This summer, the Shippensburg Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) will be sending 13 cadets to various countries around the world as part of the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program (CULP).
Cadets will be sent to countries such as Peru, Tanzania, Georgia, Moldova and Bulgaria. Some will go as part of the Cross Cultural Solutions or Humanitarian Aid programs while others will be involved in the Military to Military Exchange.
The program has two main goals: expose the cadets of the Raider Battalion to other cultures and to get them used to working alongside cadets and army personnel from areas outside of SU.
Major James Struna, the cadre in charge of the CULP program, likes that it gives the cadets the opportunity to experience the world and remove their ethnocentric lenses.
“You apply your own reality to your understanding of what life is like on other cultures,” Struna said. “And they have a totally different culture.” He says it also gives the cadets a new understanding and appreciation of what life in the United States is really like.
CULP has been a part of SU’s ROTC program for two years. Sean Fitzgerald was the first Shippensburg cadet to enter the program.
This year SU is sending the largest number of cadets overseas since the program started. Cadets Matthew Stohl, Douglas Hamberger, and Sarah Sparks are three of the 13 cadets traveling around the world this summer.
The program is not available to all ROTC cadets. Only certain cadets were allowed to apply to participate in CULP.
“We had to fill out an application online in the fall,” said Cadet Sparks, one of the cadets involved in CULP. “And only contracted cadets, cadets who already signed saying they’ll be in the military, could apply to go.”
Sparks will be going to Tanzania where she will be involved in Cross Cultural Solutions, a program that provides aid to the locals. Some of her duties include teaching English, science, mathematics or history while also learning about the local culture and government.
“While we are there, we are also going to be doing a lot of cultural stuff,” Sparks said.
“We are going to be taking classes on the language, which is Swahili. And we are going to be learning about the culture and the way that the government is run and things like that, so we can better understand the people we’re going to be working with,” Sparks said.
Hamberger is going to Bulgaria as part of the Military to Military Exchange program, which will teach him more about the country’s military capabilities. Along with meeting Bulgarian soldiers, Hamberger will also meet U.S. Army cadets from different parts of the country.
“Military to Military Exchange increases cooperation, communication and interaction with foreign militaries,” Hamberger said.
Many of the cadets were very excited to participate in CULP. Stohl, for example, was happy just be able to leave the country and see the world for a little while.
“I said ‘Just put me wherever,’” said Stohl, who is going to Peru as part of the Cross Cultural Solutions program.
“I just wanted to go somewhere because I really wanted to go and experience a different country,” Stohl said.