Army ROTC Cadets Learn about Foreign Cultures, Military

By Jennifer Donovan | Published

Six Army ROTC cadets from Michigan Technological University were chosen to participate in a unique internship program overseas this summer.

Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) missions are cultural learning deployments that provided an additional opportunity for Cadets to experience and adapt to another culture and appreciate the strategic impact of their actions.  

Nationwide, 1,300 ROTC cadets went to CULP programs in 44 countries. They were chosen based on merit, fitness and grades. Lt. Col.  Adam Melnitsky, commander of Michigan Tech’s Army ROTC program, served as a mission commander for the CULP mission in Lithuania.   

Tech cadets selected for CULP and the countries where they served were:

  • Jack Youngblood, a 3rd year student in forestry, Djibouti, Africa.
  • Adam Pionke, a 4th year student in mechanical engineering technology, and Ethan Knake, a 2nd year student in electrical and computer engineering, Indonesia.
  • Tyler Grifka, a 4th year student in electrical engineering, Madagascar.
  • Brandon Van Wert, a 3rd year student in electrical and computer engineering, Panama.
  • Bryce Kinder, a 5th year student in mechanical engineering, the Philippines.
Cadets from CULP Team Panama, including Brandon Van Wert from Michigan Tech, visit the town of Yaviza in Panama's jungle-covered Darién Province.

“Michigan Tech cadets are very competitive for Cadet Summer Training opportunities,” said Melnitsky.  “For example, about 160 cadets were selected for CULP from 41 programs assigned to our brigade. Michigan Tech had six of those cadets, so, as a percentage, our program was very well represented.”

Youngblood was chosen as one of 30 cadets from universities across the US to attend the three-week CULP course with Djiboutian Army cadets.  Djibouti lies in northeast Africa on the Gulf of Aden at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. Youngblood was there from July 16 to August 6.

The course was held at the Djiboutian Military Academy in Arta, about an hour away from the country’s capital of Djibouti City.

During the course, US and Djiboutian cadets dedicated approximately 72 hours to language and cultural exchange, hiked eight miles in the Arta Mountains, completed a course on weapons operations, saw a demonstration of a French obstacle course and visited the French naval base.

They also attended a first aid class, shared their best practices, and learned about each other's military traditions and troop leader procedures.

Jack Youngblood, CULP Djibouti, disassembling an AK 47 prior to qualification at a Djiboutian Armed Forces shooting range in Arta.

Youngblood calls his time in Djibouti “a great experience that I would never have had the opportunity to do without the Army ROTC CULP (Cultural Understanding and Language Program) program. While we were in Djibouti we had the chance to train and interact with the Djiboutian cadets almost every day. We were able to carry out training in the rugged mountains, have range days with the AK 47 and the fully automatic PKM, as well as immerse ourselves in their culture.”

Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) hosted the American cadets, providing daily necessities during their stay in Djibouti including living quarters, food and transportation. CJTF-HOA's mission in Eastern Africa is to enable and strengthen Eastern African partners, continue to forge relationships, and shape regional security and stability.

US Army ROTC is the largest commissioning source in the US military, comprising 273 host programs spread out over 1,100 partnership and affiliate schools across the country.

Last Modified 3:28 PM, June 13, 2017


Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries around the world. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our beautiful campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.