held by employees from the embassy.

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Another very enlightening experience was being able to visit part of Central Accord 16 and meet other members of the United States Army that were in Gabon at the same time we were. BG Moore, Deputy Commanding General United States Army Africa/ Army, was able to sit down with us for about an hour at breakfast one morning and talk to us about his career and answer any questions we had. LTC LaMotte, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, was able to show us around the Cooperative Security Location (CSL) in Libreville. At this location we were able to meet many different people and see exactly how a joint operation like this functions as well as talk to many 2LT’s about their careers so far and ask for any advice they may have for us.

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Traveling to Gabon to teach the military English, as well as being fully immersed in the culture of the country, was a very enlightening experience. Starting out there were some assumptions made but these were easily cleared up once in country. Getting to see the similarities and differences in the ways of life of the people of Gabon and comparing them to those of the United States provided for development which better prepared individuals to be suited in handling situations where a difference in culture can easily affect an outcome. There are a few major topics that differ between the United States and Gabon. Two of these are the concepts of time and relationships. The Gabonese do not feel any obligation to being prompt and punctual. An appointment can be made but not actually taken care until several hours later. The pace of life in Gabon is much slower as the Gabonese are looking to build relationships with others whenever they can. Laziness is another big factor that contributes to the effectiveness of the Gabonese. Many do not want to take the initiative but want the results that would come with the initiative. The most interesting part of this laziness is that many Gabonese recognize the laziness in themselves and others. This is why places with little European influence run much slower, while places that have been influenced by Europe have somewhat of a faster pace. Exchanges of money are not seen as an item for money but rather as something being given and in return receiving help in the form of money. Bartering is an example of how this applies as no set standard is made because this provides a means for building up a relationship. Another peculiar aspect of the culture of Gabon is their opinion of other Africans and the French. They tend to dislike people from other African countries besides Gabon and like the French, trying to be increasingly French. Many citizens of Gabon are getting away from their roots and forgetting their mother tongues since they are learning languages like English and French. A large amount of people would like to come to the Unites States and study as well as improve their English. Overall the people of Gabon are not that different from the population of the United States.

The window to apply for next year’s CULP missions has just opened up and I am hoping we will have plenty more adventures to share next Summer.  Still waiting on a few more reports from this past Summer.

Airborne

Mark Rosenthal, GKB alumni, class of ’78 has shared his thoughts with me in the past, and a couple weeks ago (22 August to be exact) he contacted me again with some thoughts about history, tradition, and being Airborne.  As  a basic training XO I taught the history and tradition class to new soldiers. I can certainly relate to what he had to say. I value Army history and  tradition and think it is what makes being a soldier so special.  I have also worked  in the civilian world for a company (US Steel) with a proud history that made working in the mill special. Being part of something bigger than yourself has value.

40 years ago *this month* I was experiencing my first exposure to the “real Army” attending Jump School between my Sophomore and Junior years at Clarkson.

I returned to school with “the haircut” and shiny new jump wings.

Right now I am cruising at Flight Level 380 over Montana on my way home from a consulting gig.

Under the seat in front of me is my computer bag. Proudly displayed on it is the “AA” “Airborne” patch that I wore on my sleeve in 1980-82.

During my time on active duty, I wore a lot of patches on my left sleeve.
The Artillery School
2nd Infantry Division
82nd Airborne Division
XVIII Airborne Corps
3rd Armored Division
TRADOC

but it’s the 82nd patch that I display today. But had I not attended jump school at a Clarkson cadet, I likely would have taken a different path.

It’s not about “jumping out of airplanes.” (Key point: There are *no* “perfectly good airplanes” in the Air Force). Rather, it was / is about being a part of something bigger – a tradition that extends back to 1940, and to 1944. When I was in the division, our CG, MG Malloy pointed out that nobody says “Boy, I wish we were as good as the 4th Mech.”

In some previous email, I sent a photo of my wings under a Clarkson unit crest on a black background. Those pins are on my Clarkson Ranger beret. Those wings are the ones I got at graduation, and are engraved “Aug 27, 1976” on the back – the day I got them. I carried that beret in my cargo pocket on my first jump with the 82nd as well, because, well, I wanted to connect my Clarkson Ranger experience with that one.

So… “Congratulations” to any cadets who have pinned on new jump wings over the summer. My message is this – those three weeks can change your life in subtle ways you don’t realize. Those wings aren’t a merit badge. They are a tradition.

PS – Our pilot for the flight out of BWI was also waiting for the plane this afternoon. I noticed his tie tack was a small jump wings pin. I approached him and said I liked his tie tack, and pointed to the patch on my bag. He had attended jump school as an Air Force cadet in 1979. He went on to be a transport pilot, and now flies Airbus A320’s for Delta. He never went on jump status, yet all of these years later, THAT is what he wears as a tie tack. Pretty cool.

“All The Way!”

This Summer 9 Cadets completed Air Assault training and one Cadet attended Airborne school and earned jump wings.  Clarkson Army ROTC continues the tradition of Cadets taking on the challenges offered over the summer.

CULP trip – 2016 – Rwanda – Cadet Sadler

When I heard Cadet Sadler was going to Rwanda the first thing that came to mind was the Rwandan genocide and we are sending a young Cadet who just finished her freshman year to “that” African country. Needless to say I was very interested to see what she had to say about her adventure, and she didn’t disappoint.

Here is what she says her mission was:

My main mission was to improve relations with the Rwandans and help the Rwandan cadets improve their conversational skills. In addition to being implanted into a platoon at the Rwandan Military Academy, my team also helped paint classrooms for an underfunded primary school. Lastly, we went on a variety of cultural field trips in order to fully understand the country and it’s unique history.

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Here are her impressions:

The Lessons of the Rwandan People

June 22nd the day that changed my life forever. I have never been out of the country before and now I was being thrown head first into not only a culture very different from ours but more importantly I was being thrown way out of my comfort zone. The main thing I remember that helped get me through the first Rwandan drill and ceremony practice was all of the smiling faces.

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In among the hitting, pushing, and yelling these random new people took me in as one of their own. In the beginning the cadets would correct me and help me understand what was going on at their own expenses. The cadets would be hit or made to do push-ups because they were not in position due to the fact that they were guiding me. The harsh way the cadre hit, punched, shoved and yelled at the cadets is a part of their culture.

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My buddy, buddy Erica told me this was normal, they grew up with physical punishments. These actions were frightening at first but the more I thought about it I understood the background behind their use. In order to command a platoon one needs to be strict and strive for perfection. Another aspect that was brought into perspective due to spending so much time with the Rwandan cadets is to always appreciate the little things. Even thou one can’t change events you can change your attitude. The cadets always had a way to make even the worst situation better with smiles on their faces.

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One of my fellow cadets and friends enjoying the Army presents I gave her.

During the early morning ruck march I got to talk to another girl in my platoon. I wasn’t really getting into the conversation because I didn’t get much sleep the night before. A few minutes later we are both laughing and joking. She had gotten even less sleep then I had and still managed to bring me out of a slump while walking miles upon miles all with a smile on her face. I will never forget that conversation. The strength to push through any obstacle is a big part of the culture. I think that is amazing because here in America people have gotten lazy and just take the easy way out or give up. In order to be a strong leader one needs to lead by example and when things get challenging be the person to pull your soldiers out of their slump. One positive action can act like a catalyst. The way Rwandans have made it their mission to forgive and grow after such an earth shattering event can’t even be explained by words. The strength and faith it takes for a person to forgive their families killer is unfathomable. The things I learned from this example the Rwandan people set is to be able to move on and have the strength to admit your mistakes and learn from them. This lesson is what I think is the most important thing a leader needs to know. Only a great leader can look back at their mistakes, learn from them, and move forward while trying to never making the same mistake again. This resilience and hindsight is essential for one to lead effectively.

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Every experience I had over in Rwanda has changed the way I think about everything I do. I will never forget the people I met over there for they have touched my heart and changed me in ways even I don’t know. I will forever remember this trip to Rwanda and more importantly I will remember the strength, selflessness, and smiles of my fellow cadets, Rwanda Military Academy Intake 06/16 B-Company Platoon 1.

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Group picture of my team and the Marines stationed at the Rwandan embassy after a group PT session

I’ve got nothing to wear…the PT uniform explained

If you are a brand new Cadet in the Golden Knight Battalion we don’t expect much from you to start.  If you are showing up in the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform for Army ROTC training we are happy (at least to start).  Right place/right time are a function of your time management skills and your attention to detail. The right uniform requires a little steeper learning curve.

I had my Gold Bar recruiter, 2LT Yates spell out what the proper PT uniform is, so you will be looking good.  When in doubt check with your chain of command and you can always refer to the regulation AR 670-1 or CCR 670-1.

Hair Standard

Male haircuts will conform to certain standards. The hair on top of the head must be neatly groomed. The length and bulk of the hair may not be excessive or present a ragged, unkempt, or extreme appearance. The hair will not fall over the ears or eyebrows, or touch the collar, except for the closely cut hair at the back of the neck. Males will keep sideburns neatly trimmed. Sideburns may not be flared; the base of the sideburn will be a clean-shaven, horizontal line. Sideburns will not extend below the lowest part of the exterior ear opening. Males will keep their face clean-shaven when in uniform or in civilian clothes on duty. Mustaches are permitted. If mustaches are worn, they will be neatly trimmed, tapered, and tidy. Mustaches will not present a chopped off or bushy appearance, and no portion of the mustache will cover the upper lip line or extend sideways beyond a vertical line drawn upward from the corners of the mouth. Handlebar mustaches, goatees, and beards are not authorized.

Females will ensure their hair is neatly groomed, that the length and bulk of the hair are not excessive, and that the hair does not present a ragged, unkempt, or extreme appearance. Likewise, trendy styles that result in shaved portions of the scalp (other than the neckline) or designs cut into the hair are prohibited. Females can wear their hair up in a bun or down in a ponytail. Ponytails are allowed during PT sessions only.

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Shirt Standard

The PT shirt must be completely tucked into your PT shorts, no exceptions.

Shorts Standard

The PT shorts must sit at your waist line. Black or gray spandex worn underneath the PT shorts must be plain, with no logos, patterns, or obtrusive markings.

Sock Standard

Plain black or white socks that are calf-length or ankle-length with no logos are permitted in the PT uniform. Ankle length socks must cover the entire ankle bone.

Shoe Standard

Running shoes are the only type of shoes authorized in the PT uniform. All colors of commercial running shoes are authorized.

NOTE: Taking care of your feet is a crucial part of being in the Army and physical training in general. Professionals recommend buying new running shoes every five to six months or 300 to 500 miles from the first wear. If the tires on your car are bald you replace them right away, therefore if you have smoothed out the tread on your running shoes it’s time to get a new pair. Listening to your body will also indicate when it’s time for new running shoes. If you have sore arches, knee pain, shin pain, or other small annoyances after running then it’s more than likely time to replace your running shoes.

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Additional Items

  • Watch: A watch is part of every Army uniform. Your PT watch should be a dark color and of an athletic type
  • PT Belt: The reflective PT Belt is to be worn tighten down above the waist line
  • Pen & Paper: For note taking
  • Water Source: Your green Army issued canteen, labeled with your last name on a piece of 100mph tape needs to be with you as well

These are the standards we adhere at Clarkson University.  Your program may differ, so make sure you understand the standards.

Right time…right place…right uniform!

 

CULP trip – 2016 – Guatemala – Cadet Aray Freites

The first of this year’s CULP trip reports is from Cadet Jeanmary Aray Freites, who attends St Lawrence University.  Her trip was truly a hands on experience since she was serving as an interpreter for a medical humanitarian mission, working side by side with Army Medical Officers.

Guatemala Through the Eyes of a Cadet:

When I was first accepted into CULP, I was ecstatic for my humanitarian deployment to a Spanish speaking country. I was certainly excited to use my Spanish to benefit others and to dip my feet into humanitarian work. I was not, however, anticipating the rest of the trip to include a visit to the only military academy in Guatemala, nor the Ministry of Defense. I was also not expecting to be completely emerged into their society and after a few days, appreciate and understand their culture and their way of life. Although our mission was to interpret for the medical staff at Beyond the Horizon, I am able to reflect on the trip and benefit from the experiences outside of the MED-RETE.

Although I understood that San Marcos, the location of our mission, was a poverty stricken area, I did not anticipate the degree to which the village needed us and US intervention. When first arriving in the early morning, we were overwhelmed with the heat, the trash, the amount of underfed parents and kids, and the living conditions just outside our small clinic. As the gates opened, we saw each patient and carefully addressed their needs and concerns. However, the doctors and cadets all came to the realization that some people had traveled hours and had been standing in line for most of the day. Although we sat sweating in a gym-like building with a fan beating behind our backs for 8.5 hours a day, we will never understand nor be able to empathize with those who had waited for the USA to come and provide them with the medical care their country was too impoverished to provide. As we tended to patients with illnesses like STDs, interpreted for patients needing teeth removals and parents with children who needed check-ups, cadets saw and experienced what it was like to truly help someone first hand and also give hope to those who felt like there was none. Having the opportunity to interpret for the doctors and get to know the patients opened my eyes to my privilege as an American and also the impact the USA has in Central America.

Once we ended our rotation at the MED-RETE, we were afforded the opportunity to travel around Guatemala and experience their history through various excursions. One of the many excursions included the overnight stay at the only Escuela Politecnica in Guatemala. We were able to go to class with the Guatemalan cadets and learn more about their officer training program and military. We shadowed them and adopted their customs and courtesies, giving us the opportunity to not only see a different military learning environment but to also see the type of officers and the curriculum other countries have set forth for their future leaders. The cadets at the Escuela Politecnica gave us tours and during the breaks, we exchanged stories and experiences knowing that one day, we may cross paths again. The complete submersion gave cadets, including myself, the opportunity to reflect on the freedoms we are given in the Army ROTC to pursue education and extra-curricular activities as well as a sense of appreciation for programs like CULP. After visiting the school, we headed to the Ministry of Defense where we learned more about their military operations, their budget, their battalions, and their version of Special Operations called Kaibil. During this part of our trip, we were treated like ambassadors and greeted with food and music. The respect that we were given as cadets will be something I will never forget; it spoke of their respect towards the USA as well as our influence in Central America.

As I finish my remaining 2 years in college, I will carry the experiences ROTC has afforded me through this Cultural Understanding Language Program. Visiting Guatemala has advanced my Spanish speaking and interpreting skills as well as given me countless opportunities to become the leader I want to be. Lastly, it has given me a deep sense of appreciation to be an American and a future Army Officer. My CULP trip to Guatemala as a medical interpreter has fueled my existing interest in humanitarian efforts and given me the opportunity to make a difference while still pursuing an education and developing my leadership abilities.

Antigua

Antigua: During one of our excursions we visited the ancient city of Antigua which is surrounded by 3 volcanoes and considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Throughout the day we learned more about the architecture surrounding the city, some of the religious sites and finally, about Antigua’s history and colonization.

Cadets

Cadets: The excursion to the Escuela Politecnica gave us the opportunity to meet some wonderful and dedicated cadets also training to become officers. During our time there, we were able to attend some of their classes and get a taste of what it would be like to be a future officer in the Guatemalan Army, Navy or Air Force.

OBGYN

OB/GYN: As a medical interpret, I would work alongside Major Martin as she spoke to the patients. However, since they did not speak English and Major Martin did not speak Spanish, I would translate to ensure that the doctor understood the patients symptoms in order to give the correct diagnosis and treatment. Essentially, I was the channel of communication between the patient and the doctor.

Pharmacy

Pharmacy: For one of the rotations, I had to translate for the pharmacists and re-write prescriptions and instructions in Spanish for the patients. Typically, we would write around 1,200 prescriptions a day.

OB/GYN

OB/GYN Team: Major Martin, Nurse Francis and myself were in charge of the OB/GYN section. We saw hundreds of patients a day during our rotation.

The opportunities these CULP trips offer to these Cadets never cease to amaze.