By Rachael Tolliver–U.S. Army Cadet Command
As more than 1,000 Cadets plus cadre headed overseas in support of Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency missions, they can look back on this summer and see the result of their efforts for years to come.
Many missions took Cadets to countries that are economically challenged to teach conversational English. One of the tools such countries use to reach economic prosperity is learning English because international business is conducted in English.
But foreign militaries must also learn English because NATO missions are conducted in English, and participants must be able to understand their counterparts. While U.S. Army Cadets trained with foreign militaries and learned about their weapons, their tactics and their leadership styles, they also made life-long friends.
Cadet who traveled to France also participated in Normandy’s D-Day remembrance ceremony where they also visited Omaha Beach. But their mission was to teach conversational English — or Cadet English Language Training missions — to our NATO allies, and to learn French.
The group was interviewed for a story by European Command and said in the interview that every week they would get a new group of French soldiers.
In the mornings, they led discussions to help high-ranking French officers and NCOs improve their English, Cadet Michael Marshall, a junior at the University of Utah, said for the story. In the afternoon, Cadets took French classes – practicing French and learning about French military and culture.
“Getting to know the French NCOs and officers was an excellent opportunity; other Cadets are doing that around the world, and it’s beneficial for all of us,” Cadet Rebecca Thoms, a junior at Marquette University.
“We’ve formed friendships that will last throughout our careers,” Marshall added. “I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Other English teaching missions included Togo, Africa. Cadet Garrett Schoenfelder said the trip to the training facility in Pya, Togo, where Cadets taught Togolese Cadets, took eight hours but they were able to see much of Togo on the trip.
And the Cadets who traveled to Dar Es Salam, Africa, on CELTT missions were able to learn Swahili, learn about the Tanzanian culture and practice the leadership skills they have learned in ROTC.
Cadet Jordan Oberlander, who attends the University of Alaska-Anchorage, said the CULP mission was a opportunity to experience a new culture. He said he learned valuable lessons, was able to fine-tune leadership skills and learned to be flexible in what he was doing and to think on his feet.
“The first leadership skill I fine-tuned was public speaking,” Oberlander said. “As a platoon leader, you have speak to 30 to 40 Soldiers. … I think speaking in front of 40 students was a pretty good start. And, adaptability was another skill. Like, we ran out of lesson plans and had to be flexible and adaptable so we had to wing it. So we asked what they wanted to do, because we wanted to know. And they wanted to teach us Swahili, which I think I got a lot out of.”
This year also saw the first ever nursing CULP missions. Cadet nursing majors were sent to the Philippines and to Indonesia in support of medical humanitarian missions.
From treating locals who line up for blocks to receive free medical care in Indonesia, to helping the Guam National Guard teach combat-life saver and emergency response classes to the Philippine armed forces, ROTC nurse Cadets left their mark in foreign countries.
Maj. Jumaryel “Jay” Castro is the Guam National Guard J3 plans and operations officer. He is also the state partnerships program coordinator.
“The reason they needed the CLS course is because (until recently) they didn’t have medical platoons or a medical forward support company to deploy to the southern Philippines where they are at war with terrorists—a hotspot for terrorist organizations moving into Asia,” he said. “They were suffering a 25 percent casualty rate.”
Additionally, he said that because of the location of the Philippines, it is prone to natural disasters. Training the reserve forces in emergency responder techniques allows it to be ready when they are called to duty.
“Because they have the medial knowledge and know body assessments, they are helpful even at the reception station where we have to get the blood pressure of 1,000 people,” Castro said.
“With nursing Cadets there, they could assist at the beginning before the patient ever gets to the practitioners. They could also be paired up with the actual nurses and some of the nursing students from the local college that help out.”
Sgt 1st Class Gerber Urbino, Guam’s J3, operational, said he felt Cadets were not only helpful to the mission, but got a lot out of it.
“The Cadets are very receptive and eager to learn all they could about the culture and the people,” he said. “They are not afraid of any challenges. To them it is an adventure.”
Cadets also traveled to Benin, Africa, where their main mission was to teach English to Beninese cadets at the National Officer Academy in Toffo. They lived in the barracks at the academy for two weeks and provided four hours of daily English instruction five days a week.
But, Cadet Adria Penatzer said, the most important lessons for her came outside of the classroom. After the 37-day deployment she said she learned invaluable lessons about herself and her biases.
She added that by interacting daily with Beninese cadets and the locals of Benin, she has vowed to overhaul her standard method of judging people and character.
“Judgment has a negative connotation, but we all do it, consciously or unconsciously,” Penatzer said. “People judge everything from brand names, to social norms, to people. Living in Benin was an eye-opening experience in terms of how, if and when judgment is appropriate. Relative to the American lifestyle, I perceived that the Beninese live in (poverty.)
“I was ashamed of my ignorance, but I began to recognize how socialization within Western culture was affecting how I perceived Benin and the locals’ way of life. One of the precise purposes of CULP deployments is to force Cadets out of their comfort zones and into an unfamiliar environment, freeing them from judging and experiencing foreign cultures through a solely American and Western lens.”
And CULP Cadets also served in internship positions within U.S. Combatant Commands. The purpose was to allow Cadets a better understanding of what goes on in the world, specifically how the U.S. military interacts in a joint environment. An internship also allowed them to focus on their leadership skills and see how a higher command operates.
Ray Causey, CULP division chief, said most Cadets are given responsibilities commensurate with those of field grade officers in various staff sections. These real-world staff responsibilities, such as planning, coordinating, writing and briefing high-level staff officers, are valuable broadening Cadets’ leadership experiences.
Cadet David Kemp, from Weber State University, is enrolled in ROTC on the Green to Gold program. He said the hardest part of the mission for him, other than missing his dog, was also his favorite: adapting to a staff officer position.
“We are being trained for second lieutenant positions in ROTC, but here we are given assignments or assisting in assignments that an O-4 or O-5 are working on, and in some cases O-6. We are way above our pay grade here, and it is challenging but very, very, very rewarding. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything; even seeing my dog.”
Whether it was to teach conversational English, help build fences, paint walls, plant trees or learn another militaries tactics by training with them, ROTC CULP Cadets didn’t waste their summer.
“I have matured and also acquired skills to further develop my career,” said Cadet Edward Caraccioli from St. Bonaventure University. “Many of my non-ROTC peers do not have a long-term career plan and rarely think beyond whatever homework they are currently doing or the next exam.
“I have set personal goals, and I am trying to achieve those goals through ROTC. CULP has given me an opportunity to interact and work with people who have taught me a lot and have helped me consider possibilities in terms of career development.”