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