CULP Trip – 2017 – Tanzania – Cadet Settineri

I thought I’d finish out the week with another CULP post.  We had two Cadets journey to Tanzania this Summer.  Here is the second report from the African country.

It all started at Fort Knox, the place of all beginnings I suppose. There I became acquainted with the team I would be working with for the next three weeks, and we were briefed for three days about the country we were going to. On July 17th we left for Tanzania with nine cadets, and on August 7th we came back to Louisville Kentucky with nine cadets (although there were a few slight illnesses along the way).

Jitegemee Students

Jitegemee Students pose for a picture with me after an instruction period

The purpose of our mission was to interact with the people of Tanzania and to build rapport with them. We wanted to give them a feel of what America was like, how our culture worked, and to answer any questions they had. We were there to teach, but also to learn as much as we could from them, and their culture.

My team had nine people on it and we all worked together to succeed in our goal. Our main area of work was at a secondary school in one of the biggest cities in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam. Dar es Salaam was an absolutely massive establishment with over five million people in it. While the population may have been indicative of a massive city, it was more sprawling than anything with only a few tall buildings that could not have even been called skyscrapers.

The city was bustling all of the time. Since there is no penalty against soliciting on the side of the roads, there was always someone trying to sell something. Roadside salesman sold things as simple as oranges and newspapers, to computers and cellphones. Bumpy, and in some places gaping, roads were surrounded by dusty footpaths which were heavily traversed by the average man who would rather waive the bus fee or a take a bike to work (which in some cases might be faster). While the government may have bypassed attention to the road system they had a large public transportation system that was composed mainly of buses, which often packed the road.

The trip to Jitegemee Secondary school in the morning was about ten miles, but could take anywhere from an hour, to an hour and a half to get there. Traffic was bad, but it was a great time to gaze out the window and take everything in. Jitegemee is one of the best schools in the nation and has about 2000 students, all of which are highly challenged, and very intelligent. The school is mainly for families of the military, so military life was integrated into the school life.

my favorite teacher Mr. Yanga

On our last day at the school, I got to have a picture taken with my favorite teacher Mr. Yanga. We had many discussions about the world during our daily 10:30 tea time.

About 50% of the teachers were former or current military members. The headmaster was a captain in the Tanzanian Peoples Defense Force, and there were about 100 cadets running about the school keeping order. The school was similar to an American high school. Many of the students boarded at the school, and the ones I talked to liked it, they had a sense of order and discipline in their lives. The grade setup is also different. There are O level and A level courses, each with different forms or grades. O level (ordinary level) was constituted of forms 1-4, and A level (advanced level) courses were offered in forms 4-6. Students ranged anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five years of age.

We were not told much about what we were doing at the school and the first day we were given a classroom full of kids, and instructed to teach them. Split into groups of three cadets, the task was not as daunting as it could have been but it was still difficult. The students did speak English, but it was limited in forms 1-4, so we had to break a culture and language barrier in order to teach them. Many icebreakers, jokes, and us dancing or singing usually did the trick to ease students. Once the students were warmed up they began to ask questions about America that they were curious about.

The most common questions were: “Will I get shot in America since I am black?”, “What are the differences between Tanzania and America that you see?”, “Do you have a wife?”, “How can I get to America?” and “Are you afraid of North Korea?”. It seemed once I answered one question, ten more would pop up. Of course we had questions for them too which they were equally excited to answer. I became quick friends with many of the students and this continued for the three weeks we worked at the school.

Mikumi National park

Lt. Rausch, our team leader, waves from the land cruiser. On one of our weekend trips we went to Mikumi National park. The early morning sunrise is depicted here

Our main place of work was at the school, but we took a few excursions to see the country. Our biggest one was a trip to Mikumi National Park. We drove all over the national park and saw many types of animals. A nine-hour drive to go the 200 miles to Mikumi really demonstrated the weak infrastructure and poor roads of the country. In addition to the big weekend trip, we also took afternoon trips nearly every day after we were done teaching to learn more about the city. These afternoon trips included visits to the University of Dar es Salaam, various markets, talking to native tribesmen, and various cultural presentations.

ten to seventy students

Classes ranged anywhere from ten to seventy students. I got one of the bigger classes this day

While we were not fully immersed into the Tanzanian culture, we experienced a lot of it over the twenty-two days we were in country. I learned the most about the Tanzanian education system, how it works, the quality of its students, and the style in which they are taught. I learned to challenge my assumptions, and ditch the stereotypes I came into the country with. Lastly I will never forget the kindness of the Tanzanian people, and their welcoming nature.

Great rundown of a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Always love hearing about the adventures our Cadets have on their CULP trips.

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Change to deadlines

Just a quick blog post today.  Due to the unsettled weather in the south (huricanes) the deadline for submission for the first board has changed and the board date was pushed back.  I have updated my previous post about this years dates and I am sharing the info right off the application website.

To apply for the ROTC Scholarship, an application must be started by 04 February 2018 @ 1159pm EST.

If you have started an application by 04 February 2018, you have until 04 March 2018 @ 1159pm EST to complete your application.

To appear before a Selection Board to be considered for a scholarship, applicants must submit a completed
application, including the PMS interview, by 1159pm EST on one of the below “Document Submission Deadlines.”

Document Submission Deadlines

1st High School Board:
1 October 2017

2nd High School Board:
07 January 2018

3rd High School Board:
04 March 2018

Selection Board Convene Dates

1st High School Board:
16-20 October 2017

2nd High School Board:
22-26 January 2018

3rd High School Board:
19-23 March 2018

NOTE: Applicants who were previously boarded but not selected to receive a scholarship, can continue to submit documents to increase their chance for selection.
However, all application updates must be SUBMITTED no later than 04 March 2018@ 1159pm EST to be considered for a scholarship during the final board that convenes on 19-23 March 2018.

You have a little breathing room, but trust me…these deadlines sneak up on you and if you are like most applicants you lead a busy life.

 

CULP Trip – 2017 – Nepal – Cadet Williams

This is the trip report I was really looking forward to.  Nepal is on my life list and I was really interested to hear how things went for him.  Was glad to get lots of pictures and a video to round out his trip report.

IMG_3579            This summer I spent three weeks in Nepal as part of the ROTC Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program. For those who don’t know, Nepal is a small landlocked country in between China and India, which means it has a lot of strategic significance. Just two years ago Nepal was devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, so I was excited and concerned to see the poorest Asian country after two years of reconstruction.

IMG_3833

We arrived in Nepal after a 20-hour flight where we stayed in the Yak and Yeti Hotel, which is a 5-star luxury hotel in downtown Kathmandu. We spent the first weekend getting acclimated to the climate, culture, and the extreme differences in driving before traveling four hours to our work site Monday morning. The first week we spent doing humanitarian work at a school in the Nuwakot district. We were responsible for moving the rubble and tearing down the remaining stone walls to help them rebuild a newer and more stable schoolroom. After a week of manual labor in the extreme humidity and heat we were ready to return to Kathmandu.

 

IMG_3551

Our next week was focused on military training where we visited a military hospital, their military academy, their ranger school, and airborne school. We received tours by our local national officer at each training site, learned aikido with the Nepal rangers and had early morning PT with their cadets. We met a few different generals and top officials from their armed national police force as well.

IMG_3779            Our last week was our culture week where we acted as tourists seeing the different temples and historical sites in Kathmandu. We saw Hindu and Buddhist temples, ancient palaces, and spent a day on an eight-mile hike. It was a great way to end our trip and experience every aspect of the Kathmandu valley. I learned so much about Nepali history and culture and met a great group of cadets and Nepali people who I will never forget. I hope to one-day return and see the parts of Nepal I did not get to experience. CULP is a great experience and I highly recommend it to anyone considering applying for it.

 

Thanks to Cadet Williams for a great report. Nepal is definitely still on my life list.

 

CULP trip – 2017 – Tanzania – Cadet Temme

Time for me to start cleaning out my inbox of all the Summer training reports.  This year we had a bunch of Cadets on CULP trips, Army internships, and other summer training.  I always love sharing these each year because it highlights the incredible things our Cadets do, and it highlights what we emphasize here at Clarkson University and the Golden Knight Battalion.

We’ll start out this year’s reports with the newly married Cadet Battalion Commander Kerri Temme, formerly known as Cadet Boyer.  Her trip demonstrates that you should always expect changes in the Army and you should never let a change get you down, because it often leads to an unexpected win.

In December 2016, I was notified that I was awarded the opportunity to embark on a Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) mission to Cambodia. I have never been to Asia before but had read a lot about the region and was ecstatic for the mission. When our mission was changed in February to Tanzania, I was not as thrilled for I had just been to Africa the summer before and thought I knew all I needed to know about their culture. However, when I started the homework and began researching Tanzania more and more, I realized that the culture and structure of Tanzania was completely different from my prior experience. For instances, instead of the nation being broken into tribes, the government combined all the tribes in Tanzania and united them under one flag and enforced one language, Swahili. I expected to work solely with their military and learn only about their military and the structure of their government. My reality was different.

temme3            Upon arriving to CULP, we learned that our mission was to teach English at a local private school, Jetegemee, for young children whose parents either served in the military or were government officials. We began to plan fun games and English lessons that would suite this age group. When we arrived, we realized that we were extremely under prepared and all of our prior assumptions had been wrong. We walked into a class of 19-20 year olds learning advanced chemistry and courses of the same difficulty who spoke proper English. We quickly had to adjust our lessons and began to compare our two cultures. Talking to students around the same age as us and comparing the United States to Tanzania was the most beneficial part of our mission to understand their culture. We compared politics, gender roles, government structures, military structures, foreign trade partners, imported good and exported goods, music, food, sports, the list goes on. We sat in on some of their classes and realized that some of their high school equivalent courses were the same as our college courses and they were taught in Swahili and English. At that point, realizing that we may not have anything we can teach them to maintain the professor’s lesson plan, we divided into groups consisting of cadets with similar majors and sat in on classes that resembled our majors to assist the professors. Toward the end of our mission, the United States Charge d’Affaires, Inmi Patterson, came to visit the school. We saw her interact with the head of education at Jetegemee and the professors and learned about her role as a representative of the United States. Jetegemee greeted her with a song and a dance, representing their culture and how they welcome others.

temme2            Outside of the classroom, we experienced the Tanzanian culture through markets, museums, food, a safari, visiting a deserted island, visiting Dar Es Salaam University, and had presentations on Ramadhan and the Massai Tribe. This is where I learned the most. We met locals and experienced their everyday life from working at their markets where they made everything inside, to learning about the library and the pride behind it at the university. We observed how people would wake up early and start selling their goods on the side of the street as traffic accumulated or how fisherman would leave on their boats at dawn and return only once they have caught enough fish for the day. We’d observe locals that have great pride in their nation and sweep the streets to keep it clean and they would describe success as a collective effort, not an individual effort.

As a leader in a time of war, we will be deploying. Experiencing a nation that is not as well off as the United States is a major culture shock and can be very difficult to adjust to. Being able to have those experiences prior to those deployments are extremely beneficial to not only the mission but to the soldiers we will lead as well. A leader in culture shock will is unable to perform his or her job to the best of their ability and will be struggling to adjust; a leader who knows and understands different cultures will easily be able to adapt to lead their troops in a diverse situation. Leaders need to be able to have empathy and the interpersonal tact to connect with leaders from foreign nations while being able to influence them. We need to be able to walk into a room full of people that may not speak the same language as us and still have a command presence; CULP gave us that opportunity to practice and experience to adapt to it. Tanzania CULP mission 2017           The Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency is by far one of the most rewarding and humbling opportunities ROTC has to offer. Being able to confidently walk into a room with fifty to sixty people of a different culture and start up a conversation is not something that I was comfortable with doing at all prior to the Tanzania mission. Toward the last week of the mission, I was extremely comfortable in doing so while greeitng them in a different language (Swahili). My first days walking around the markets or driving down the streets I was nervous and a little uneasy, but toward the end I was comfortable and it felt normal to drive to school and walk around. Having someone hold my hand after a hand shake or put their arm around me was not something I liked during the first week, but at the end I was holding hands and putting my arm around someone I was talking to. Once I understood the differences between their norms, values and culture, it was easy to embrace the Tanzanian culture and find things in common to talk about. Having not gone on a CULP mission, I would find it very hard to embrace and understand other cultures especially if I was deploying. Now that I understand how different cultures can be and how to find the common ground between two cultures, I can confidently lead my future troops into an unknown area with the experience and knowledge I collected on my CULP mission to Tanzania.

 

No scholarship…what are my options

So you are an incoming freshman, you either applied for a scholarship and didn’t get an offer or you didn’t apply.  Army ROTC is still something you can do, you can still complete the program and commission, and you may even still be able to receive a scholarship offer.

recruiting table at the Clarkson activities fair

Have I got a deal for you

First a couple caveats…

  • every ROTC Battalion does things a little differently. When you are reading my blog I am usually telling you how we do things at Clarkson, in the Golden Knight Battalion.
  • Each year is different.  Some years we have more scholarships than we do Cadets, and some years we only get a few scholarships.
  • I don’t usually operate on any type of quotas…even when higher says I am supposed to.  I will always try to get the best options for each Cadet.  I’ve found over the years that the outcomes will balance out in the end and most Cadets in my program are fairly happy with where they end up.

So, if you are starting out as a freshman, or even a sophomore in the fall semester the first step is to enroll in the class.  Some programs may consider you for a scholarship, but in my case, unless you have at least committed to enrolling I’m not going to consider you for anything more than enrollment. If I do have the opportunity to provide additional scholarship offers, I’m going to go to my list of incoming students that have asked to be in the class.

One important thing to remember which new Cadets often fail to understand is that without a scholarship you can’t even contract until your sophomore year, so I am in no hurry and can’t really do anything with you other than get you ready/fully qualified, and have you take the steps to be considered for a scholarship.  If you are participating fully, passing your PT tests, take care of your DODMERB, and maintain your GPA then we are on track to give you some options.

We hold a scholarship board each semester.  Appear before a board and you get on the Order of Merit List (OML).  Once you are on that list I will be working to get as many of the Cadets on the list an offer.  At some point higher will tell me there won’t be any more offers and that is when we talk about other options like SMP or non scholarship contracts.

My advice is always not to worry about what you can’t control.  You or I can’t control how much money and how many scholarships will be offered.  You can’t control what the other Cadets will bring to the table.  What you can control is your fitness level, your work ethic in the class room, and your level of motivation and participation. If you want to serve your country as an Army Officer and earn a 4 year degree chances are good we’ll figure out a pretty good way to allow you to do that.  And like everything in the Army, it may not be the same way you thought you were going to do something, but in the end we’ll accomplish the mission.

The waiting is the hardest part

Every year I get two or three incoming freshmen who contact me, saying they are interested in the program and asking questions about the commitment.  Invariably I get an email like this one I got about a week ago.

after a couple days of thinking I am going to put this on hold. After talking with my parents they said I should focus on my school work first for the first semester and If I can add more after to do so. I appreciate you getting back to me and this is something that I’m not putting aside. I read somewhere that the latest you can join is sophomore year. After the first semester I will re-evaluate and see what I can do. Thank You.

I’m not a high pressure salesman. Army ROTC is not for everyone. I usually let the prospect know we’ll be here if they change their mind, and that it’s never too late, but I think it’s time I push back a little on the idea of waiting.

A cautionary tale

The reason I’m going to push back is because of this year’s graduating class.  One of the top Cadets in the the class waited.  He had  an injury he thought would hinder his participation…despite me telling him otherwise.  He waited until the spring semester to contact me again and enroll in the class.  He was interested in one of our scholarships, and once he enrolled it became apparent he was what we were looking for.  Problem was he was a semester behind his peers and he had already missed one scholarship board.  When he finally came to a campus based scholarship board, we were pretty full on scholarships and he finally had to settle for a non scholarship contract when no more money was allocated to his year group.  Because we held out for a scholarship as long as possible he wasn’t contracted until the fall of his junior year, which means he missed out on any optional training opportunities during those years that requires a Cadet be contracted to attend.  Because of that he wasn’t as competitive during the branching process, and although he had his heart set on Infantry branch, he was assigned to the Ordinance Corps.  He will be a great Officer and will have a successful career, but waiting to give Army ROTC a try cost him.

It can’t hurt to try

There is no obligation to try Army ROTC as a freshman.  If you do find out that it takes too much of your time, or if it’s not the right fit, all you have to do is drop the course.  At Clarkson you can drop the course  just about any time during the semester with no penalty.  I would rather have a freshman try the course and drop it after a couple weeks than to have him or her contact me at the beginning of their junior year when it’s usually too late to try to get them on board.

Help, not hinder

Army ROTC is usually a support system you wouldn’t otherwise have.  We operate much like the athletic coaches, monitoring the grades and academic performance of our Cadets.  We emphasize taking advantage of student services and we expect our Cadets (especially our Cadets in the engineering programs) to take advantage of tutors.  We assign each Cadet a mentor.  That mentor is an upperclassmen, usually in the same or a similar major who can help guide the Cadet through the challenges of being a Cadet and student.  Academic success is going to be your number one priority while you are at school and we are going to remind you of that

Cadets studying together

Cadets studying together in the ERC at Clarkson.  When I want to find some Cadets I always know there will be a groups of them in the ERC.

We don’t ask for a lot of time

As a freshman in the Golden Knight Battalion we are going to ask for 6-7 hours a week from you.  An hour of class, two hours of lab, and PT Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  We are going to give you the opportunity to participate more, but if you have other priorities that is fine.  We usually have 10-15 varsity athletes in the program that are balancing school, a sport or sports, and ROTC and most of them do just fine.  We have fraternity and sorority members who are active in Greek life, we have Cadets in student government, and Cadets who work part time.  If you weren’t giving us 6-7 hours a week, those hours would be filled with something else, probably not academically related. Since PT is not mandatory for non contracted Cadets, if you are having trouble managing your time, not attending some PT sessions is an options.  As long as you are working with us, we will help you figure it out.

So, I fully understand incoming student’s (and their parent’s) concerns, but from now on I’m going to share this blog post when I get an email like the one I got last week. Nothing frustrates me more than trying to figure out how to help the latecomers get caught up, and be competitive for what they want.  Hopefully it will convince one or two it’s better to give it a try up front.

 

How and where to start 2017 edition

When I started this blog 7 years ago now (holy crap! 7 years ago!) some of the first posts were about how to start the scholarship process and how to get started in Army ROTC.  Time to bump that info back to the top of the blog and freshen it up a little. The optimal target audience for this information is a high school junior finishing up their junior year.  That student is considering college and has a desire to serve in the military. If you aren’t a high school junior and are interested we should still talk, there are plenty of ways to become an Army Officer. Here’s what I think my optimal audience should do.

Step one – do your research

Visit www.goarmy.com/rotc …poke around on the site.  Understand that Army ROTC is a program that trains college students to serve as Army Officers when they graduate from college. Look at the requirements.  Don’t be afraid to contact an Army ROTC Battalion and talk to an Enrollment Officer if you have questions.

Along with researching ROTC opportunities you’ll also need to figure out where you want to attend college and what you want to study.  You won’t be majoring in Army ROTC.  The internet is a great source of material.  You can use a search engine to develop a list of schools that offer what you want.  Most University websites will give you a good idea what they offer.  You can also usually find information about Army ROTC battalions too.  In our case we have a wealth of information on the Clarkson University website, and on social media platforms like facebook and instagram.

Step two – apply for the scholarship

Watch this video first.

If you follow the link to http://www.goarmy.com/rotc/high-school-students you will find a link to the four-year High School Scholarships and on that page you can start your application.  It is first going to ask you to create a goarmy.com account.  It is very important that once you create this account you return to the ROTC page and log in here.  I publish the various dates for the scholarship process once they are released each year.  Typically the window to apply opens in June before a high school students senior year.  The first board meets in October and the deadline to start the process is in early January.  Watch this blog for the dates.

A WORD OF CAUTION…If you are on the goarmy.com site you will see an apply online button. That is not the button for applying to Army ROTC.  That button takes you to the Army Career Explorer (ACE) which is focused on enlisted options for the most part.

goarmy.com

goarmy.com

Step three – keep in touch/start a dialogue

As you go through the process make sure you are letting people know you are interested in their program.  Whether it is a school or an Army ROTC battalion, we want to hear from you, and we will keep track of our conversations.  In my case I contact interested applicants often and track all correspondences.  Clarkson also does the same and I can cross reference their system and mine to see if an applicant is showing interest. If I hear from you often then you will get my help.  If you don’t respond to my emails I’m guessing you plan to attend another school.

You have to make sure you are providing good contact information.  If you provide an email address make sure it’s one you check often.  With the advent of mobile devices it should not take days to respond to an email.

I also suggest that scanning and emailing is the best way to respond to requests for forms or documents.  On the application website you can scan and upload documents.  There is no reason why someone would put something in an envelope and mail it or fax a document these days.  Scan and upload when possible.

I also recommend you plan some campus visits once you narrow your list.  If you visit a college ask about meeting with someone from the ROTC program.  In my case, I encourage visitors to schedule their visit through the Admissions office, and ask to meet with Army ROTC.  Admissions does the rest.

Step four – Don’t give up

If you go through the high school process and don’t get an offer you can still attend college, enroll in Army ROTC class, and become an Army Officer.  You may have the opportunity to earn a campus based scholarship or take advantage of another program like the Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP).  Not every Cadet is on scholarship.