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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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.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

CULP trip 2014 – Hungary – Cadet Yates

Cadet Adam Yates spent three weeks of his Summer in Hungary.  Since my Grandparents on my Dad’s side were from Hungary, I was really looking forward to seeing what Cadet Yates had to report from his trip.  Sounds like he had a good visit.

“You’re going to a place that describes what you always are… Hungary” said SFC Truman. That initiated my excitement for going out of the US for the first time. A team of 10 cadets and myself traveled to Hungary to complete our mission of building foreign relationships with the Hungarian Defense Forces (HDF) by teaching them the English language. Just as the HDF General Bozo expressed to us at a welcoming lunch; English is a powerful tool for the Hungarian military since they are a part of NATO and the official NATO language is English. Within the first few days of our trip we toured the entire capital city of Budapest and saw all its beautiful architecture and scenery.

Hungarian Parliament building

Hungarian Parliament building

We were lucky enough to tour the Hungarian parliament building. The King’s crown is housed in the top of the building and guarded by two sword yielding HDF personnel.

The Hungarian Equestrian show

The Hungarian Equestrian show

We attended a Hungarian Equestrian show where the horses are trained like your domestic dog. Horse riding is a proud Hungarian tradition since they used horses during battle. The country has many statues depicting soldiers on horseback.

Hungarian EOD

Hungarian EOD

We spent a few days with the Hungarian EOD unit to find out that they are quite busy. They receive an average of 6 calls per day from civilians who have found some kind of EOD at their homes or in the country side. Mines, mortars, and grenades are ubiquitous in Hungary from being placed during WWII.

anti-aircraft weapon on one of the Hungarian warships

anti-aircraft weapon on one of the Hungarian warships

 

We also spent some time with the waterborne Hungarian forces.  We checked out an anti-aircraft weapon on one of the Hungarian warships which is also a mine sweeper. This weapons system has four 20 mm machine guns which all have 60 round drums. All 240 rounds fire off in an amazing 5 seconds. After checking out the ship we took a cruise on it down the Danube River.

Hungarian Orphanage

Hungarian Orphanage

One of our last days in country we visited an orphanage where children with chronic disabilities lived. We finger painted and played soccer with the children. We also helped out the establishment by moving hay bales. Just to put a smile on these guys and girls face was enough to make their day and my own.

Going into a different culture taught me to respect what others value in life. It was amazing to realize how much we take for granted in America and how the little things in life mean the most to others. I learned to appreciate and thank God for what I have at home. CULP was an eye opening experience that I’ll never forget.

A good report from Cadet Yates.

CULP trip 2014 – Romania – Cadet Mooney

It’s that time of the Summer when I start to get the trip reports from the CULP missions.  First to submit her report was Cadet Sally Mooney.  She will be entering her Junior year in the GKB and is studying at SUNY Potsdam and playing hockey there.  Here is her report from Romania.

I was a part of TM 10 Romania for CULP 2014. We had twelve cadets staying in Bucharest, Romania where we worked with the Jandarmeria. This is the special military police force that specializes in riot control and anti-terrorism. Our mission was to help them better understand english, in exchange for Jandarm training.

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During the week, we spent the day at their base. In the mornings we would do training, and in the afternoon we gave presentations on American culture and language. Some training events include: riot formations, breaching a building, combatives, rappelling, and rock climbing. One day, we went to the range and shot the MP5 and Sig Sauer P226. That was the team’s favorite day because none of us had shot these weapons before.

The Jandarms showing me a formation

The Jandarms showing me a formation

Many of the Jandarms were experts in MMA, and one was even the national champion for boxing. They taught us a lot of combatives and it was very beneficial and fulfilling for us. We also visited an orphanage while we were there. We went to the grocery store and bought a ton of food and toys to donate to the children of the orphanage. When we got there, the children were very excited and did not hesitate to dive into the toys we got them.

On the weekends, we traveled to do some sightseeing, and expand our cultural perspectives. The first weekend we went to Brasov where we saw Castle Peles, Castle Bran (Dracula’s Castle), a fortress, and a medieval city.

 

Tm 10 cadets outside of Castle Bran (Dracula’s Castle)

Tm 10 cadets outside of Castle Bran (Dracula’s Castle)

One of the Jandarms lived near there and we had the chance to see where he grew up. This was the most culturally shocking moment for me, because the Jandarm’s home was a very simple houses made of mud and set in a village. It was a self sufficient home. It was something that you see pictures of, but never actually witness. It was important for the team to get the chance to see that not every house is modernized and it was amazing to see. The next weekend we went to Mamaia on the Black Sea. We spent our time playing volleyball and relaxing on the beach. The weekends were a lot of fun because they offered a chance to fully see the country, as well as help us build relationships with our Romanian counterparts.

My Romanian counterpart (Cioby) and me wearing the riot control equipment

My Romanian counterpart (Cioby) and me wearing the riot control equipment

During my time there, I made friends with Romanians and fellow cadets. It was an experience of a lifetime, and I am very happy that I was able to go on this trip. I learned a lot about their culture and saw firsthand how much it is different from the lifestyle I have been fortunate to have.

As usual, the trip was life changing and opened the Cadet’s eyes to how other cultures live.  Thanks for bringing back a good story and lots of pictures Cadet Mooney.

 

GKB commissionees 2014

This year’s commissioning ceremony at Clarkson University was on 9 May.  We commissioned 8 Cadets this year.  That may seem like a low number, but we had already commissioned one Lieutenant in the fall, and 5 in December, so these eight put us one short of our mission with Bears and Saints still to pin.

Thanks to our guest speaker Air Force Colonel Timothy LaBarge

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And the 10th Mountain Division Band

10th Mountain Division Band

And, as always, Dr. Collins for his kind words.

Here are the new Lieutenants

Lieutenant Matthew Brousseau –

Lieutenant Brousseau is commissioned into the Corps of Engineers.  He will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering.  He will attend the engineer officer basic course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  His first duty assignment will be in the Vermont National Guard as a member of the one thirty first engineer company.

Lieutenant Matthew Flynn –

Lieutenant Flynn has been granted an educational delay to attend law school.  He will attend the University Of New Hampshire Law School.  Upon completion of law school he is expected to serve in the judge advocate general corps as an army lawyer.

Lieutenant Flynn was also recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate signifying his high standing in the class and national order of merit list.

Lieutenant Tanner Jones –

Lieutenant Jones is commissioned into the Military Intelligence branch.  He will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in global supply chain management.  He will attend the military intelligence officer basic course at fort Huachuca Arizona.  His first duty assignment will be in the Army Reserves with the four seventy eighth engineer battalion at Fort Thomas Kentucky.

Lieutenant Michael Matroniano –

Lieutenant Matroniano is commissioned into the corps of engineers.  He will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering and management.  He will attend the Engineer Officer basic course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  His first duty assignment will be in the Army Reserves with the four seventy ninth engineer battalion out of Fort Drum, New York.

Lieutenant Taylor Mextorf –

Lieutenant Mextorf is commissioned into the Military Intelligence branch with a detail to the Infantry.  He will receive Bachelor of Arts degrees in history and literature.  He will attend the Infantry officer basic course at Fort Benning, Georgia.  His first duty assignment will be with first of the ninety first cavalry, one seventy third Brigade Combat Team, in Grafenwoehr Germany.

Lieutenant Andrew Nelden –

Lieutenant Nelden is commissioned into the Ordnance Corps.  He will receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in history.  He will attend the ordnance officer basic course at Fort Lee, Virginia.  His first duty assignment will be at Fort Richardson, Alaska with the fourth brigade, Twenty Fifth Infantry.

Lieutenant Nelden was also recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate.

Lieutenant Kevin O’Connor –

Lieutenant O’Connor is commissioned into the transportation corps.  He will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering and management.  He will attend the engineer officer basic course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  His first duty assignment will be at Fort Riley, Kansas with the First Infantry Division.

Lieutenant Eric O’Donnell –

Lieutenant O’Donnell is commissioned into the Corps of Engineers.  He will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering.  He will attend the engineer officer basic course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  His first duty assignment will be at Fort Drum, New York with the Tenth Mountain Division.