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Cadets as translators; Panama medical exercise (2013)

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Sharing a package of M&Ms while waiting on a doctor isn't a bad way to bide the time.

Sharing a package of M&Ms while waiting on a doctor isn’t a bad way to bide the time.

Cadets who were proficient in Spanish were sent to Panama on a humanitarian medical mission to act as translators as part of the ROTC Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency program.

Our participation in the medical readiness training exercise in Cañita was an excellent start to our mission in Panama. Approximately 3,000 patients and 4,000 animals were treated over the five days we were there. Patients came from all over to see the doctors–one patient reportedly traveling eight hours by foot and boat to get to the clinic. Some came for a simple checkup and vitamins while others had a common cold or severe back pain. In a few cases patients had serious infections requiring surgical intervention. The medical team was able to care for most health problems which left a good impression on the local population, although some cases required medical beyond the clinic’s capacity.

The crowd to visit the different clinics varied in size at any give time, but people came from all over.

The crowd to visit the different clinics varied in size at any given time, but people came from all over.

The medical team included doctors, nurses, medics, civilian affairs, we were translators, and psychological operations personnel. Each day, doctors attended to patients while the psychological operations team went into surrounding towns to promote the clinic by talking to restaurant owners and posting fliers. We rotated through the different departments to help break the language barrier, improve our Spanish speaking ability, and experience different areas of medicine. At the end of each day, civilian affair personnel updated the Army chain of command on daily operations.

Also supporting the American medical team were local Panamanian doctors, nurses, pharmacists, administrative personnel, and security, adding to the diversity and effectiveness of the group.

Cooperation with the local population was essential to mission success. The local elementary school in Cañita provided our medical team with a location for the clinic and also cooked meals for lunch. Adding the Panamanian medical personnel to our numbers allowed more patients to be seen and when American doctors did not have the tools to deal with a patient, the patients were referred to Panamanian doctors who could provide further help through local hospitals. Also, the local Panamanian police force provided a base of operations and security throughout the entire trip.

Farm animals were vacinated, as well as the family pet.

Family pets and farm animals were vaccinated for their health and protection.

Different medical departments in the clinic included general medicine, optometry, dentistry, pharmacy, and veterinary care. General medicine had three rooms because it dealt with the greatest number of patients every day. Doctors in different specialties helped fill in as family practice doctors when the need arose. Optometry was also extremely busy. Many patients suffered from UV damage to their eyes due to the strong sun, resulting in cataracts and turigiums. Three of us were placed in optometry as translators which helped with the heavy patient load.

Additionally, the veterinarians were occupied with daily trips to vaccinate cows and horses on local farms. The pharmacy was open the longest every day because they were filling prescriptions for patients from all departments.

The most common health problems were the flu, fungal infections, constant itching, rashes, intestinal parasites, and insect bites. The common cold is ever present because the humid climate increases the chance of contracting an upper respiratory infection. Fungus was common among Panamanians who work long hours in humid conditions without adequate foot care, just as itching and rashes were common because of insect bites, fungus and allergies.

Supplies via boat.

Supplies were transported via boat.

 Another ailment we encountered were intestinal parasites which were widespread due to the lack of potable drinking water in many areas. These problems, if not treated, often lead to more serious problems that are more difficult to deal with Limited access to modern medical care and health insurance coverage in rural areas makes treating simple health problems difficult. The indigenous communities in Panama often have the least access to modern health care and the worst living conditions. As a result, they are more susceptible to diseases that are uncommon in the United States such as scabies and lice.

adet Rushing getting a hug

Cadet Rushing getting a hug

Our mission in Cañitas was successful because we were able to help provide medical aid to the local population. We were also able to immerse ourselves in the culture of Panama, interact with locals, learn about the cultural norms, and expand our view of the world. Ultimately, we hope the connections made between Panamanians and Cadets will serve as a bridge to foster cooperation and understanding between both countries.

Prepping for Panama–advanced language training (2013)

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Cadets translated for doctors while in Panama on a humanitarian medical mission.

Cadets translated for doctors while in Panama on a humanitarian medical mission.

 

By Cadet Austin Welch

For our CULP mission we were tasked with assisting in a humanitarian aid mission to Panama as translators for medical personnel. All of us were fairly fluent in Spanish, but for the mission to be successful we needed to learn medical terminology in Spanish.

Throughout our first week at Fort Knox, Ky., we were exposed to advanced Spanish language training that covered themes such as taking a patient’s medical history, social history, and background, as well as terms used by medical professionals and their Spanish language counterparts. The advanced medical language training augmented medical familiarity for us and provided a deeper understanding of the Spanish language as well.

The course, taught by retired Maj. Gen. Burn Loeffke, was instrumental in our success throughout the course and our cultural immersion in Panamá.

            Loeffke’s course began with an assessment of our prior levels of Spanish understanding. He seemed immediately impressed with our existing Spanish abilities and because of this, he tailored the course to facilitate a higher level of understanding our CULP mission. His book La Medicina Abre Puertas (Medicine Opens Doors) was instrumental in our medical Spanish foundation.

Retired Maj. Gen. Burn Loeffke instructed the Cadets in advanced Spanish medical translation.

Retired Maj. Gen. Burn Loeffke instructed the Cadets in advanced Spanish medical translation.

 

            The first lesson involved several pre-course modules—in a classroom setting—designed to serve as a refresher covering verbs, salutations or greetings, and different body parts. As Loeffke described to us, different cultures use different verbiage for the same things. Because of this, he adapted all of our lessons for the Panamanian region. Because of his time as the USARSO commander stationed in Panamá City, he had firsthand knowledge of cultural customs, norms, and terms which were imperative to our understanding and learning.

            The team’s next series of lessons covered medical history to include: complete medical history, sample medical interview practices, history of present illness’, past medical history, social history, and finally family history. With each of these lessons, Loeffke created helpful mnemonics, or acronyms, that enabled us to move step by step through each portion of a medical interview but not omit any important information.

Through his cultural lesson, he drilled into us that in Panamá it’s very important to focus on the individual to whom you are speaking. Anything to the contrary could be construed as highly inappropriate and could denigrate from the abilities of the doctor or interpreter to gain an accurate medical picture of the individual. His coaching and mentoring taught us to take a complete history through a series of 33 questions was made easy through his mnemonics. By the end of the lessons, we were able to do an interview, summarize, and then report the findings to a physician without taking a break to translate in the middle of questioning the patient. While difficult to do, it proved invaluable once in-country and facilitated the full cooperation and respect of the patients which we saw.  

            To lend perspective to a typical interview, the following demonstration of the mnemonics OLDCARTS, a method to gain a history of the patient’s complaint, establishes its usefulness as a tool to gain the required information. The mnemonics, line by line, was asked in the following fashion:

Onset: ¿Cuando Comenzo? (When did your pain/sickness begin?)

Location: ¿Dónde está el dolor? (Where is your pain?)

Duration: ¿Cuánto dura el dolor? (How long does the pain last?)

Characteristics: ¿Cómo es el carácter del dolor..pulsante, constante, cuchillada? (What are the characteristics of your pain i.e. pulsating, constant, knifing?)

Aggravating/Alleviating factors: ¿Que agravia/alivia el dolor? (What aggravates/alleviates pain?)

Radiation: ¿Se mueve el dolor…donde? (Does the pain move – to where?)

Time: ¿Cuándo tiene el dolor? (When do you have the pain (time of day)?)

Severity ¿De 1-10, Qué severo es el dolor? (On a scale of 1-10, how severe is the pain?)DSCF1898EDITED

 

            The answers to these questions were summarized by the translator back to the patient to confirm its validity. Once the information was verified between the patient and the translator, it was then be provided to the physician who made a diagnosis, performed additional tests, or asked any follow on questions. Armed with this acronym, along with the other mnemonics, we were able to affectively converse with the patients and gain necessary information for the physician to provide treatment.

            Loeffke’s training put us in a unique position to have a large impact on the overall success of the mission and to allow more patients to be effectively treated. The physicians seemed impressed with our level of medical Spanish proficiency, which was due to the success of our training beforehand. Overall, the level of patients seen was higher because of our ability to use mnemonics, like OLDCARTS, while still maintaining and exercising cultural customs, norms, and respects.

The week of training at Fort Knox clearly had a positive impact on this mission and we are very thankful for the hard work that Maj. Gen. Loeffke put into his training program to prepare us.

‘Breaking the ice’ in Senegal– (2013)

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At a nearby school in Mbao, Senegal, Cadet Sheldon Holmes of Michigan State University teaches his group of students how to play Simon Says. In doing so, he helped the students practice and improve their listening and comprehension skills as well as expand their vocabulary

At a nearby school in Mbao, Senegal, Cadet Sheldon Holmes, of Michigan State University, teaches his group of students how to play Simon Says. In doing so, he helped the students practice and improve their listening and comprehension skills as well as expand their vocabulary

By Cadet Kelsey Rosebeary, University of Maine

Stepping outside of our established normal routine of teaching English to Senegalese military members in Dakar, Cadets and cadre traveled to Mbao, Senegal to work with a group of young teenagers. These teens were in their first year of learning English and appeared apprehensive, timid, and nervous. We on the other hand were an excited group of American military members dressed in civilian attire.

We were in Senegal as part of the U.S Army Cadet Commands Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency program. As a Cadet with the ROTC program, this was a once in a life time opportunity.

The group of students was broken into seven groups of four to six students per Cadet. Looking at our new students, we tried to break the ice by introducing who we were and where we were from. The students did likewise, but with quiet voices and downturned eyes.

Cadet Kelsey Rosebeary, University of Maine, introduces herself to a group of five students. As the day carried on, the students became more open about themselves and more willing to ask questions as well as respond to the ones being asked of them.

Cadet Kelsey Rosebeary, University of Maine, introduces herself to a group of five students. As the day carried on, the students became more open about themselves and more willing to ask questions as well as respond to the ones being asked of them.

The gears in our heads were turning, trying to figure out a way to break through this cultural barrier we preceived as timidity. That is when games came into the picture. All children, no matter where they are from, enjoy playing games and competing. We began to introduce games such as “The Alphabet Game” and “Hangman” to our students.

 It was then that students started speaking, and eye contact was being held. Such little victories became grand rewards that we greatly appreciated. We realized that in a conservative culture such as that of Senegal, making friends with and being able to teach these teenagers was an accomplishment – one of which to be proud.

 

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US Army Cadets train with Romanian Jandarmeria (2013)

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Cadets trained with Romania's First Battalion, Special Intervention Brigade of the Jandarmeria.  The Jandarmeria is a police force organized like a military unit.

Cadets trained with Romania’s First Battalion, Special Intervention Brigade of the Jandarmeria.
The Jandarmeria is a police force organized like a military unit.

Every year, college students all over the country spend their summers partying, sleeping, and sometimes working. I, on the other hand, had the unique opportunity to spend my summer representing my country in Romania through the U.S. Army.
The Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency is a program offered exclusively to Army ROTC cadets. Through CULP, Cadets travel in a group to a foreign country to conduct non-combat missions specific to their destination. While overseas, my team was able to become fully immersed in Romanian language in culture. We made lifelong friends, ate amazing food, and overall, had the time of my life.

Our team, combined with another team assigned to Romania, consisted of 21 Cadets and one cadre leader. We were located in the capital city of Romania, Bucharest, for 23 days. Our mission in this vibrant city was to work with the First Battalion, Special Intervention Brigade of the Jandarmeria.

Training for building entry with the Jandarmeria

Training for building entry with the Jandarmeria

The Jandarmeria is a police force organized like a military unit. The men and women in the brigade all struck us as very pleasant and professional despite not appearing to make a lot of money or having the best living conditions. Specifically, our mission was centered on improving the English language skills and proficiency of the Jandarmeria soldiers.

In turn, our colleagues would help enhance our understanding of Romanian culture and history. This was accomplished by dividing the Cadets and our Jandarmeria counterparts into four different groups. This allowed for a more personal experience between the Cadets and our Romanian counterparts, and encouraged English communication proficiency with the Romanians.

Cadets practicing land nav with the Romanian soldiers.

Cadets practicing land nav with the Romanian soldiers.

We discussed topics such as holidays, sports, flags, history, the military and rank structure, and tactics. This strategy facilitated colorful discussion, and consequently showed a clear and successful increase in their English language skills and understanding of American culture. Our team also gained valuable knowledge about the Romanian language, culture and the differences and similarities between ours and theirs. These are valuable experiences that will help us when we become officers, as well as help Romanians interact with Americans in future endeavors.
While our schedule was hectic and time was precious, our team did have the opportunity to travel the country of Romania and experience two distinct and vibrant cities on the weekends. This part of our time in Romania enhanced our understanding of the distinctive regions on Romania, and how they are all different and separately energetic.
We enjoyed our first free weekend in the quaint Romanian city of Brasov.

Brasov is located in Transylvania, centered between three large mountains, which added to the animated culture of this small, mountain village. Several of our Romanian counterparts joined us to help further develop our understanding of the history and culture of the Transylvania region of Romania, as opposed to the urban jungle we were familiar with in Bucharest. While in Brasov, we visited the old city’s fortifications and Dracula’s castle which enriched our appreciation for Romania’s rich and diverse history.

Cadets explored Dracula’s castle near the city of Brasov along with other sites to learn about the culture

Cadets explored Dracula’s castle near the city of Brasov along with other sites to learn about the culture

Our second weekend trip consisted of a three hour adventure to Constanta, a lively town located on the Black Sea. The Romanians traveled along once again. The weekend trips provided an opportunity to experience Romanian culture to its fullest. Although the weekends were incredible and very interesting, we also enjoyed great cultural experiences in Bucharest too.
In Bucharest, we visited many museums centered on Romanian history, military, and culture. We, and our Romanian counterparts, saw the national bank—one of the most luxurious buildings I have ever seen. Other museums we toured include the National Art Museum, the Jandarmeria Museum, The Parliament Building, and the Old Village Museum. The Old Village Museum was especially interesting because it shows how the lives of Romanians has changed and developed throughout the centuries, a crucial aspect of any cultural study.
Overall, the trip was excellent. While we completed our mission of increasing their English proficiency, working with the Jandarmeria taught us how to interact with foreign units which gives us valuable experience in the future as officers. Through our weekend trips our group gained experience in interacting and dealing with a different culture which will help as officers as we deal with civilian populations. The trip resulted in many new experiences and we formed good relationships with the Romanians. The friends we made and the experience we hade will last a lifetime and will always be in our hearts and minds.

Playing volleyball  was not only good for PT, but good for us to practice a different language, and to socialize.

Playing volleyball was not only good for PT, but good for us to practice a different language, and to socialize.

The Hill of Crosses–A personal reflection (2013)

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The Hill of Crosses--a Lithuanian landmark and attraction that gained immense significance in the lives of Lithuanians during the Soviet era as a sign of resistance.

The Hill of Crosses–a Lithuanian landmark and attraction that gained immense significance in the lives of Lithuanians during the Soviet era as a sign of resistance.

By Cadet Moriah Wallace:
Oklahoma State University 2015

“Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”- Napoléon Bonaparte.

As the shackles of religious percussion, political injustice and racial intolerance fell upon Lithuania it would truly prove to be their faith that would unite them. Today (6-21-2013) the Lithuanian Team-2 CULP Cadets had the opportunity to witness the most visible display of Soviet defiance in Lithuanian history, the Hill of Crosses.

From the moment you see the Hill and start to walk through the labyrinth of crosses you are unequivocally moved. You are moved not by a simple shove, but by a wave of humility that could capsize the most steadfast of ships. When walking on to grounds of such note it is easy to carry with you your own opinion on what you expect to see, especially after seeing dozens of pictures and hearing several briefs that note its grandeur.

When looking closer you will notice that there are numerous rosaries accented on each of the crosses

When looking closer you will notice that there are numerous rosaries accented on each of the crosses

Pictures may be worth a thousand words but no amount of photos can capture the speechlessness caused by your first view the Hill.

When looking closer you will notice that there are numerous rosaries accented on each of the crosses. While there are rich Catholic undertones to the Hill it by no means taints the experience for the people of other faiths in the group. Being a non-denominational Christian myself, I can say, without hesitation, that it was very exciting to be so immersed in another cultures undying faith and hope for their religious and political independence.

Their faith and outward expression of it would prove to be strong enough to attract the attention of Pope John Paul II. In 1993 John Paul visited the Hill of Crosses and left on it an inscribed plate stating “Thank you, Lithuanians, for this Hill of Crosses which testifies to the nations of Europe and to the whole world the faith of the people of this land.”hill of crosses8

CULP Cadets visit Lithuania Liberation Movement Bunker–(2013)

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Cadet Roessler made his way down into the resistance bunker in Ariogalos  to see the dimensions and living quarters of those who hid within it before being compromised.

Cadet Roessler made his way down into the resistance bunker in Ariogalos to see the dimensions and living quarters of those who hid within it before being compromised.

By Cadet Michael Cosenza
During our travel from Vilnius to Klaipeda Lithuania, we (Army ROTC Cadets participating in the Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency program) visited a local school and toured an old soviet-era, partisan bunker in Ariogalos, a small town in Lithuania.
Partisans are like guerilla warfare groups, or part of the resistance movement within Europe during WWII.

While there, we learned about the history of this bunker and about the Lithuanian resistance to the Soviet Union forces. We were also given a chance to meet with senior students at the school and learn about life as a Lithuanian teenager by engaging in one on one conversation. This opportunity gave us a chance to integrate with, and experience, Lithuanian culture from the perspective of native Lithuanians.

Once arriving in Ariogalos we toured the site of the bunker. While traveling to the forest where the hiding place had been built, we were briefed about the history of the partisan movement and specifically about the history of the bunker. It was constructed in 1948 during the Soviet Union’s occupation of Lithuania, becoming only known to few outside of the six resistance fighters who occupied its small quarters–six men had to cram inside and live shoulder to shoulder to make it work.

The bunkers in Lithuania were used to hide from the Soviet Army during the 1940s and 50s. The security of the bunker in Ariogalos was unfortunately compromised in 1950 by word of mouth from a member of the town. A Soviet supporter living in the city sold the location of the bunker to the Soviets, which led to the discovery and deaths of the partisans that were hiding there. Five of the six men were killed, while the sixth was taken into captivity and tortured for information which eventually led to his death. Following the assault on the men living within the bunker, it was destroyed.

A marker was placed by the local Lithuanians at the site of the Ariogalos resistance bunker to remember the ones whose lives were lost when the hiding place was compromised in 1950.

A marker was placed by the local Lithuanians at the site of the Ariogalos resistance bunker to remember the ones whose lives were lost when the hiding place was compromised in 1950. Although dirt shows the exact location of where the bunker could be found today, when it was built the location would have greatly concealed its location.

But after the fall of the Soviet Union, a monument dedicated to the partisans who died was erected and in 2010 the bunker was excavated and rebuilt by local citizens of Ariogalos. The bunker is located approximately four hundred meters into the woods. We were granted the opportunity to climb inside to take a look at the conditions in which the partisans had to live. While inside we experienced the cramped quarters the resistance fighters had to contend with while hiding from the Soviet Army.

Cadet Hoffman takes off during the relay race, between the Cadets and students at Ariogalos Gimnazija, while the national 100 meter sprint record setter in Lithuania (left) reaches for his team's baton.

Cadet Hoffman takes off during the relay race, between the Cadets and students at Ariogalos Gimnazija, while the national 100 meter sprint record setter in Lithuania (left) reaches for his team’s baton.

Following the tour of the bunker we traveled back to town where we visited the school, Ariogalos Gimnazija. We answering questions about life in the United States and asking questions about life in Lithuania—an experience that enhanced each countries cadets and students grasp a better understanding of each culture. A short time later we moved outside to the school’s athletic field or “stadium” and participated in several activities with the students that included competition firing pellet guns, followed by running a 4×400 meter relay race against the schools runners.

Over the course of our trip we were able to broaden our mindset of other cultures because of the opportunity to integrate with the Lithuanians, and also by being taught the history and struggle for independence that Lithuania has seen.

Cadets visit Brigada Paracaidista–lessons in culture and language (2013)

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Our hard earned Airborne wings.

Our hard earned Airborne wings.

Eight Army ROTC Cadets from around the U.S. landed in Madrid, Spain June 1 with the missions of teaching Spanish soldiers tactical English, gaining a better understanding of Spanish culture, and earning our Spanish Airborne wings. These goals were achieved through countless hours in the classroom, various training environments, and visits to various cities in Spain.

Shortly after arriving we were plunged headlong into Spanish culture by enjoying a traditional lunch followed by a visit to the Sofia Renia Museum.

We visited several musuems to learn about Spanish history.

We visited several musuems to learn about Spanish history.

A few days later we were introduced to the soldiers we would accompany for the next few weeks. These Spanish paratroopers are part of the elite Brigada Paracaidista (BRIPAC) of the Spanish Army. The unit has been in existence since 1953 and has seen combat in multiple theaters such as Kosovo, Bosnia, and also as a quick reaction force (QRF) in Afghanistan.

We trained to the Spanish Army’s schedule beginning with a five to seven mile run in the mornings, followed by teaching English to the Spanish soldiers, and then either military training or a chance to experience the culture by traveling to nearby towns. On the weekends we travelled to Spanish cities accompanied by a few of the Spanish soldiers who acted as guides. These trips included visits to the Infantry Academy and the Army Museum in Toledo, the Artillery Academy and the Military Archives in Segovia, and to the unit museum on the base. Other visits included the historical cities of Madrid, Sevilla, and Barcelona.

Teaching our counterparts conversational English

Teaching our counterparts conversational English

Throughout the three weeks that we were with Spanish soldiers, we felt like we formed a brotherhood. Every day that we were together we began to grow closer to each other. One day in particular we jumped with the Spanish paratroopers, earning our Spanish Airborne wings, called Rokiski. The Spanish airborne soldiers also earned their U.S. Army Airborne wings. This day we put our lives in the hands of each other as we helped each other rig our parachutes in preparation for the jump. It was a great bonding experience. After we completed the jump we celebrated with an afternoon out to lunch. 

At the end of the mission we said our farewells and traded gifts with our new brothers-in-arms knowing that the wisdom we all gained on this once-in-a-lifetime mission gave us the cultural knowledge that we may someday need to complete a multi-national mission.

Our new friends

Our new friends

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