ROTC attends course in Republic of Georgia

Five students from UNA’s ROTC and its lieutenant colonel traveled to the Republic of Georgia last summer to participate in Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) and received the Republic of Georgia basic mountaineering badge.

The six men from UNA, along with 22 others from around the United States competed with 2,500 applicants, of which 900 were selected. All 28 completed the course and earned the badge.

“We were the first cadets of any service to represent and attend a very qualified mountaineer training course,” said Lt. Col. Michael Snyder.

Georgian instructors conducted the 37-day course. UNA cadet battalion commander Ethan Herring said the worst part of the experience was the language barrier.

“(The Georgian instructors’) not being able to speak clear English made me more hesitant,” Herring said.

Despite the language barrier, Herring said the instructors were clear with their jobs and instructions.

During the course the cadets learned military mountain skills, such as how to ascend and descend a rock face; conduct a belay, which is a safety rope; mountain litters, which is how to help an injured person; obstacle passes and installing climbing ropes. Snyder said the course was physically and intellectually challenging.

One physical challenge was a hike from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. from the base of a mountain range to the top of the mountain peak.

“Everything we needed to eat and survive we carried up and carried back down,” Snyder said. “We just drank good mountain water.”

Sam Michaels said the worst part of the trip was the temperature at the top of the mountain.

Along with the physical aspects, cadets had to learn key phrases in another language. Snyder says this was an intellectual challenge for them.

Cadet Command headquarters of ROTC set up these courses as a military-to-military exchange. The UNA students and Snyder went to Sahkhere Mountaineering School. NATO provides the funding and instructors for these schools and secures their safety.

The five ROTC cadets Jordan Gray, James Mitchell, Harrison Knowlton, Herring and Michaels are currently teaching the other cadets what they learned during their training. After teaching them how to rappel a tower, they will begin rappelling natural rock faces in Alabama. Snyder said it is important not only to take the course, but also take the information they learned and share it with the others.

There are several cadets hoping to experience this internship next summer. Snyder said he firmly believes in these types of internships for men and women in North Alabama.

“What other departments offer paid internships where everything is covered?” Snyder said. “Not many other programs have internships like this.”

Before leaving for their internship, the cadets study the country and give a briefing on an assigned topic. They do a paper on the topic they learned about and then experience it.

The entire trip was not work, though. They had two weekends to venture out and experience the culture. Herring said it was amazing to see how helpful the Georgian people were.

“Georgians were so willing to help Americans,” Herring said. “Even though there was a language barrier, they would try their best to help us.”