Thursday December 7, 2017

Beyond ROTC Training: Preparations for Life

For some, college is a time for not only being a student, but also for preparing to become officers in the U.S. Military. Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is a program designed to help students earn their college degree, while also preparing them to serve in the military upon graduation.

Each year, the Army offers an additional, cultural immersion experience for ROTC students. The Cultural Understanding Leadership Program (CULP), opens the doors for students across the country to gain a cultural broadening experience to prepare them for officer training and life after ROTC.

Spending up to three weeks, ROTC Cadets have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a cultural experience in order to learn more about themselves, and others. These experiences can occur anytime between the summers of sophomore to junior or junior to senior year. Last year, UD had 9 cadets who traveled abroad, joining over 900 students who participated nationwide. This year there will be at least 2 cadets engaging in the experience. The locations of these trips vary each year. Previously students have visited Thailand, Guatemala, Poland, Peru, Madagascar, Romania and more. These trips are created to build diplomacy and cross cultural enrichments with a hands-on, experiential component.

Students go through a competitive application process, basing the decision on GPA, physical fitness, language abilities and other factors. Preparation work includes a 5-day readiness program, with language proficiency development, homework about the social, cultural and historical regions they’re visiting, and skills for the types of missions they’re be participating in on site. Many of the missions the students engage in will be military to military type of projects, working directly with military operations from the countries where they are visiting. Projects can also include civilian work, projects within various cities and villages, working with children groups, and more.

Cadet Jabob Rayer is a junior- Mechanical Engineering Technology major, who traveled to Madagascar this summer as one of the UD students participating in CULP.  “Our preparation was a lot of online homework on getting to know the culture and the language a little bit. We then spent a few days in Fort Knox wrapping up final details we needed, as well as cultural and military style briefings,” he shares. Jacob spent most of his time in the capital, Antananarivo, but also visited surrounding cities such as Antsirabe and the national park of Andasibe. While on site, he was training with the Malagasy military. 

CULP participants definitely get exposure to things that they couldn't’t get from their general preparations in ROTC. Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Rosenberg, professor and chair of the Department of Military Science, who leads the ROTC program here at UD, shared some insights on what he hopes students gain from their experience. “Reflection is a big component when the cadets return from their experience. Part of their final requirements for the trip is to reflect on their learning, post mission. We know there are cultural nuances they will be processing for awhile. We want them to think about how important this experience is for their future as Army Officers. Cultural understanding is huge part of being an officer.”   

When asked what he’d say to encourage other students considering the CULP Program, or study abroad programs in general, Jacob shared, “Take it all in. Every last bit, because it is a once in a lifetime experience. You'll meet people from all across the world and they'll absolutely change your life. Bring a journal and write everything down so you never forget.”

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