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West Point Cadets Experience Cultural Lessons Firsthand

By Army Sgt. Tyler Meister | 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment | Nov. 21, 2017

WARRENTON, Oregon – Participants in the 13th annual U.S.-China Disaster Management Exchange (DME) experienced many firsts, but this year marked first time U.S. Military Academy West Point cadets participated in the event.

U.S. Army Pacific hosts the annual event to promote strategic dialogue with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to foster mutual trust and understanding. The DME allows hands-on and side-by-side interaction between the U.S. Army and PLA on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) operations.

Since 2005, the DME has matured from basic visits and briefings into a substantive exchange that facilitates interaction and develops the capacity to de-conflict HA/DR operations between the U.S. Army and the PLA. This year’s exchange took place November 16-19, 2017, at the Oregon National Guard’s Camp Rilea Armed Forces Training Center in Warrenton, Ore.

The USMA sent four senior cadets who are all Chinese language majors in an effort to enhance their cultural knowledge and experience by observing the interactions and development between the PLA and U.S. Army.

“This is my first time witnessing our two nation’s militaries coming together and having such a drastic difference in cultures and language,” said Cadet Christopher Clarkin. “It is interesting to see how over time the Soldiers from both nations are able to overcome these differences and work together well.”

The DME at Camp Rilea consisted of two main events. First, a tabletop exchange where joint interagency groups conducted humanitarian assistance disaster relief presentations and discussions from a flood management-based scenario. Simultaneously, skill exchanges consisting of water rescue demonstrations, search and rescue, expedient bridging, medical and surveys were conducted as part of the practical field exchange between both armies.

Cadet Jacob Roberts said it was a unique experience to be able to see first-hand the things they have been learning about in class.

“It was a great opportunity to interact with the PLA soldiers and see our cultures coming together and being successful despite clear differences with language and cultural barriers,” said Roberts

The USMA mission is to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character. Capt. James Daniel, a USMA instructor of Chinese said the exchange offered a fantastic, rare and unique experience that his cadets can take with them to develop their own leadership styles.

“Any developmental opportunities like this are crucial to helping our cadets become sound leaders with exposure to a variety of situations,” said Daniel. “We are thankful for U.S. Army Pacific’s invitation to this national interaction and we look forward to having the opportunity to participate in future events.”

All of the cadets found the chance to interact with all ranks within the Army a good change of pace that provided realistic learning outside the schoolhouse environment. They felt that their hybrid training as students and soon to be officers allowed for fresh and unique viewpoints.

“Watching Soldiers with similar experience but different cultures working together allowed us to learn and analyze the mechanisms of our military interactions,” said Clarkin. “We can use this knowledge now as cadets to improve our future ability and understanding of how to better lead our Soldiers as officers.”
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