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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.

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.

Rutgers University Cadet reflects on CULP mission to Vietnam (2013)

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1.IMG_1582By Cadet Kenneth Harrison; Rutgers University-Douglass College

As Army ROTC Cadets headed on a CULP mission to Vietnam, we spent some of the pre-deployment phase at Fort Knox, getting to know each other and our mission, We were actually the second rotation of the Vietnam CULP mission, and we believed that it would not be difficult for us to communicate with the people of Vietnam for mission purposes. However, our preconceptions, as they would be throughout our mission, were wrong.

Coming into Vietnam many of us had expectations of what we would see. Some of our expectations would be proven false, but some were accurate. A few of us had been to Vietnam before, but none of us had been to the North of the country. Many of us thought that the students would be more interested in learning the language due to their future missions, and not as interested in learning about the United States. We believed that because of a language and cultural barrier it would be difficult to truly establish a relationship with anyone in the short time that we had available. Many of the Cadets were unsure of what to think of how we would be perceived by our counterparts in Vietnam. Many of us expected a lot of animosity towards us first as Americans, and second, as representatives of the American Army.

The reality was much different. Upon stepping out of the airport we were instantly besieged with foreign-sensory overload. We knew there would be heat, but the first step out of the air-conditioned airport truly shocked us. We were hit by heat, extreme humidity, and smells and sites that we had never experienced before.

Local transportation includes not only buses and taxis, but other means. And  traffic laws are different from those we have in the U.S.

Local transportation includes not only buses and taxis, but other means. And traffic laws are different from those we have in the U.S.

The culture shocks continued as we piled into our bus and were greeted by Vietnam’s unique traffic “laws”. There were people passing our vehicle on all sides, crossing into oncoming traffic and dipping back into their lane just before collision. We repeatedly saw five or more people on a single motor bike. This would be one of the hardest things for us to adjust to during our stay.

During the first couple of days, we were completely immersed in the city of Hanoi. One of the first things we encountered was the aggressiveness of their salespeople. Due to our obvious foreign appearance we were frequently approached by sidewalk-vendors selling us anything from aesthetic fans to Zippo lighters. They would follow us for several blocks and at one time we had a crowd talk to us for 40 minutes attempting vigorously to sell us anything they could.

After our initial exploration we moved into the true execution of the mission, teaching English to officers in the Vietnamese military. The reception was completely and overwhelmingly warm—not what we expected. Our first encounter with the Vietnamese military was through a colonel, a panel of high-ranking officers and an interpreter in a very ornate and formal conference room with a large bust of Ho Chi Minh overlooking the proceedings.

For many of us, this was the realization of the importance and legitimacy of our mission. We walked into the classrooms and were greeted warmly and positively by all the participants. However, we found the first few days to be a challenge. Many of our ice-breaker games failed, and we had difficulty communicating. We were frequently met with “can you please speak slower?” Over the next few days, we learned what words our students could understand, and how we could communicate most effectively with them. At the same time we were focused on creating a positive and enjoyable learning environment.

As we got to know one another we exchanged stories, and even tried ourselves against each other at things like arm wrestling.

As we got to know one another we exchanged stories, and even tried ourselves against each other at things like arm wrestling.

During breaks is when we truly began to interact personally with our students. Class time was when we taught English, but during breaks they asked us to explain American culture while they explained their culture. They were fascinated by where we lived, our families, our girlfriends and boyfriends, and who we were. They were equally eager to show us pictures of their homes, their wives, their children, and their country which interested each of us. We wanted to know as much about Vietnam as they wanted to know about the United States. We were met with history lessons, language lessons, and culture lessons. Over the two weeks our bonds began to grow and our lessons became more involved and interesting. We were surprised at how attached we became to our students and how quickly the relationships formed between us and them.

Finally, we traveled the country. While traveling we learned more and more about the people of the Vietnam. We were amazed at the work ethic we saw.

Local villagers work in a rice field. We saw many people who had a strong work ethic.

Local villagers work in a rice field. We saw many people who had a strong work ethic.

While driving or riding through the nation we were exposed to farmers, working in extreme heat, waist deep in mud, dragging animals through the farms while cultivating rice, using the same techniques that have been efficiently refined for thousands of years. We saw stark differences in standards of living with shacks being placed across the streets from ornate elaborate beach resorts. We began to appreciate some of the systems for standardization and regulation that we have in our country such as the FDA and EPA that were missing here. Most importantly, we were able to see a country’s unique and developed history from its own perspective, independent of our own biases, allowing us to try to formulate a new point of view.boat2-2013-06-16 08.04.47

Our time in Vietnam has been important and has broadened our views. We know that this has been a fantastic learning opportunity for us as future leaders in the United States Army. It has given us the ability to learn to speak with people who not only do not know us, but may or may not understand us. We learned to adapt and use improvised methods to send and receive messages across a language barrier. We saw that Vietnam is completely different from how it has been portrayed by popular media; it is much more developed, vibrant, and complex.

We saw how they viewed their own national heroes when we went to visit the tomb of Ho Chi Minh. This allowed us to overcome the “boogeyman era” of the Cold War. It showed us that we could overcome our own preconceptions and that positive relations are possible–many of us were as worried about our own reactions as we were about theirs.

The CULP mission to Vietnam is incredibly important in the current political climate of Asia. We also know that since the Vietnamese military is investing a lot to teach these officers English that they will be at the forefront of future relations with the United States and it is imperative that they are given a positive image from the beginning.

Most importantly, this mission shows that even after years of some of the most hostile conflicts of the twentieth century, that peace and a positive, mutually beneficial, and long-lasting relationship is possible and well on its way. 2013-06-07 13.47.42

Cadet learn Thai and how hot peppers can be (2013)

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By Lauren Parrinello, Towson University

While in Thailand on a Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency mission, Cadets from across the country came to together to teach English to Thai enlisted soldiers and officers. It is important t for the Thai to learn English so when they are serving on NATO missions they can communicate with personnel from other countries.

While the objective in the classroom is to prepare these soldiers for their English test, the objective for the Cadets is focused on enhancing their cultural understanding.

Cadet Cheyenne Szarka said, “This mission is more important than some think. As a future leader, I have to be able to operate in any environment, at any time. On-the-ground missions like CULP increase the Cadets’ relevance and knowledge when participating in a global society. No amount of reading, or research, can replace that.”

One evening we had dinner with Thai pilot Capt. Koom. We enjoyed a traditional Thai dinner with him and he talked us into having a pepper contest. Over the course of dinner we learned about the many facets of Thai Culture; and needless to say, how hot, hot peppers can really be.

Thai pilot Capt. Koom is enjoying a traditional Thai dinner with the Cadets, who he just talked into having a pepper contest. Over the course of dinner the cadets learned about the many facets of Thai Culture; and needless to say, how hot, hot peppers can really be.

Thai pilot Capt. Koom is enjoying a traditional Thai dinner with the Cadets, who he just talked into having a pepper contest. Over the course of dinner the cadets learned about the many facets of Thai Culture; and needless to say, how hot, hot peppers can really be.

Cadets teach English and learn Muay Thai (2013)

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Through the U.S. Army ROTC Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency program, Cadets get the exciting opportunity to explore a new country and learn about its culture as several of us did when we were assigned to the Lopburi Province of Thailand. Here, we worked with the nation’s developing Army aviation unit and taught its officers and maintainers English so that these soldiers can receive further avionics training in the United States.

Cadets teach Thai officers and maintainers English so  these soldiers can receive further avionics training in the United States.

Cadets teach Thai officers and maintainers English so these soldiers can receive further avionics training in the United States.

Cadets covered everything from reading comprehension and vocabulary to American history and phonetic pronunciation daily. More importantly, the Cadets are building a strong camaraderie with the Thai soldiers to foster a lasting and committed relationship between the U.S. Armed Forces and the Royal Thai Military for years to come.

Another important aspect of CULP is to learn about the culture of the country in which the cadets are received. In Thailand, Muay Thai is a significant aspect of its culture, evolving much throughout its history.

Believed to have started over 2,000 years ago, Muay Thai is known worldwide as a combat sport in martial arts with similar ties to modern kickboxing. Early Thais used Muay Thai as a means of self-defense, but also as hand-to-hand combat in battle. Recently, Muay Thai has become widespread and is considered to be the dominant stand-up fighting form of MMA as seen in the UFC.

Cadet Stephen Oh participated in this CULP mission and has spent the past year and a half training in Muay Thai at home. He said he has found the opportunity during his stay in Thailand to learn about its history, techniques and origin. Such a visit is an incomparable experience in the development of his skills and understanding of this martial art.

Cadet Oh  posing in front of the memorial Muay Thai statue in the Bangsai Arts Centre in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

Cadet Oh posing in front of the memorial Muay Thai statue in the Bangsai Arts Centre in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

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