Fresno State’s Army ROTC cadets visit developing nations over summer where they do volunteer work and gain cultural experience for the future.
A select number of Army ROTC students are chosen to travel every summer with The Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) program, where they do humanitarian work as well as earn points towards their rank.
“Army ROTC sponsors a trip called CULP, and basically they send a group of cadets, maybe one or two from each college in our brigade,” said Cadet Jordan Tarquinio of Fresno State’s Army ROTC, “and we go on a humanitarian trip or a ‘mil to mil’ which is military to military for one month.”
Tarquinio went on a “mil to mil”, but did mostly humanitarian work because she said other countries militaries are lenient on what they can do with them.
“The main goal of the program is for us to get more culturally diverse and get a sense of what the other part of the world is like and how other people view the world,” Tarquinio said.
The CULP team that she traveled with went to Cabo Verde, Africa, which consists of ten small chains of islands. She said Cabo Verde is not economically well-off.
“It was very surreal to see that people actually live this way. They go out and actually hunt their food. Or they go out and walk 10 miles to get water and walk another 10 miles carrying it on their head,” Tarquinio said.
Tarquinio said her team of 22 lived in a single “house” made of cinderblock, and some days they went without water.
Part of the ROTC students’ responsibility, is helping the communities.
“We built a structure for kids at a community center, we picked up debris, we taught English to the soldiers that were stationed there and did anything that could help,” Tarquinio said.
CULP is not available to everyone, only a few students are selected from each university’s ROTC program. “From Fresno State itself, we only had two people go,” Tarquinio said.
“The eighth brigade delegates a certain amount of slots to each school, so we got two, but the entire team that I went with there were tons of different kids from different places. There were 22, plus two members of the army and a lieutenant colonel,” Tarquinio said.
The exclusivity of CULP allows the students to meet and interact on a team with other cadets they have never met.
Major Ivan Miller, who oversees the Army ROTC’s involvement with CULP, said it is not unusual for students to return from a CULP mission and explain how strongly their time with their team affected them.
“The Army hopes that the cadets will use these experiences to become a better officer and to appreciate other cultures and peoples,” Miller said.
The cultural submersion helps cadets prepare for possible deployments in the future as they move up in rank.
“Programs like this are rare and, at its basic level, it is a college course being conducted overseas by Army ROTC,” Miller said.
Tarquinio said her time with CULP made her realize how thankful she is to live in America. She applied for another mission with CULP for the coming summer but will not know where she will deploy to until later this year.
Tarquinio gave advice to cadets interested in CULP: “Get ready for so much adversity and diversity. You’re going to bump into people that are from a totally different country and you’re going to have so much conflict with cultural differences, but I think it is worth the struggle.”