When ROTC cadets assigned to U.S Army AFRICOM received their CULP assignment, not one of them had heard of the country where they were to be sent. Little did they know, they would be heading to one of the most beautiful places in Africa that included breath-taking scenery, extremely friendly locals and a culture like most of them had never seen before.
Cadets traveled to Moroni, the capital city of the small, relatively unknown nation of Comoros which is located northwest of Madagascar, from the cadet’s predeployment site in Vicenza, Italy. They were tasked with teaching English to the Comorian Defense Forces. During their time there, cadets familiarized themselves with junior officers, NCOs and junior enlisted, as well as learning about the culture of the nation. Cadets were invited to several outings with the Comorian soldiers and even attended a traditional wedding ceremony.
Using the Ranger Handbook as a resource, the Comorian soldiers learned basic tactical terms that will assist them in communicating with their counterparts in the African Union as they become more involved in activities on an international platform. At the end of the three week session, a graduation ceremony was held for the Comorian soldiers and was attended by their chief of staff and his staff. This experience is sure to prove useful for relations in future operations throughout Africa where the U.S. Army may have to work alongside Comorian forces.
After the cadets had left Comoros and were back in Vicenza, they were asked how the trip had affected them and many replied with the surprising response that it had changed their view on Islam, the majority’s religion on the island.
“The religion of Islam has been sort of made out to be very extremist because of the places where we’ve been fighting our wars in the past few years and because of the negative experiences we’ve had with a very small part of their population but, after this trip, I’ve seen that the stereotypes against the religion are absolutely wrong. In Comoros, we were welcomed with arms wide open by people who had never met us and already knew they had a significantly different culture than ours,” said Cadet Matthew McCabe of Lockhaven University.
The ability that the CULP program has to allow cadets to learn about different cultures first-hand will be significant in the relations our future leaders have with other nations and may pave the way to a new system of dealing with foreign relations.