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.

gabon-team-01-culp_may-24-2016_53

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.

gabon-team-01-culp-american-corner-_may-25-2016_7

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.

gabon-team-01_june-10-2016_11

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.

3rdid

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.

Advertisements

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.

img_5868

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.

img_6045

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.

img_6005

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.

img_6013

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.

img_6046

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.

img_6026

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.

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.

 

CULP trip 2014 – Thailand – Cadet Forshey

For CULP 2014, I was deployed to the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in Thailand from 24 May to 17 June.  My team of 13 cadets, along with our team leader, taught groups of Thai cadets from first years to four years.  All of the cadets had taken English for several years and needed a certain understanding of the language to get into the academy, but their conversational English skills were lacking because they rarely conversed in English outside of English class.   After classes we were able to play sports with the cadets and we ate meals with them.  We also had the opportunity to teach enlisted soldiers, who had the opportunity to become officers, some drill and ceremony, the way we do.

The enlisted soldiers and our team after a session of D and C.

The enlisted soldiers and our team after a session of D and C.

It was awesome to learn the differences in things such as facing movements and especially how they march at formal occasions.

One of the most exciting things I got to experience was doing their PT test with them.  Their run is a five kilometer run around their academy grounds which finishes in front of the statue of King Chulachomklao.  They run their test as units, and if someone in their unit does not finish in 27:00 minutes, the entire unit fails.  Oh, and did I mention they test is at 1500 (roughly 95ºF with no wind) while they are wearing their ‘ACU’ pants and combat boots? It was amazing to be a part of this experience. They all work together to push and encourage each other to complete this run.

We ate every meal, breakfast lunch and dinner, with our cadets from second battalion, under second company's barracks.

We ate every meal, breakfast lunch and dinner, with our cadets from second battalion, under second company’s barracks.

On weekends, we went on excursions with our Thai cadets.  The first weekend we went to Kanchanaburi, in the west of Thailand.  We went to an elephant park, Erawan waterfalls national park, the bridge over the River Kwai and the Tiger Temple.  The elephant park and the Tiger temple were awesome, because I had never been so close, or even touched animals so big.

Forshey 3

Erawan National park, we hiked to the seventh and final tier of the falls and explored.

The next weekend we went to Ayutthaya, which is the old capital of Thailand.  We went to the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace.  This palace is a ‘vacation’ palace of the King and Queen.  It was amazing to see how many images of the King and Queen were all over the cities and villages.  The peoples’ respect for their King and Queen was remarkable.  The following day we went to a market in an old temple square and finished the day by going to the ‘Monkey Temple’.   The monkey temple was a huge abandoned temple because the monkeys had essentially taken over.  The entire city had monkeys crawling all over it.

At the Monkey Temple with Thailand team 3 and our fellow Thai counterparts.

At the Monkey Temple with Thailand team 3 and our fellow Thai counterparts.

During this trip I learned how different other cultures were because I had never been outside of the United States and my perception of other cultures was close-minded.  I went into the experience with an open mind and I learned a lot about Thailand, not only the way the military operates, but also how different traditions are celebrated among the civilians as well.

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.

Mooney 1

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.