By Cadet Logan Shulenberger
This summer I was lucky enough to be selected for a CULP mission to Spain. The Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program starts off with several days of in-processing at Fort Knox, Kentucky. During this in-processing, the Cadets going to Spain were put into teams of ten. My team was Spain Team 1. After we had completed in-processing, we shipped out to Madrid, Spain for a month.
Once we arrived in Spain, we traveled to our base on the outside of Madrid. We stayed on the parachute infantry brigade base, (BRIPAC, Brigada Paracaidista). This base housed the elite airborne soldiers of Spain. Our training days were very short compared to our training days in the United States starting at 8 a.m. and ended at 3 p.m.
Within that first week, we started our mission training. We helped some of the senior non- commissioned officers become more familiar and fluent with the English language, while we learned more about Spanish culture. (Note: At a certain point in their careers, Spanish soldiers are required to be proficient in basic English so they can participate in NATO missions.) Everything in Spain is much more relaxed and laid back. It was immediately evident how very different our cultures were.
Our training included patrols through the mountains, and raids on buildings, marksmanship, physical training, combatives, and airborne training. Every morning we would do PT with the soldiers. It was normally a distance run and we would run 5-8 miles every day. Then once we finished PT, we started our day.
One of the things that I enjoyed the most was the marksmanship training. I got to fire the Spanish soldiers’ weapons. They use the H&K G36 and the H&K 9mm pistol. I actually had a competition with the Spanish lieutenant and I think I surprised him a when I ended up shooting a little better than he did.
After our two weeks of training were over, we transitioned to our airborne operation. Part of our CULP mission to Spain included an airborne jump with the Spaniards. They would get our U.S. airborne wings, and we would get their Spanish airborne wings. The first day we tried to jump was too windy so the jump was cancelled. Luckily for us, the conditions were perfect the next day, and we jumped with the Spanish MC-6 parachute out of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. It was an awesome experience. I couldn’t have been happier to get my 6th jump, in a foreign country, out of a helicopter. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Once everyone was done, we had a wing exchange ceremony and received our Spanish Rokiski Airborne wings. Even though it was great to get Spanish Airborne wings, it was even better to work with the Spanish and have a positive impact on the international relationship between not only our militaries, but between Spain and the United States.
I was able to witness firsthand the progress that the Spanish soldiers made with their language training, and how grateful they were to work with us. It was such a wonderful opportunity to be able to experience their culture and training, and to know that we, as United States Army ROTC Cadets, had a positive impact on their lives. That alone made this month long mission a huge success.