By KELLY BARTLING
KEARNEY – When Cannon Marchand and James Knights signed up for University of Nebraska at Kearney’s ROTC, they hoped to advance their world knowledge, improve their leadership skills and take part in amazing experiences.
Both were able to do that this summer through two special Army Cadet training programs that took one to Bulgaria and the other to Germany.
Marchand traveled in June and July to Bulgaria, where he helped teach English to officers in Bulgaria through the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program, or CULP.
Knights went to Baumholder, Germany, July to August, where he shadowed officers and practiced his leadership skills while learning more about the lives of officers and then enlisted through a program called Cadet Troop Leader Training.
Knights, of Bellevue, said the experience was invaluable since he plans to graduate in May and be assigned as a platoon leader in an air defense unit.
“I’ve always wanted to serve my country and be part of something bigger than myself,” said Knights, a business major. “I’d like to have a positive effect on people’s lives. Being part of a team. Patriotism is a big part of it, too.” Being able to talk to, observe and work alongside officers at the air defense base assured Knights he chose the right career path.
“My objective was to see what a second lieutenant does on active duty in my job field… soaking it all up and seeing what happens. And asking the enlisted, what do they want to see in a platoon leader.”
Knights spent almost all of his time on the base, which is south of Frankfurt (5th battalion, 7th air defense artillery regiment). He did travel to Paris, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, but sight-seeing was not on his agenda. He participated in a lifesaver course and flew in a Black Hawk helicopter, among other experiences he had been looking forward to.
Marchand’s program took him to Plovdiv with a team of 10 other cadets to help Bulgarian officers there practice their English. As a newer member of NATO, the project was also intended to increase cultural awareness among the U.S. and Bulgaria.
Marchand, a history major from Kearney, was interested in learning as much as he could about the history, culture, architecture, geography and diversity of the foreign land on his first visit overseas. The Bulgarian officers – who already spoke good English – were Marchand’s travel guides as they passed Greek and Turkish settlements and historic sites, temples and monasteries, and encountered the Black Sea, his first beach.
“The diversity of the country was so interesting, and learning about the time and historic stories of the places we visited made me appreciate this area and its relevance to world history,” Marchand said. “The importance (to me) was also in training with other cultures and observing their different ways of doing things.”
Like Knights, Marchand said he appreciates the learning opportunities from ROTC, along with access to college. “Having help paying for college is nice,” said Marchand, who plans to graduate in 2019. “But with the tradeoff of my time, I’m getting advanced training and leadership and getting experiences others won’t have.”
In addition to the sites, both Marchand and Knights enjoyed the food and the camaraderie of the officers and friendliness of the people in the countries they visited, who had positive regard for the U.S. soldiers.
Media: Todd Gottula, Director of Communications, 308.865.8454, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Brady O. Plunkett, Military Science Department Chair, 308.746.3319, 308.865.8093