Two Chadron State College Army ROTC cadets, Kalli Talbot of Rapid City, South Dakota, and Greg McCallum of Chadron, attended the Cadet Coalition Warfighter Program in the country of Peru in May 20 through June 21.
The program, formerly known as the Cultural Understanding and Leadership Program, includes immersion experiences for cadets including a host nation military-to-military exchange, humanitarian service, and education about the social, cultural and historical aspects of the host country. The intention of the program is to develop culturally astute future leaders, strengthen strategic relationships, and support Army objectives.
Talbot said the most challenging part of the trip was combat water survival training.
“During the training you jump into the ocean off of a pier, swim 300 to 500 meters and make your way back to shore. As you get close to shore, the trainers bring a jet ski over and do circles around you to create waves and challenge your abilities a bit more. After I finished, I felt so much more confident in my ability to swim and conquered a bit of my fear of heights,” Talbot said.
She described her interactions with Peruvians as positive.
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“Whenever I had questions about the military academy or Peruvian culture I always received an in-depth answer that really helped me,” she said.
Following four days of weapons training and land navigation, Talbot and McCallum took a boat tour to the Paracas National Reserve and the Ballestas Islands. Even though it was cool and rainy, the tour was a morale booster, according to Talbot.
McCallum said he enjoyed sledding down the sand dunes in the Ica oasis and the cuisine in the Lima area.
He said being able to become friends and find some common ground with the Peruvian cadets was essential to making the trip and enjoyable one.
“I expected a challenging training environment and to have my interpersonal and communication skills challenged by having to adapt to a new culture. I know enough Spanish to get my point across, but not enough to hold a conversation. Using an online translation tool wasn’t an option due to limited internet availability. This caused some interesting lost in translation moments,” McCallum said.