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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

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

Cadets teach English, shop on water (2013)

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Cadet Edward Rauch, a junior from The University of Scranton teaches Thai Army Aviation non-commissioned officers correct English pronunciation and vocabulary as a part of the U.S. Army ROTC Cultural Language and Understanding program this summer of 2013.

Cadet Edward Rauch, a junior from The University of Scranton teaches Thai Army Aviation non-commissioned officers correct English pronunciation and vocabulary as a part of the U.S. Army ROTC Cultural Language and Understanding program this summer of 2013.

The Army ROTC Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency program gives Army ROTC Cadets the opportunity to be immersed into a different culture so that Cadets can learn different features of the particular country visited. While Cadets may have left home with one expectation, the reality once they hit the ground wasn’t always the same.

“I never would have thought teaching our native language would be challenging,” said Cadet Edward Rauch, a junior from The University of Scranton, of his initial impression in Thailand. “But I now realize that I am also learning about their culture and understanding of our country and how rewarding teaching our language can be.”
Rauch studies nursing at The University of Scranton and added, “I feel as though this will give me more experience in interacting and teaching in other nations which is especially important in order to provide quality care to patients overseas on deployment to different countries.”

The floating market was a market place that was on the water and visitors shopped by rowing a boat up to each stall.

The floating market was a market place that was on the water and visitors shopped by rowing a boat up to each stall.

The Cadets gained further cultural experience through weekend excursions to historical and cultural sites. Rauch mentioned that one of the most fascinating destinations was the Floating market, “one of the prime examples of cultural differences between the U.S. and the South East Asia region.”

The future nurse has taken many cultural considerations from this trip and believes these experiences to be useful once he is commissioned as an officer in the Nurse Corps.

For more information on the Army ROTC CULP program visit:  http://www.cadetcommand.army.mil/culp/
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