For CULP 2014, I was deployed to the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in Thailand from 24 May to 17 June. My team of 13 cadets, along with our team leader, taught groups of Thai cadets from first years to four years. All of the cadets had taken English for several years and needed a certain understanding of the language to get into the academy, but their conversational English skills were lacking because they rarely conversed in English outside of English class. After classes we were able to play sports with the cadets and we ate meals with them. We also had the opportunity to teach enlisted soldiers, who had the opportunity to become officers, some drill and ceremony, the way we do.
It was awesome to learn the differences in things such as facing movements and especially how they march at formal occasions.
One of the most exciting things I got to experience was doing their PT test with them. Their run is a five kilometer run around their academy grounds which finishes in front of the statue of King Chulachomklao. They run their test as units, and if someone in their unit does not finish in 27:00 minutes, the entire unit fails. Oh, and did I mention they test is at 1500 (roughly 95ºF with no wind) while they are wearing their ‘ACU’ pants and combat boots? It was amazing to be a part of this experience. They all work together to push and encourage each other to complete this run.
On weekends, we went on excursions with our Thai cadets. The first weekend we went to Kanchanaburi, in the west of Thailand. We went to an elephant park, Erawan waterfalls national park, the bridge over the River Kwai and the Tiger Temple. The elephant park and the Tiger temple were awesome, because I had never been so close, or even touched animals so big.
The next weekend we went to Ayutthaya, which is the old capital of Thailand. We went to the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. This palace is a ‘vacation’ palace of the King and Queen. It was amazing to see how many images of the King and Queen were all over the cities and villages. The peoples’ respect for their King and Queen was remarkable. The following day we went to a market in an old temple square and finished the day by going to the ‘Monkey Temple’. The monkey temple was a huge abandoned temple because the monkeys had essentially taken over. The entire city had monkeys crawling all over it.
During this trip I learned how different other cultures were because I had never been outside of the United States and my perception of other cultures was close-minded. I went into the experience with an open mind and I learned a lot about Thailand, not only the way the military operates, but also how different traditions are celebrated among the civilians as well.