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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.