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Cadets in ROTC and at the U.S. Military Academy have a great opportunity to work on their leadership skills and develop international relationships at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
The Cadet Leadership Development Course includes U.S. ROTC cadets and West Point cadets during its sessions in summer.
In June, one class had 30 ROTC students and a Military Academy cadet. Colombia provided 93 students for that course, 87 military cadets and six police lieutenants.
Another 28 ROTC students recently completed the course along with 78 Colombian army cadets. The four-week course is an orientation to the basics of U.S. military life focused on giving cadets an opportunity to practice their leadership skills.
"We usually give them three positions during the course (company commander, platoon leader and squad leader), said Brazilian Marine Capt. Gustavo Gomes, an instructor in the School of Leadership and Tactics. "Sometimes they have to repeat some position because of the number of the cadets, but most of the time just three."
Equally important to the cadets is the immersion in cultural diversity and relationship-building, as they live in barracks together, eat together, work and play together for the duration of the course.
"WHINSEC has provided the opportunity for American cadets to be immersed in the culture, language and customs of our Colombian counterparts," said Cadet Kara Styers, a student at Mercer University. "Getting to know new cadets from across the country and working together through international differences is an experience that has helped prepare us for our future roles in the Army." Wake Forest University Cadet Michael Kuklinski agreed.
"WHINSEC provided a unique opportunity for cadets to practice language skills and learn from the similarities and differences that exist between militaries," he said. "The CLD course challenged us to work through the barriers that language and culture create and developed us as leaders."
Fifty colleges, institutes and universities sent cadets this year, representing 29 states and Puerto Rico. WHINSEC began including U.S. cadets in the program in 2009 in cooperation with Cadet Command, offering some of the benefits of the ROTC Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program because of the use of Spanish language and because of the multinational nature of the Institute's faculty and student body.
But, the ROTC cadets were not alone in appreciating the experience.
"Strengthening our foundations with different doctrines and cultures make us better people, strengthening our knowledge personally and professionally to become better leaders in our army units," said William Lasso, a Colombian cadet.
"This trip was an unforgettable experience that made us remember why we chose this profession, teaching us the value of the words 'homeland, honor, loyalty' in the historic symbol of our Colombian army and making us see the importance of genuine bonds of friendship between two sister nations," Cadet Julian Ibarra said.
"The course is a great opportunity to both learn how to work with and lead those from other cultures while simultaneously building relationships based on achievement and mutual respect," said Cadet Meredith Buel III of Penn State University.