CULP Trip – 2017 – Nepal – Cadet Williams

This is the trip report I was really looking forward to.  Nepal is on my life list and I was really interested to hear how things went for him.  Was glad to get lots of pictures and a video to round out his trip report.

IMG_3579            This summer I spent three weeks in Nepal as part of the ROTC Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program. For those who don’t know, Nepal is a small landlocked country in between China and India, which means it has a lot of strategic significance. Just two years ago Nepal was devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, so I was excited and concerned to see the poorest Asian country after two years of reconstruction.

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We arrived in Nepal after a 20-hour flight where we stayed in the Yak and Yeti Hotel, which is a 5-star luxury hotel in downtown Kathmandu. We spent the first weekend getting acclimated to the climate, culture, and the extreme differences in driving before traveling four hours to our work site Monday morning. The first week we spent doing humanitarian work at a school in the Nuwakot district. We were responsible for moving the rubble and tearing down the remaining stone walls to help them rebuild a newer and more stable schoolroom. After a week of manual labor in the extreme humidity and heat we were ready to return to Kathmandu.

 

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Our next week was focused on military training where we visited a military hospital, their military academy, their ranger school, and airborne school. We received tours by our local national officer at each training site, learned aikido with the Nepal rangers and had early morning PT with their cadets. We met a few different generals and top officials from their armed national police force as well.

IMG_3779            Our last week was our culture week where we acted as tourists seeing the different temples and historical sites in Kathmandu. We saw Hindu and Buddhist temples, ancient palaces, and spent a day on an eight-mile hike. It was a great way to end our trip and experience every aspect of the Kathmandu valley. I learned so much about Nepali history and culture and met a great group of cadets and Nepali people who I will never forget. I hope to one-day return and see the parts of Nepal I did not get to experience. CULP is a great experience and I highly recommend it to anyone considering applying for it.

 

Thanks to Cadet Williams for a great report. Nepal is definitely still on my life list.

 

CULP trip – 2017 – Tanzania – Cadet Temme

Time for me to start cleaning out my inbox of all the Summer training reports.  This year we had a bunch of Cadets on CULP trips, Army internships, and other summer training.  I always love sharing these each year because it highlights the incredible things our Cadets do, and it highlights what we emphasize here at Clarkson University and the Golden Knight Battalion.

We’ll start out this year’s reports with the newly married Cadet Battalion Commander Kerri Temme, formerly known as Cadet Boyer.  Her trip demonstrates that you should always expect changes in the Army and you should never let a change get you down, because it often leads to an unexpected win.

In December 2016, I was notified that I was awarded the opportunity to embark on a Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) mission to Cambodia. I have never been to Asia before but had read a lot about the region and was ecstatic for the mission. When our mission was changed in February to Tanzania, I was not as thrilled for I had just been to Africa the summer before and thought I knew all I needed to know about their culture. However, when I started the homework and began researching Tanzania more and more, I realized that the culture and structure of Tanzania was completely different from my prior experience. For instances, instead of the nation being broken into tribes, the government combined all the tribes in Tanzania and united them under one flag and enforced one language, Swahili. I expected to work solely with their military and learn only about their military and the structure of their government. My reality was different.

temme3            Upon arriving to CULP, we learned that our mission was to teach English at a local private school, Jetegemee, for young children whose parents either served in the military or were government officials. We began to plan fun games and English lessons that would suite this age group. When we arrived, we realized that we were extremely under prepared and all of our prior assumptions had been wrong. We walked into a class of 19-20 year olds learning advanced chemistry and courses of the same difficulty who spoke proper English. We quickly had to adjust our lessons and began to compare our two cultures. Talking to students around the same age as us and comparing the United States to Tanzania was the most beneficial part of our mission to understand their culture. We compared politics, gender roles, government structures, military structures, foreign trade partners, imported good and exported goods, music, food, sports, the list goes on. We sat in on some of their classes and realized that some of their high school equivalent courses were the same as our college courses and they were taught in Swahili and English. At that point, realizing that we may not have anything we can teach them to maintain the professor’s lesson plan, we divided into groups consisting of cadets with similar majors and sat in on classes that resembled our majors to assist the professors. Toward the end of our mission, the United States Charge d’Affaires, Inmi Patterson, came to visit the school. We saw her interact with the head of education at Jetegemee and the professors and learned about her role as a representative of the United States. Jetegemee greeted her with a song and a dance, representing their culture and how they welcome others.

temme2            Outside of the classroom, we experienced the Tanzanian culture through markets, museums, food, a safari, visiting a deserted island, visiting Dar Es Salaam University, and had presentations on Ramadhan and the Massai Tribe. This is where I learned the most. We met locals and experienced their everyday life from working at their markets where they made everything inside, to learning about the library and the pride behind it at the university. We observed how people would wake up early and start selling their goods on the side of the street as traffic accumulated or how fisherman would leave on their boats at dawn and return only once they have caught enough fish for the day. We’d observe locals that have great pride in their nation and sweep the streets to keep it clean and they would describe success as a collective effort, not an individual effort.

As a leader in a time of war, we will be deploying. Experiencing a nation that is not as well off as the United States is a major culture shock and can be very difficult to adjust to. Being able to have those experiences prior to those deployments are extremely beneficial to not only the mission but to the soldiers we will lead as well. A leader in culture shock will is unable to perform his or her job to the best of their ability and will be struggling to adjust; a leader who knows and understands different cultures will easily be able to adapt to lead their troops in a diverse situation. Leaders need to be able to have empathy and the interpersonal tact to connect with leaders from foreign nations while being able to influence them. We need to be able to walk into a room full of people that may not speak the same language as us and still have a command presence; CULP gave us that opportunity to practice and experience to adapt to it. Tanzania CULP mission 2017           The Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency is by far one of the most rewarding and humbling opportunities ROTC has to offer. Being able to confidently walk into a room with fifty to sixty people of a different culture and start up a conversation is not something that I was comfortable with doing at all prior to the Tanzania mission. Toward the last week of the mission, I was extremely comfortable in doing so while greeitng them in a different language (Swahili). My first days walking around the markets or driving down the streets I was nervous and a little uneasy, but toward the end I was comfortable and it felt normal to drive to school and walk around. Having someone hold my hand after a hand shake or put their arm around me was not something I liked during the first week, but at the end I was holding hands and putting my arm around someone I was talking to. Once I understood the differences between their norms, values and culture, it was easy to embrace the Tanzanian culture and find things in common to talk about. Having not gone on a CULP mission, I would find it very hard to embrace and understand other cultures especially if I was deploying. Now that I understand how different cultures can be and how to find the common ground between two cultures, I can confidently lead my future troops into an unknown area with the experience and knowledge I collected on my CULP mission to Tanzania.

 

No scholarship…what are my options

So you are an incoming freshman, you either applied for a scholarship and didn’t get an offer or you didn’t apply.  Army ROTC is still something you can do, you can still complete the program and commission, and you may even still be able to receive a scholarship offer.

recruiting table at the Clarkson activities fair

Have I got a deal for you

First a couple caveats…

  • every ROTC Battalion does things a little differently. When you are reading my blog I am usually telling you how we do things at Clarkson, in the Golden Knight Battalion.
  • Each year is different.  Some years we have more scholarships than we do Cadets, and some years we only get a few scholarships.
  • I don’t usually operate on any type of quotas…even when higher says I am supposed to.  I will always try to get the best options for each Cadet.  I’ve found over the years that the outcomes will balance out in the end and most Cadets in my program are fairly happy with where they end up.

So, if you are starting out as a freshman, or even a sophomore in the fall semester the first step is to enroll in the class.  Some programs may consider you for a scholarship, but in my case, unless you have at least committed to enrolling I’m not going to consider you for anything more than enrollment. If I do have the opportunity to provide additional scholarship offers, I’m going to go to my list of incoming students that have asked to be in the class.

One important thing to remember which new Cadets often fail to understand is that without a scholarship you can’t even contract until your sophomore year, so I am in no hurry and can’t really do anything with you other than get you ready/fully qualified, and have you take the steps to be considered for a scholarship.  If you are participating fully, passing your PT tests, take care of your DODMERB, and maintain your GPA then we are on track to give you some options.

We hold a scholarship board each semester.  Appear before a board and you get on the Order of Merit List (OML).  Once you are on that list I will be working to get as many of the Cadets on the list an offer.  At some point higher will tell me there won’t be any more offers and that is when we talk about other options like SMP or non scholarship contracts.

My advice is always not to worry about what you can’t control.  You or I can’t control how much money and how many scholarships will be offered.  You can’t control what the other Cadets will bring to the table.  What you can control is your fitness level, your work ethic in the class room, and your level of motivation and participation. If you want to serve your country as an Army Officer and earn a 4 year degree chances are good we’ll figure out a pretty good way to allow you to do that.  And like everything in the Army, it may not be the same way you thought you were going to do something, but in the end we’ll accomplish the mission.

The waiting is the hardest part

Every year I get two or three incoming freshmen who contact me, saying they are interested in the program and asking questions about the commitment.  Invariably I get an email like this one I got about a week ago.

after a couple days of thinking I am going to put this on hold. After talking with my parents they said I should focus on my school work first for the first semester and If I can add more after to do so. I appreciate you getting back to me and this is something that I’m not putting aside. I read somewhere that the latest you can join is sophomore year. After the first semester I will re-evaluate and see what I can do. Thank You.

I’m not a high pressure salesman. Army ROTC is not for everyone. I usually let the prospect know we’ll be here if they change their mind, and that it’s never too late, but I think it’s time I push back a little on the idea of waiting.

A cautionary tale

The reason I’m going to push back is because of this year’s graduating class.  One of the top Cadets in the the class waited.  He had  an injury he thought would hinder his participation…despite me telling him otherwise.  He waited until the spring semester to contact me again and enroll in the class.  He was interested in one of our scholarships, and once he enrolled it became apparent he was what we were looking for.  Problem was he was a semester behind his peers and he had already missed one scholarship board.  When he finally came to a campus based scholarship board, we were pretty full on scholarships and he finally had to settle for a non scholarship contract when no more money was allocated to his year group.  Because we held out for a scholarship as long as possible he wasn’t contracted until the fall of his junior year, which means he missed out on any optional training opportunities during those years that requires a Cadet be contracted to attend.  Because of that he wasn’t as competitive during the branching process, and although he had his heart set on Infantry branch, he was assigned to the Ordinance Corps.  He will be a great Officer and will have a successful career, but waiting to give Army ROTC a try cost him.

It can’t hurt to try

There is no obligation to try Army ROTC as a freshman.  If you do find out that it takes too much of your time, or if it’s not the right fit, all you have to do is drop the course.  At Clarkson you can drop the course  just about any time during the semester with no penalty.  I would rather have a freshman try the course and drop it after a couple weeks than to have him or her contact me at the beginning of their junior year when it’s usually too late to try to get them on board.

Help, not hinder

Army ROTC is usually a support system you wouldn’t otherwise have.  We operate much like the athletic coaches, monitoring the grades and academic performance of our Cadets.  We emphasize taking advantage of student services and we expect our Cadets (especially our Cadets in the engineering programs) to take advantage of tutors.  We assign each Cadet a mentor.  That mentor is an upperclassmen, usually in the same or a similar major who can help guide the Cadet through the challenges of being a Cadet and student.  Academic success is going to be your number one priority while you are at school and we are going to remind you of that

Cadets studying together

Cadets studying together in the ERC at Clarkson.  When I want to find some Cadets I always know there will be a groups of them in the ERC.

We don’t ask for a lot of time

As a freshman in the Golden Knight Battalion we are going to ask for 6-7 hours a week from you.  An hour of class, two hours of lab, and PT Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  We are going to give you the opportunity to participate more, but if you have other priorities that is fine.  We usually have 10-15 varsity athletes in the program that are balancing school, a sport or sports, and ROTC and most of them do just fine.  We have fraternity and sorority members who are active in Greek life, we have Cadets in student government, and Cadets who work part time.  If you weren’t giving us 6-7 hours a week, those hours would be filled with something else, probably not academically related. Since PT is not mandatory for non contracted Cadets, if you are having trouble managing your time, not attending some PT sessions is an options.  As long as you are working with us, we will help you figure it out.

So, I fully understand incoming student’s (and their parent’s) concerns, but from now on I’m going to share this blog post when I get an email like the one I got last week. Nothing frustrates me more than trying to figure out how to help the latecomers get caught up, and be competitive for what they want.  Hopefully it will convince one or two it’s better to give it a try up front.

 

How and where to start 2017 edition

When I started this blog 7 years ago now (holy crap! 7 years ago!) some of the first posts were about how to start the scholarship process and how to get started in Army ROTC.  Time to bump that info back to the top of the blog and freshen it up a little. The optimal target audience for this information is a high school junior finishing up their junior year.  That student is considering college and has a desire to serve in the military. If you aren’t a high school junior and are interested we should still talk, there are plenty of ways to become an Army Officer. Here’s what I think my optimal audience should do.

Step one – do your research

Visit www.goarmy.com/rotc …poke around on the site.  Understand that Army ROTC is a program that trains college students to serve as Army Officers when they graduate from college. Look at the requirements.  Don’t be afraid to contact an Army ROTC Battalion and talk to an Enrollment Officer if you have questions.

Along with researching ROTC opportunities you’ll also need to figure out where you want to attend college and what you want to study.  You won’t be majoring in Army ROTC.  The internet is a great source of material.  You can use a search engine to develop a list of schools that offer what you want.  Most University websites will give you a good idea what they offer.  You can also usually find information about Army ROTC battalions too.  In our case we have a wealth of information on the Clarkson University website, and on social media platforms like facebook and instagram.

Step two – apply for the scholarship

Watch this video first.

If you follow the link to http://www.goarmy.com/rotc/high-school-students you will find a link to the four-year High School Scholarships and on that page you can start your application.  It is first going to ask you to create a goarmy.com account.  It is very important that once you create this account you return to the ROTC page and log in here.  I publish the various dates for the scholarship process once they are released each year.  Typically the window to apply opens in June before a high school students senior year.  The first board meets in October and the deadline to start the process is in early January.  Watch this blog for the dates.

A WORD OF CAUTION…If you are on the goarmy.com site you will see an apply online button. That is not the button for applying to Army ROTC.  That button takes you to the Army Career Explorer (ACE) which is focused on enlisted options for the most part.

goarmy.com

goarmy.com

Step three – keep in touch/start a dialogue

As you go through the process make sure you are letting people know you are interested in their program.  Whether it is a school or an Army ROTC battalion, we want to hear from you, and we will keep track of our conversations.  In my case I contact interested applicants often and track all correspondences.  Clarkson also does the same and I can cross reference their system and mine to see if an applicant is showing interest. If I hear from you often then you will get my help.  If you don’t respond to my emails I’m guessing you plan to attend another school.

You have to make sure you are providing good contact information.  If you provide an email address make sure it’s one you check often.  With the advent of mobile devices it should not take days to respond to an email.

I also suggest that scanning and emailing is the best way to respond to requests for forms or documents.  On the application website you can scan and upload documents.  There is no reason why someone would put something in an envelope and mail it or fax a document these days.  Scan and upload when possible.

I also recommend you plan some campus visits once you narrow your list.  If you visit a college ask about meeting with someone from the ROTC program.  In my case, I encourage visitors to schedule their visit through the Admissions office, and ask to meet with Army ROTC.  Admissions does the rest.

Step four – Don’t give up

If you go through the high school process and don’t get an offer you can still attend college, enroll in Army ROTC class, and become an Army Officer.  You may have the opportunity to earn a campus based scholarship or take advantage of another program like the Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP).  Not every Cadet is on scholarship.

Board Dates 2017-2018 scholarship boards

Here they are, the dates for this fall/winter’s board dates. If you are applying for a four year high school Army ROTC scholarship that will start in the fall of 2018, that would be a high school senior in the fall of 2017, these are the dates you should pay attention to.

4-year High School Application Opens for SY 18-19 12-Jun-17
1st High School Selection Board Deadline for Documents 17-Sep-17
1st High School Selection Board 2-Oct-17
2nd High School Selection Board Deadline for Documents 7-Jan-18
2nd High School Selection Board 22-Jan-18
4-Year High School Application Deadline for SY 18-19 4-Feb-18
Final HS Selection Board Deadline for Docs — Missing Items 4-Mar-18
Final (3rd) High School Selection Board  19-Mar-18

So, what does all this mean.  Same advice as last year…You should complete your application before the board that makes you the most competitive.  I would recommend you try to get in on one of the first two boards.  Waiting till the deadline and being seen by just one board is never the best course of action.  If you have a strong file you should be shooting to have your file complete by 17 September and reviewed by the first board.

Look at SAT/ACT dates. If you don’t do so well the first time you take those tests again. Your second shot is usually some time shortly after the October board, so you should be shooting for the second board and submitting improved scores if your file isn’t strong. Here’s where you can get some help with those tests, use it.

If you wait until the second or third board your chances are diminished because there will obviously be less allocations available after each board but don’t rush to be on the first board if you aren’t ready.  I would tell you that you shouldn’t wait to be able to do one or two more push ups on the PFT, but if your SAT/ACT is low retake and wait for the next board.

As you go through the process make sure you read about all the components (this blog is a good source of information, if I do say so myself) and stay in touch with at least one of the recruiting officers at one of the schools on your list. Notice I said recruiting Officer, and not recruiter…there is still a difference.

Class of 2017 recap

commissioning class 2017.jpg

As we finish up with this year’s commissioning season I thought it might be valuable to recap what we produced with the MS 17 cohort.  Our mission for this class was 15.  We met our mission…no more, no less.  We were helped in this year group by three Cadets who migrated, or didn’t graduate on time.  All three of them were SMP Cadet, serving in the National Guard or Army Reserves, and all three of them continued to serve in the Guard/Reserves.  Of the 12 Cadets who did graduate on time this Spring –

  • 11 earned their degree at Clarkson and one at St Lawrence
  • 6 will serve on Active Duty, and 6 will serve in the Guard or Reserves
  • The Active Duty Cadets were branched into Ordnance (2), Infantry, Field Artillery, Corps of Engineers, and Aviation.
  • 4 of the 12 Graduates were varsity athletes at some point in their college career.
  • 9 of the 12 graduates were in STEM majors, 7 of them earning Engineering degree

Approximately 40 students were enrolled in this year group at one time or another.  Some tried it for a semester or two and decided it wasn’t for them. Some were asked to leave the program for one reason or another.

What are  the takeaways from this roll up? Each graduating class is different. At Clarkson we are known for producing lots of STEM Cadets.  We also work well with the athletic department. Most years we have a good male to female ratio. Most of our Cadets get their component of choice and most get one of their top choices for branch.  About half our Cadets chose to serve part time when they graduated this year.

As is the case every year…the graduates of the Golden Knight Battalion are well trained, well educated, well prepared and ready to do great things.  Good luck to all of them!