More than 30 U.S. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets are attending a three-week culture, understanding and language proficiency (CULP) course in Arta, Djibouti, July 16-Aug. 6.
The training, which includes ruck marches, AK-47 weapons training, language classes, an obstacle course and more, is geared toward giving the ROTC cadets and Djiboutian Army cadets the opportunity to break down communication and cultural barriers.
“It’s a CULP mission that is conducted out of Fort Knox, Kentucky,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Brittany Ingram, ROTC cadre. “All of the cadets are chosen from their applications and chosen based on merit, fitness and grades to come into the CULP program.”
The cadets, who come from colleges all over the U.S., meet with their Djiboutian counterparts at the Djiboutian Military Academy, which lies in the Arta Mountains about an hour from Djibouti City. While there, the U.S. cadets teach Djiboutians what they’ve learned about the U.S. military, including topics like customs and courtesies and troop leading procedures. Djiboutian cadets then respond in kind, teaching them their own military traditions and practices.
“I hope to get out of this trip a familiarization of a country that was foreign to me,” said Fatima Habboub, an ROTC cadet from Wake Forest University who originally hails from Brooklyn, N.Y. “I’ve never been to East Africa before. It’s an interesting challenge to get used to and see for what’s in store for our futures, for some of us that [will] be deployed, whether [on] active-duty or in the reserve.”
Early on in the training, some cadets initially struggled with the intense heat, but that didn’t stop them from heading outdoors to participate in AK-47 field-stripping activities. The cadets also made a brief visit to the French Navy base on July 25 for a meal and an introduction to American coalition allies in Djibouti.
“Working with other cadets, as a group we have more a respect for them. They’re incredibly competent,” said Rebecca Segal, an Amherst College ROTC cadet originally from Brooklyne, Mass. “They’re a much smaller army, but we were all really impressed with what we saw. I think this is one of the best ROTC training (courses) that Army ROTC offers us.”
Comprising 273 host programs spread out over 1,100 partnership and affiliate schools across the country, U.S. Army ROTC is the largest commissioning source in the U.S. military.