FORT KNOX, KY. – Over 1,300 Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Cadets are participating in the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) program this summer in order to gain personal cultural understanding prior to their careers as officers in the Army.
CULP gives Cadets the opportunity to understand various cultures and customs of militaries and civilians outside of the United States, with a strong emphasis on English-learning and military-to-military bonding.
Cdt. Joyanna Zamzow, Texas A&M University, native of Henrietta Texas, traveled to Madagascar on the 29th of May and returned back to Fort Knox the 19th of June.
“The mission I went on, we attended the military academy for about three weeks. We interacted with their Cadets through teaching and learning from them. We taught and prepared several classes about American culture and our military and academies, and what specifically ROTC is,” Zamzow said.
Zamzow believes that relations between African and American militaries are positively growing.
“As far as increasing relations between Africa and America, I would say that Madagascar is one of the most important countries in Africa, our relations with Madagascar is absolutely increasing as far as mil-to-mil goes. It allows us to get a sense of what culture outside the U.S. is like. This was a good foresight into what it’s like when we go into different cultures as second lieutenants.”
Zamzow appreciated the opportunity CULP allowed to venture out of the U.S., something she had never done before.
“The most challenging part for me what the fact that it was somewhere really different. I tried to go into the mission open minded and understanding that it was going to be different, I’d never been anywhere outside of the United States. Being in an environment so vastly different was definitely a challenge. We went in having to experience things like not being able to drink the tap water, being careful about what we’re eating and where we are eating. Being careful about who we’re interacting with and how we’re interacting.”
Cdt. Ryan Merki, Grayslake Illinois, Illinois State University, traveled to Bischofswiesen, Germany on the 2nd of June to work with the German Mountain Infantry battalion before returning to Fort Knox on the 25th of June.
“Our mission was military to military, so our mission was to build relations with the German army, and get an intro on what the mountain infantry battalion in the German army does. It was a building of cultural bridge between the two armies. It was an eye-opening experience on what our allies do and how their army differs from ours, as well as the different missions and equipment they use.”
Merki said that his team spent much of the mission hiking, mountain climbing, traveling to various landmarks and bonding with German soldiers in order to build stronger relations.
“I am proud of how well we built relationships between our Cadets and our German counterparts, I think we built strong relationships with them that will benefit us in the future,” Merki said, “CULP is extremely important because it helps open your eyes to different cultures and how to interact with different people, because it’s very difficult. The more opportunities and interactions you have, the more likely you will be able to have positive interactions in the future.
Cdt. Cody Clinebell, Liberty University, native of Belvidere, N.J., traveled to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, on the 4th of June for his mission. Clinebell arrived back at Fort Knox on the 26th of June.
“We went to the National Defense University to teach English to the soldiers and give them a cultural understanding of America and to learn their culture. We broke up into teams and conducted several classes by helping them go through their English books or by talking conversationally,” Clinebell said, “The most challenging was acclimating to the food and weather. It was extremely hot and the classrooms did not have any sort of air conditioning, so that made it difficult to stay hydrated, comfortable, and maintain a positive attitude.”
Clinebell believes that his team successfully fulfilled the mission of CULP.
“The bonding with the Cambodian soldiers was the most successful. The relationships built and how our ability to learn their culture was extremely successful to our mission,” Clinebell stated, “We all got a great understanding of the Cambodian culture through being immersed in their campus and everyday life. I believed we successfully fulfilled the CULP mission.”
For Cadets interested in participating in CULP, Clinebell strongly urges them join the program.
“I would say to go for CULP. It was a giant leap in my process of becoming a future officer. I didn’t know much about the army or other cultures, I learned more than I had throughout the year and taught me to be a better leader. It taught me to step out of my comfort zone and become comfortable in other cultures,” Clinebell remarked.