AMES, Iowa – Lt. Col. Richard Smith, head of Iowa State University’s Army ROTC battalion, will be the mission commander for a dozen American cadets participating in a cultural awareness program in Croatia in July.
Smith, professor and chair of military science at Iowa State, will lead the cadets and a U.S. Air Force captain in ROTC’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program in the central European country.
The Army’s Cadet Command annually sponsors the program that will send more than 1,000 ROTC cadets from throughout the United States to about 40 nations this summer. The cadets will immerse themselves in their local nation’s culture and language to learn about the world and how the world views the United States, Smith said.
"These young men and women will participate in an immersion process to better understand the culture of a different part of the world," he said. "They will learn how to adapt and operate in new surroundings. We want them to experience culture shock now so they are better prepared to operate in foreign countries in the future."
The program in each country is tailored to the specific requests of the host nation, and Smith’s cadets will train with Croatian military cadets on combat techniques.
"We collaborate to meet the needs of both the ROTC program and the U.S. Embassy," Smith explained. "Our mission in Croatia is military-to-military. In other nations, U.S. cadets could work with NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) or they could participate in intensive language training.
As mission commander in Croatia, Smith will work with the U.S. Embassy and the Croatian military to set up field training and cultural instruction. The cadets are scheduled to meet both the Croatian minister of defense and the U.S. Ambassador to Croatia during their three-week stay
"Our unit will bring along both their ACUs [Army combat uniforms] and their dress blues," Smith added.
Twenty-six cadets from the ISU’s Cyclone Battalion will travel to 13 nations this summer as part of the program. Eight will visit Kosovo, and three will accompany Smith to Croatia. The program is competitive, and cadets are chosen based on grade-point average, physical fitness, an essay and other criteria.
"It’s a fantastic program," Smith said.
In 2012, Master Sgt. Benjamin Pingel, senior military instructor for the Cyclone Battalion, participated in the program in Tanzania as part of the leadership cadre. -30-
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