By Whitney Allen
This is the second “Army summer” for Erin Williams. The Eastern Kentucky University ROTC cadet arrived June 27 for the 29-day LDAC, as a part of more than 4,000 cadets.
Last summer Williams was one of only several hundred to participate in Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP). During CULP, cadets spend up to three weeks in a foreign country. The immersion in a foreign culture and language intends to further the cadets’ cultural awareness.
Williams traveled to Malawi, a small country in Africa, for her CULP training. Similar to LDAC, Williams was in Malawi for a month. But that was one of the only similarities.
“I don’t think there’s anything similar,” Williams said.
From being immersed in another culture and language to coming to LDAC and being evaluated on her leadership abilities, Williams said the experiences have been quite different. In turn, the two experiences have presented different challenges.
One of the biggest challenges for Williams at LDAC has been dealing with so many types of leadership styles. “We switch leadership up to four times a day,” Williams said. “You’re focusing on being a leader yourself and they’re developing too. You have to let others lead.”
CULP training is focused on cultural immersion and understanding rather than leadership. With that focus in mind, CULP presented much different challenges than LDAC.
Adapting to and accepting a new culture were two of the challenges presented to Williams while at CULP.
In addition to trying new foods and experiencing a new culture, this opportunity allowed Williams to experience a new military culture.
While in Malawi, Williams helped teach officers in the Malawian military how to use computers. Although she only taught computer basics to them such as how to turn a computer on or how to use Microsoft programs, the language barrier created quite a challenge. Most of the soldiers she was teaching didn’t speak English.
But the cadet officers, the Malawian equivalent to ROTC cadets, did speak English. Williams had an opportunity to sit in on their training.
“When we weren’t training their soldiers, we were sitting in on their classes,” Williams said.
Williams and the other cadets sat in with the Malawi cadets’ training. Some of the courses shared similar content with this summer’s LDAC training. The Malawi cadets learned about land mines, machine guns, and basic battle drills, much like the cadets at Fort Knox.
While Williams two “Army summers” have presented vastly different experiences, her CULP training did help prepare her for LDAC in some ways.
Last summer was her first time being away from home without being able to communicate with her family. Although she is only an hour from her home in Louisville this summer, Williams is away from home once again.
Williams said the time away from home last summer has helped prepare both her and her family for LDAC.