Alexander Herty never expected he would have the opportunity to travel to Djibouti, Africa. Likewise, Deanna Mikell never saw herself traveling to Mongolia on her own. However, thanks to the Army ROTC’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program (CULP), both Herty and Mikell traveled far over the summer.
Herty, 24, studies information technology at The University of Southern Mississippi. He said he decided to join ROTC his sophomore year of college in the hopes of pursuing his larger goal of becoming a commissioned officer in the United States Army.
“Serving is something I really wanted to do,” Herty said. “Being a future officer is more challenging, and ROTC is a really good vehicle to get to my goal.”
Mikell studies at William Carey but is a member of the Southern Miss ROTC. She has participated in ROTC since high school for many of the same reasons as Herty.
“It was an opportunity to continue what I loved and pursue a bigger goal of joining the army as an officer,” Mikell said.
The Army ROTC’s CULP program provides ROTC cadets across the nation opportunities to travel to foreign nations and learn skills that can only be obtained outside of a classroom. As part of the experience, cadets participate in military-to-military exchange, language and cultural learning and humanitarian service.
According to the Army ROTC website, CULP’s goal is to teach ROTC cadets more cultural awareness and foreign language skills. This year, over 1,300 Army ROTC cadets traveled to 42 different countries as part of the CULP program.
At first, Mikell did not know what to expect when she traveled to Mongolia, an East-Asian country landlocked between China and Russia.
Mikell said she quickly adjusted to the people and culture soon after arriving.
“They were very friendly and treated you like family, especially Americans,” Mikell said.
Mikell’s mission focused on strengthening the English speaking skills of her Mongolian counterparts. In return, Mikell was instructed in Mongolian culture, language and military training.
Mikell said her mission was a beautiful experience that helped her grow as an ROTC cadet.
“I know I can go without certain tools, because they go without them all the time,” Mikell said. “They made stuff last when they did not have the materials. We have all the things we need, so I need to learn to use them to the best of my ability and learn as much as I can while I am in ROTC so that I can be better equipped for overseas training.”
While Mikell was in Mongolia, Herty carried out a similar mission in Djibouti, a small nation in the Horn of Africa. Djibouti is smaller than the state of Rhode Island, but the port-nation handles many responsibilities in their part of the world as a major commercial hub.
“I’m glad I got to go,” Herty said. “I got to work alongside their cadets, taught them military classes and first aid, troop leading procedures and general military knowledge. Then they taught us their version.”
Herty said it was a great experience that taught him much.
“The most important thing is more practice and experience working with people from other countries and different cultures,” Herty said. “More appreciation for what people do across the world, and I’m a lot more humble and thankful for what I have here. I was so impressed with how much they do with how little they have.”
Herty and Mikell recommended that cadets participate in the CULP program if given the opportunity.
“Try to take any opportunity the Army has to work with foreign countries,” Herty said. “It’s given me a greater understanding of how foreign relations work. I highly suggest it, it is an invaluable experience. If I could, I would do it every summer.”