WEST POINT, N.Y. (July 1, 2010) -- West Point Junior Cadet Bradley Potts couldn't wait to get to work - especially since his work would consist of touring and helping the citizens of a foreign exotic land.

On May 24, Potts, a Cleveland native, five other cadets and an academy instructor arrived in Honduras, where they would spend their Advanced Individual Academic Development learning about the country and assisting Water for People.

Water for People is a nonprofit, international organization that currently works in 11 countries around the world to develop long-term solutions to water, sanitation and hygiene problems in impoverished communities.

Their main goal is to improve the quality of life by supporting the development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities and hygiene education programs.

The team's first job was to help Water for People assess the water systems in remote villages.
They performed water quality tests with chlorination and surveyed the local population on their knowledge of the systems and how they have been working.

According to his blog on the Army Strong Stories Web site, "the villagers were very friendly and generally satisfied with the water delivery system. Nearly all had a running tap just outside their front doors and a clean latrine within meters of the home."

After about a week working with Water for People, Potts and the team moved on to the cultural immersion part of the trip.

They visited Mayan ruins in Copan as well as a self-sustained coffee plantation, where a hydroelectric plant provided much-needed electricity without depriving a village downstream of their water supply.

Potts first heard about this academic enrichment opportunity in January. He wanted to be part of a unique AIAD not just to travel out of the country and practice his Spanish speaking skills, but to lend his engineering expertise and support to a community.

"What set this apart from other AIADs out of the country is that we're actually doing work: it's not just the whole tourist, cultural immersion thing," Potts said. "This is a 'work hard, play hard' type of AIAD."

Since getting involved with this AIAD, Potts thinks he would like to have a career in medicine where he could serve in similar humanitarian projects as an Army officer.

The opportunity to meet with the Honduran people during his time in their country has helped him understand the obligation of, "if you can help out, you should help out."

"Even in Afghanistan or Iraq you have to be able to communicate with people from other cultures," Potts said. "I think that developing cultural awareness, even if it's a culture that you're not deployed to, it still helps you in the future (in working) with people from other cultures."

By the end of their AIAD, Potts and the team felt more comfortable about working in a foreign land and interacting with people-a key skill necessary in Army leadership.

They were also better versed in Spanish conversation and gained a greater appreciation for a culture they had never experienced before.

"The people (in the small villages) had nothing in terms of their homes and building materials," Potts said. "Yet, they were the warmest, most hospitable people we met."

Potts and the rest of the team returned to the United States June 10.

See everything they did through stories, pictures and video clips in Potts' Army Strong blog at http://armystrongstories.com/blogger/bradley-potts.