CHADRON – Two Chadron State College Army ROTC cadets gained international experience through the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) program this summer. Mitchell Parish of North Platte, Nebraska, served in Senegal while Sam Klammer of Hastings, Nebraska, served in Poland.
During the three-week program, cadets experience a military-to-military exchange, humanitarian service and cultural experience.
“I think CULP was a terrific experience for me and I would recommend it to any cadet that is trying to gain valuable experience,” Parish said. “It’s easy to stay in our little comfort zone and pretend there isn’t a whole foreign world out there, but it’s important to step out of the box sometimes.”
Klammer also highly recommends the opportunity.
“There is no other way you can get an experience like CULP and what it offers,” Klammer said.
Parish, a business major, said he approached the experience with an open mind.
“I didn’t want to go in with any preconceived ideas. I wanted to take in the experience in its entirety and learn as much as possible, not only about the culture of Senegal but about how to learn and take in a culture other than my own,” Parish said.
Klammer compared part of his time in Poland to jumping into a history book. He toured WWII sites including Stalag Luft III, the site of the Great Escape, and concentration camps at Auschwitz and Majdanek.
“Those two camps were a very sobering experience. It is very difficult to describe,” Klammer said.
In spite of research he conducted and briefings intended to prepare him for Senegal, Parish felt some culture shock upon his arrival.
In spite of the poverty he witnessed, many people seemed happy and Parish said he repeatedly heard a saying that ‘Being happy and being rich are not connected.’
Klammer said the U.S. and Polish cadets from the Land Forces Academy interacted while touring historical sites including the American Embassy in Warsaw, and visiting the Litpolukr multinational brigade where they learned about operations.
“It really put into perspective how lucky we are in the States to have a society that supports the military. It gave me a lot of perspective and was humbling in every sense of the word,” Klammer said.
At the Senegalese Officer Academy where Parish attended classes, he felt fortunate because another cadet from the Gambia was fluent in English and familiar with political and military dynamics between neighboring countries.
“Through this relationship I learned that, as militaries, we are not completely different. The main differences are funding and equipment. The men I saw were just as well trained as any of us and I am sure they have gone through just as intensive of training as any U.S. military force. The difference is that the Senegalese are still using hand-me-down U.S. equipment from the 1940s,” Parish said.
Leadership responsibilities for Parish included being a squad leader for a week when he coordinated events for a group of 11 cadets.
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