WHINSEC reaches across Atlantic: First European students attend institute, set to graduate from cour
August 7, 2013
By Lee Rials
FORT BENNING, Ga., (Aug. 7, 2013) -- Two Polish military students joined 20 U.S. ROTC, 62 Colombian and 44 Peruvian cadets in the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation's Cadet Leadership Development Course.
The four-week course holds its graduation ceremony Aug. 7 at McGinnis-Wickam Hall.
The cadets from Poland are the first European cadets to come to WHINSEC, and only the second and third individuals from that continent in any Institute course.
The U.S. cadets come out of 18 Army ROTC programs from across the country, continuing a cooperative arrangement with Cadet Command that augments its Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program.
The course introduces U.S. and partner-nation cadets to Army leadership. Cadets are organized into an Infantry company, and each gets placed in leadership positions during the course. Leadership competence and teamwork are measured through training exercises evaluating the ability to forge teams during challenging scenarios.
Maneuver Center of Excellence training facilities such as the Leaders Reaction Course, obstacle courses, pools for combat water survival training, land navigation courses and training areas provide excellent opportunities to gauge leadership skills.
U.S. Army Infantry tactics and doctrine are the core principles used, and The Profession of Arms values of democracy and human rights are emphasized in all aspects of training.
Whether from Poland, Colombia, Peru or the U.S., the course offered new experiences and challenges to the students, most of whom are in their second or third year of military studies.
Several cadets were asked to comment on those experiences, and they gave the following perspectives:
"It's a great opportunity to check our current knowledge about commanding and leadership, learn something new, meet new people and gather some new skills," wrote Cadet Mateusz Kotas of Poland. "I've learned about new models of leadership, how I have to treat my soldiers, and how I have to cooperate with (others). Moreover, I've got some new information about human rights and gathered some basic tactical skills. I hope the knowledge that I gathered here will help me to be a better commander in the future."
"In my opinion," Cadet Bartlomiej Wiecek of Poland said, "the course is a good opportunity to exchange military knowledge between different nations.
We are divided in platoons, in every platoon are people from different countries. We get tasks which we have to fulfill, that means we must cooperate with each other. These were tasks which required from us leadership skills. For example, in the Leader Reaction Course we learn how to be good leaders -- here every one of us has a chance to command. I was the company first sergeant. That was a little bit challenging for me, but I'm glad to have such an opportunity. The first week, (there) were a few lectures about characteristics of good leader, then in the following weeks we could use theory in practice. I will always remember from the course one very important thing. Namely, if we want to lead the troops and be good commanders, at first we have to start with ourselves, then we can require things from soldiers."
The ROTC cadets viewed the course as good preparation for next summer, when they will be attending the Army's Leadership Development Advanced Camp.
"The biggest lesson I have learned at WHINSEC is that of adaptability," Cadet Ashtin Miller, University of Utah, said. "Upon arrival I found all of my classes were in a language I could (not) speak or understand, Spanish.
That factor alone forced me to step out of my comfort zone and improve my Spanish skills. I have learned more Spanish in the last three weeks than four years of high school Spanish, also learning about the culture of the armies of different countries in the process. It has been interesting to see the similarities between the different cultures.
"I'm very grateful for the extra experience and training WHINSEC has given me in events that will be included at LDAC such as CWST, qualification, LRC and STX lanes.
WHINSEC has helped me to begin to learn my leadership style. Platoon sergeant at WHINSEC is the first leadership position I've ever had as an incoming MS III," Miller said.
"In the end, I feel I am going back to my ROTC program an improved and more experienced cadet."
Georgetown University Cadet Charles Hernandez focused on the cultural aspects.
"The WHINSEC LDR-1 course has provided me the opportunity to witness U.S. foreign policy in a visceral manner," he said. "Although faced with various obstacles ... as Spanish military courtesy, customs, and drill and ceremony, I have developed new friendships with international cadets and built a mutual understanding between our cultures.
"As an MS II I have received the best training and leadership experience from an Army specialty school in preparation for LDAC next summer. The course places American cadets in an environment where they can build upon their current leadership skills, while interacting with foreign cadets," Hernandez said.
"The course has awakened in me what a leader has to have, the characteristics of a leader when living on the battlefield with his soldiers," fourth year Colombian cadet Alferez Jonathan Castro Bermudez said. "I have learned to live alongside people of different countries (and) there has been a really good exchange of knowledge.
This course will help me think in a different manner to which I was thinking, in terms of command. It has taught me that command is not just yelling and feel bigger than everybody else, but to give a good example and take my men to victory."
The course is taught by U.S. Army and Partner-Nation officers and NCOs in the Special Operations Division, School of Specialized Studies, of the Institute.