CULP trip 2013 – Benin – Cadet Papia

Here’s the report from Cadet Papia, who visited the West African nation of Benin.  I always like to read the stories from the Cadets that visit an economically challenged country like Benin.  Seeing the challenges some people have on a daily basis is life changing.  James also got the opportunity to see a World Cup qualifying Soccer match.  That is definitely something special.

My name is James Papia and I will be an MS3 in the Golden Knight Battalion this fall.  This summer I had the opportunity to travel to the country of Benin, in West Africa, on a Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) deployment. The history of Benin begins in the 15th century as a kingdom, it became a French colony in 1872, the people achieved independence in 1960, and the country held its first free elections in 1991.  I spent three weeks in Benin teaching English to Benin Army cadets.  On the trip to Benin I was accompanied by fifteen other cadets from across the country and a cadre.  Our trip started off with meeting at Ft. Knox, Kentucky to conduct pre-deployment training.  We finished our pre-deployment training the first two days we were at Ft. Knox. Due to extenuating circumstances we were at Ft. Knox for two weeks instead of three days.  While waiting to leave for Benin we had a firsthand experience of the old army saying “hurry up and wait.”  

When we finally left for Benin we had to leave behind six cadets and a cadre member.  We landed at the International airport in Cotonou, Benin.  Our mission was to teach English at the National Officers Academy in Toffo.  After landing in Cotonou we traveled to Toffo; Toffo is about 50 miles away from Cotonou.  The trip took over four hours.  Back here in the US the trip would have taken just over an hour.  We stayed at the academy for the next two weeks.  We taught English during the week and traveled on the weekends.  I taught seven cadets while at my stay at the academy.  My students were very excited to have me there and spend time with an American.  All my students knew how to speak English and could read English well.  Every day we talked about the differences in the Benin culture and compared it to how life is in the US. 

Benin Army Cadets and my teaching partner Brad Fratangelo (Pennsylvania State University) on top of a training tank.

Benin Army Cadets and my teaching partner Brad Fratangelo (Pennsylvania State University) on top of a training tank.

Teaching was a great experience and I would love to do it again. We also volunteered our time with the local Peace Corps volunteer; we helped build a fence around a new field for planting. The villagers were very welcoming.  I also really enjoyed the sightseeing.  On the weekends we travelled to the cities of Abomey, Ouidah, and Porto Novo.  In Abomey we saw the Royal Palaces of Abomey.  The kings of the Dahomey lived in the palace.   Ouidah was even more exciting.  The Voodoo religion has its roots in West Africa and more prominently in Benin.  Ouidah is considered to many one of the birth places of Voodoo.  While in Ouidah we went to the Python Temple.  Pythons are sacred according to Voodoo.  This temple celebrates them and is a place of worship for the people who believe in Voodoo.  The last city we traveled to was Porto Novo; the capital of Benin. 

Attending a Soccer Match in Benin

Left to Right: Brady Robinson(University of North Dakota), Matt Geiger (University of Portland), and me at a 2014 World Cup Qualifier Soccer game in Porto-Novo, Benin played Algeria and lost 3-1.

During our stay in Porto Novo we were able to go to the 2014 World Cup Qualifier Soccer Game between Benin and Algeria.  This was one of the highlights of the trip for me.  I have always been a soccer player and fan, attending a World Cup Qualifier was a great experience.  Although, Benin lost to Algeria 3-1 the game was great.  We sang and danced with the Benin people during the game.  I could not have asked for a better last day while in country.  It is great to be home but someday I wish to go back to Benin and explore more.   

These CULP trips continue to be an amazing opportunity for our Cadets to experience another culture.  I haven’t had a Cadet yet who regretted the opportunity.

CULP Trip 2013 – Lithuania – Cadet Cunningham

This is the first of the reports from this year’s CULP trip attendees.  Cadet Jessica Cunningham traveled to Lithuania, and this is what she reported.

Most college students spend their summer working, taking summer classes, or trying to find something fun to do. For me, this was not the case. I was offered a great opportunity to spend a month in a foreign country and meet a diverse and interesting group of people. This program through Army ROTC is called CULP (Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency). I spent part of my summer in Lithuania where I taught soldiers from the Lithuanian Army how to speak English. On this trip I was accompanied by a cadre leader SFC Alvarado and ten other cadets from colleges and universities from all over the nation.

Lithuania is located in Eastern Europe and is one of the Baltic States.  Lithuania struggled for freedom for centuries and finally gained independence in 1990. With this, their people are very patriotic and value their freedom. Their soldiers are especially patriotic and the size of their military is increasing every year.

A view of Lithuania's capital Vilnius from a castle located right outside the city.

A view of Lithuania’s capital Vilnius from a castle located right outside the city.

Much of the younger people in Lithuania are able to speak basic English because it is required to take English classes during their primary and secondary education. Their military personnel were eager to learn English (or brush up on their skills) – they believed it would benefit them on their future deployments and help them communicate with a wider range of people. My team was assigned to a military base in Klaipeda, Lithuania where we were able to interact with and teach many members of the enlisted personnel. The other two teams were stationed at a military academy and a Special Forces base.

During the three weeks in Lithuania the other cadets and I taught English to the Lithuanian soldiers Monday through Friday during the morning and afternoon. We rotated between teaching soldiers on a basic English level, intermediate level and advanced level. The nights and weekends we toured different parts of Lithuania and experienced different aspects of their culture. We toured their national museums, visited an orphanage, toured a World War 2 bunker, shopped in their mall, and saw other major attractions.

Cadet Fletcher exploring one of the rooms in a World War 2 bunker in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

Cadet Fletcher exploring one of the rooms in a World War 2 bunker in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

Me teaching a Lithuanian soldier English terms and how to formulate sentences using those terms.

Me teaching a Lithuanian soldier English terms and how to formulate sentences using those terms.

My most memorable experience from Lithuania was when we visited an orphanage. We spent a day playing games with the children and getting to know them. Some of them did not speak English; however, it did not matter. The children just enjoyed having people to play with. Our cadre leader SFC Alvarado wore his uniform and the children were all inspired-we even taught them some drill and ceremony! The children also taught us Lithuanian games and we taught them American games such as “musical chairs” and “duck, duck goose”. The laughter and joy we brought the children by simply visiting with them and playing games was heartwarming and is something I will never forget.

My trip to Lithuania was an unforgettable experience and has taught me so much about the culture of the people there. It was eye opening in regards to how different people around the world are and how much we take for granted in the United States. This trip made me realize how important it is to think globally and not be as ethnocentric.

The cadets, cadre, and Lithuanian soldiers on the last day at the military base in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

The cadets, cadre, and Lithuanian soldiers on the last day at the military base in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

2013 Summer Camps

If you have Cadets attending Summer training here are some good resources to keep tabs on what they are up to.

Cadets going to LDAC

The official LDAC Blog

Photos of LDAC

LDAC on Facebook 

LDAC on Twitter 

They are even livestreaming LDAC here

Here’s the mailing address if you want to send you Cadet a letter or care package

Cadet Lastname, Firstname
Warrior Forge xPLT, xCo, xRegt
PO Box 339543, JBLM, WA 98433

Here is some information if you want to see your Cadet graduate from Warrior Forge

Cadets at LTC

Here is the LTC blog

LTC on Twitter

LTC on Facebook

Here’s a link to the information you need if you have a Cadet at Fort Knox.

They also will be live streaming some of the events.

We’ll all be watching how the Cadets are doing at camp this Summer.  Best of luck to all the GKB Cadets!!

CULP Trip 2012 – Cape Verde – Cadet Chapman

Continuing our series of CULP trip reports with Cadet Chapman’s report from Cape Verde.  When I first heard he would be going to Cape Verde, I had to check a map to find just where he was going.  Cadet Chapman had the unique opportunity to interact with the Ambassador, and the Commander of AFRICOM.

My name is Kyle Chapman and this fall I will be a MSII in the Golden Knight Battalion. This summer I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Cape Verde on a CULP deployment. I went to Cape Verde for 3 weeks in July with 11 other cadets and 2 cadre. The mission of our trip was to teach English to soldiers from the Cape Verdean military as well as building relations with the country.

The trip over took around 24 hours, we flew into the capital, Praia, where we would be staying the entire time. When we arrived we received the materials to teach the students and were briefed by the embassy. The next day we got right into teaching. Our group was split between the army and coast guard bases on the island we were on, Santiago. I was at the coast guard base where I taught 5 coast guard marines English. Most already had 1 to 2 years of English instruction so they could have basic conversations already. Teaching the students was a great experience; it is amazing how hard they worked to learn new knowledge. On the weekends we traveled around the island and visited the sights of Santiago. The best place we visited was the second largest town, Terrafals. It had some of the most beautiful beaches I have seen and we got to jump off a 40 foot cliff into the ocean. One memorable experience was being able to see a training exercise by the coast guard where we were able to meet the Ambassador from the US. Another great experience was being able to meet General Ham, who is in charge of AFRICOM. This was a great experience that was very humbling and made me feel lucky to live in this great country. I would recommend any other cadet to apply to go on a CULP trip.

CULP trip 2012 – Georgia – Cadet Macci

Taylor’s the tallest Cadet in the back row

Here is the second installment of the CULP adventures of the GKB.  Cadet Taylor Macci deployed to the Republic of Georgia this summer.  As someone who remembers when the Russians were the bad guys, I was looking forward to hearing about Taylor’s trip.  So here is what he had to report.

My name is Taylor Macci and I will be an MS3 in the Golden Knight Battalion this fall. This summer I was fortunate enough to travel to the Republic of Georgia for three weeks. On our trip we stayed in two of the countries main cities, the capitol of Tbilisi, and Batumi. Our mission was to teach English at an American sponsored library called the American Corners in Batumi. We interacted with forty Georgian children ranging from the age of 8 to 17.

Our trip began with 48 hours of travel and landing in Tbilisi. We remained in the city for three days to get acclimated and receive our briefings from the US embassy. From here we took a six-hour bus ride to the coastal city of Batumi. Batumi is a tourist town, which is on the Black Sea. The next day we met our students. The language barrier was large with the younger children, but most of the teenage Georgians are proficient in English. Most days were started with an English lesson mixed in with going to the park to play soccer. Also we were lucky enough to visit museums, a botanical garden, and a Roman fortress. Batumi has a wonderful boardwalk and park within walking distance of the library.  These were great places to take the kids during the day. In total we were with the kids for two and a half weeks.  Then we took the buses back to Tbilisi where we debriefed with the Embassy and took a day to prepare for the trip back to Fort Knox.

Overall the trip was an amazing experience. There were many memorable moments. The botanical gardens outside of Batumi had some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. On our second weekend in Batumi we took an excursion to Kutaisi. There we saw the Cathedral where King David the Builder was buried more than 800 years ago. In our final week with the kids we went to the Dolphinarium. This is a dolphin show, similar to something that would be put on at Sea World. The kids really enjoyed this, and it was fun to see them enjoying the show. I could go on all day about the trip, but it was a very valuable experience. I learned a lot from our OIC (officer in charge) and the ten cadets that I was with everyday. I created a relationship with each of them that will be useful in the future. But most of all I learned many things about myself on this trip.

Steps in Narikala Fortress


Still to come…Cadet O’Donnell rides a Camel, and Cadet Nelden reports from Peru.

CULP trip 2012 – Tanzania – Cadet O’Connor

I’ve asked all of our CULP cadets to provide me with a synopsis of their CULP trips this year that I want to share with the GKB blog world.  The first article I got back was from Cadet Kevin O’Connor.  I had been seeing his facebook pictures of lions and zebras and wonderful African scenery, but I didn’t expect the story he provided.  An incredible narrative of what must have been a life changing experience.

Me atop of a Boabab tree I climbed overhanging an 80 ft cliff.

Most college students spend their summer hanging out with friends, making a little extra money, and relaxing after a hard school year. For some Army Cadets, there are opportunities to do some pretty incredible things. Some go to Airborne School, or Air Assault School, but I had the opportunity to go on CULP deployment. CULP (That’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency), is a program for Army Cadets to travel to a country to participate in a cultural exchange. This past summer I had the amazing privilege of traveling with 9 other ROTC Cadets and a Cadre member to the country of Tanzania to offer humanitarian aid to the local community.

We were placed at various schools, women’s empowerment groups, prison schools, and even working with kids that have HIV/AIDS.  Most of us worked at helping teachers at the local schools develop sustainable lesson plans, and show them some different perspectives on how to educate children. I was placed at a nursery school for children 3 to 7 years old. Although English is in their curriculum, the children understand very little. This allowed me to pick up a lot of the language. We were also able to take trips to Ngorongoro Crater for a wildlife safari, and Zanzibar for some incredible tours, both once in a lifetime opportunities. Tanzania is an incredibly beautiful country, and I am so humbled by the people who live there. I am so lucky just being an American, and I truly appreciate everything I have now.  My most memorable experience is probably the most poignant.  One of the brightest young children at the school I gave a lot of extra teaching.  I explained to him how important for his success learning his math and English is.  He stopped coming to school for two days.  I talked to a local family near our compound to find where this child lived.  I went to his home to speak with his parents.  The bright child with a promising future could not afford to go to school.  For the equivalent of around 50 dollars, I could guarantee his tuition for another year.  I told the parents to send him to school in the morning.  I paid for a year of his tuition.  At the end of my volunteer placement, the children gave me a farewell.  They lined up, and said either “goodbye from your brother” or “goodbye from your sister” depending on whether they were a boy or girl. Then came the young bright student. He walks up to me, and says “Goodbye from your student, Goodbye from your son”.  I have never felt so humbled.  Over all, this trip was entirely sobering and perspective changing.  I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity.  If given the chance I would do it again in a heartbeat and I strongly urge any incoming MSI and MSII to look into this great opportunity.

The Children of Eliroi Nursery School

What a great story.   I’m looking forward to getting similar reports from our other CULP trippers.  You can also read about Cadet Flynn’s adventurer in Costa Rica on the Army Strong Stories blog site.

Here is a great blog post from Warrior Forge…Take note future attendees!!


By Hannah Van Ree
U.S. Army Cadet Command Public Affairs

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – Infiltrating the enemy and obtaining intel are just two skills that Cadets master during tactics training at the Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC).

In the days leading up to training, Cadets spend hours learning how to interact with the people of Atropia during their Cultural Awareness training. Atropia is a fictitious country, primarily Spanish speaking, that is meant to resemble culture in the Middle East and Southwest Asian countries.

Understanding the kinds of environments they will be introduced to overseas helps Cadets to succeed while operating in those circumstances at LDAC.

The land of Atropia is populated by Atropian civilians as well as the South Atropian People’s Army, SAPA, also known to Cadets as “the bad guys”.

Cadets are taught how to complete their mission and extract the SAPA forces with the least amount…

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