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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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.

 

Class of 2017 recap

commissioning class 2017.jpg

As we finish up with this year’s commissioning season I thought it might be valuable to recap what we produced with the MS 17 cohort.  Our mission for this class was 15.  We met our mission…no more, no less.  We were helped in this year group by three Cadets who migrated, or didn’t graduate on time.  All three of them were SMP Cadet, serving in the National Guard or Army Reserves, and all three of them continued to serve in the Guard/Reserves.  Of the 12 Cadets who did graduate on time this Spring –

  • 11 earned their degree at Clarkson and one at St Lawrence
  • 6 will serve on Active Duty, and 6 will serve in the Guard or Reserves
  • The Active Duty Cadets were branched into Ordnance (2), Infantry, Field Artillery, Corps of Engineers, and Aviation.
  • 4 of the 12 Graduates were varsity athletes at some point in their college career.
  • 9 of the 12 graduates were in STEM majors, 7 of them earning Engineering degree

Approximately 40 students were enrolled in this year group at one time or another.  Some tried it for a semester or two and decided it wasn’t for them. Some were asked to leave the program for one reason or another.

What are  the takeaways from this roll up? Each graduating class is different. At Clarkson we are known for producing lots of STEM Cadets.  We also work well with the athletic department. Most years we have a good male to female ratio. Most of our Cadets get their component of choice and most get one of their top choices for branch.  About half our Cadets chose to serve part time when they graduated this year.

As is the case every year…the graduates of the Golden Knight Battalion are well trained, well educated, well prepared and ready to do great things.  Good luck to all of them!

 

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.

 

It’s been too long. An update from my foxhole

As another school year starts and another Army ROTC scholarship process gets into full swing I just wanted to share a few random thoughts about the view from my foxhole.

My Foxhole

For those of you unfamiliar with the Golden Knight Battalion it is a Battalion made up of 4 schools, all within a 20 minute drive.  We don’t have the partner/crosstown challenges other Battalions have.  We are also 4 relatively small schools.  Two are public (SUNY ) and two are private.  The host is a very supportive University.  Clarkson is known for it’s engineer programs and we are predominantly STEM.  We have excellent training opportunities on campus, in the local area, and at Fort Drum which is 1 hours away.

The scholarship process

The online scholarship process has gotten better over the recent years.  This blog was partly a product of the difficulty of navigating the process in the past.  Currently the site is very user friendly, easy to navigate, and very informative.  I make sure I apply every year, so that I know exactly what applicants are seeing.  in the past I had to ask my applicant what it looked like so that I could give advice.

application

This is what my application looks like this year.  I have circled the tab for additional information.  That tab will put me out of business if more people start clicking on it, since it contains the information that answers most of the questions I get routinely asked.  Hope no one clicks on it.

Changes in the Cadet Command world

The Army is getting smaller.  Budgets will continue to get tighter.  The way Cadet Command trains future Officers will be significantly different very soon.  All of those are things we can’t control.  That being said, I have more scholarship winners than I have had in quite a few years.  I continue to get my qualified Cadets on campus scholarship offers if they earn them.

The first scholarship board is meeting, the deadlines are approaching, and the world continues to turn.  Hope to find the time to blog more often and continue to help qualified applicants get those scholarships, contracts, and opportunities to serve their country as an Army Officer.

 

Board dates 2014-2015 scholarship boards

Here they are, the dates for this fall/winter’s board dates. If you are applying for a four year high school Army ROTC scholarship that will start in the fall of 2015 these are the dates you should pay attention to. If you are a high school student finishing up your junior year and going into senior year in the fall, these are your dates.

1st High School Selection Board Deadline for Documents 3-Oct-14
1st High School Board-Ready List PMS Deadline 17-Oct-14
1st High School Selection Board 20-Oct-14
2nd High School Selection Board Deadline for Documents 24-Dec-14
2nd High School Board-Ready List PMS Deadline 2-Jan-15
2nd High School Selection Board 5-Jan-15
4-Year High School Application Deadline for SY 15-16 10-Jan-15
Final (3rd) HS Selection Board Deadline for Docs — Missing Items 28-Feb-15
3rd High School Board-Ready List PMS Deadline 6-Mar-15
Final (3rd) High School Selection Board  9-Mar-15

So, what does all this mean. If you have a strong file you should be shooting to have your file complete by 3 October and reviewed by the first board.

Look at SAT/ACT dates. If you don’t do so well the first time you take those tests your second shot is usually some time shortly after the October board, so you should be shooting for the second board and submitting improved scores if your file isn’t strong. Here’s where you can get some help with those tests, use it.

If you wait until the second or third board your chances are diminished because there will obviously be less allocations available after each board.

As you go through the process make sure you read about all the components (this blog is a good source of information, if I do say so myself) and stay in touch with at least one of the recruiting officers at one of the schools on your list. Notice I said recruiting Officer, and not recruiter…there is a difference.

Bears and Saints 2013

The Golden Knight Battalion is made up of Cadets from all four of the schools in the North Country (ClarksonSt LawrenceSUNY Potsdam, and SUNY Canton). Each of the schools adds something special to the mix. Although they all bring unique qualities to the Battalion they all become part of the Battalion quickly. The mix was a good one again this year.  Of note was the fact that all three of the commissionees at SUNY Potsdam was a member of the National Guard or Army Reserves.

This was also the last year that Dr. Schwaller, the President at SUNY Potsdam will participate in our ceremony.  Each year he made it a point to mention that his first official duty when he arrived at SUNY Potsdam was to be part of an Army ROTC commissioning ceremony.  We wish him well as he leave SUNY Potsdam this summer.

Dr Schwaller

So without further adieu, our Commissionees for the Class of 2013 from St Lawrence and State University of New York at Potsdam.

Lieutenant Joel Diagostino

Lieutenant Diagostino is being commissioned into the Corps of Engineers.  He received a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics from State University of New York at Potsdam.  He will attend the Engineer Officer basic course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and will serve in the Army Reserves with the 366th MAC Engineer Company here in the North Country.  He also scored the first goal in the hockey game against Air Force this year.

Lieutenant Jacob O’Brien

Lieutenant O’Brien is being commissioned into the Quartermaster Corps.  He received a bachelor of science degree in business administration from State University of New York at Potsdam.  He will serve at the Leadership Development and Assessment Course at Fort Lewis, Washington this summer prior to attending the Quartermaster Officer basic course at Fort Lee, Virginia.  His first duty will be at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the 82nd Airborne Division.

Lieutenant Robishaw

Lieutenant Robishaw is being commissioned into the Transportation Corps.  He received bachelor of arts degrees in criminal justice and sociology from State University of New York at Potsdam.  After graduation he will attend the Transportation Officer basic course in Fort Lee, Virginia.  His first duty assignment will be at Fort Campbell, Kentucky with the 101st Combat Support Command.

empey silver dollar

Lieutenant Sean Empey

Lieutenant Empey is being commissioned into the Chemical Corps.  He received a bachelor of arts degree from St Lawrencein history.  He will serve this summer at the Leadership Development and Assessment Course at Fort Lewis, Washington prior to attending the Chemical  Officer basic course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  His first duty assignment will be Fort Hood, Texas with the 1ST Cavalry Division.

We are now almost “Mission Complete” on the class of 2013. We do have three Cadets who are finishing up course work and plan to earn their degree and commission before the end of the semester.  These three will allow us to exceed our commission mission again this year.   Not bad for a small school from the real upstate New York.