Article by Cadet Cleone Abrams. Edited by Hope Nelson.
SENEGAL, Africa. — Senegal Team One is wrapping up its third and final week in Africa. The Cadets spent the majority of the week at the Ecole Nationale des Officers d’Active (ENOA) and celebrated their graduation. However, they were fortunate enough to still able to tour around Western Senegal and see more of the country. This week, Cadets looked back and shared their favorite and most impactful experiences of the trip.
Cadet Brandt Burrows of Virginia Polytechnic Institute learns how to drum with a griot (traditional storyteller) at Tangor Café. July 9, 2017. Photo by Cadet Cleone Abrams.
“The most impactful experience of my trip to Senegal has been the humanitarian aid mission at the orphanage in Saly,” said Cadet Matthew Tschida, St. John’s University, “seeing how excited and genuine the children were, despite the living conditions they had, made me much more appreciative for the opportunities that have come my way. This experience will stick with me for a lifetime, and it will help me understand the struggles that many countries face throughout the world.”
For some, the most impactful parts of the trip have little to do with Army training.
“My favorite time was when I held one of the kids at the orphanage. Her smile lit up bright as the Eiffel Tower at Christmas when I put my hat on her. Humming Les Miserables and La Marseialles to her was a good bonus. Plus, it was fun working with all of the other cadets to do something impactful, and cool to see what other US missions were doing to help out in the country,” said Cadet Benjamin Lindsey, Kansas State University.
The Cadets are continuing to learn so much not only in training but also in culture. They get the chance to grow as a future Army officer as well as a person.
Cadet Benjamin Ryan, American University, reflected on the significance of his trip so far saying, “The most impactful part of the trip wasn’t a single moment, but rather the ongoing series of interactions and conversations I had with the Wolof people regarding their culture, and their perceptions of relationships with their neighbors and communities. It gave me better insight as to how many people of Senegal think about their position in social situations, and the divide between traditional and westernizing Senegalese culture.”
As the Cadets are immersed in a world outside the United States, they get to see just how rewarding this career they’ve chosen can be. They’ve gotten to share so many experiences while having only just begun their journey into becoming an Army officer.
Just as they are excited to finally receive their gold bars and become an officer, they got to witness that excitement for the Cadets in Senegal. “My best experience was the whole day of graduation celebrations. The graduating Cadets worked so hard for 2 years and getting to be with them when they are finally done was fun to be around because they were just so happy to finally be officers,” said Cadet Harrison Davies, Milwaukee School of Engineering.
U.S. Cadets participated in the graduation ceremony at the Senegalese Military Academy (ENOA) in Theis. The cadets represented the continued partnership between the countries and celebrated in the commissioning cadets’ success during the two-and-a-half-hour ceremony and parade. July 13, 2017. Photo by Cadet Cleone Abrams.
Every day the Cadets in Senegal gain more and more insight into the world around them. They realize the importance of culture, learning and awareness and how these things will shape them as an Army officer. Combining cultural immersion along with Army training has really given these Cadets an experience like any other.
“Helping out at the orphanage was a really fulfilling experience for me. I’m glad we got to aid them in painting cribs for the children who can now be better protected from disease,” said Cadet Joseph Gardner, Michigan Technological University, while Cadet Brandt Burrows, Virginia Polytechnic Institute reflected on his time with the ENOA Cadets, “For me, watching how appreciative the ENOA Cadets were to get to share their graduation with us was the highlight of my time in Senegal. They brought me to meet all of their families and seemed very grateful.”
While the Cadets are hard at work most days, they do get to have some fun along the way.
“My favorite part of our trip to Senegal was the zip line and high ropes course we did at Accro Baobab. This was a very interesting and exciting way to see part of the country-side outside of Dakar, and was a great way for many of us to step outside of our comfort zones,” said Cadet Amanda Zeboor, University of Notre Dame.
This humbling journey has given the U.S. Cadets an experience to draw on for the rest of their lives, in and out of their career.
“The highlight of my time in Senegal was the realization of the African community and how much it is shaped by the local Islamic tradition, said Cadet Cleone Abrams, University of Washington, “Everywhere we went, all of the locals came out to talk to us, the children danced freely to any music they heard, and everyone was incredibly welcoming. Contrasted to the individualistic culture I grew up with, it was refreshing to see people come together as neighbors and fellow believers but also let others, as the locals repeatedly say, “live and let live.”
Cadet Daniel Wilcoxen, Missouri State University, said, “My favorite experience was talking to the ENOA cadets at random times throughout the day. It was very humbling to see how they make the most of what they have.
Cadet Benjamin Ryan of American University and Senegal Team One explore the natural history at Popenguine National Reserve – home to threatened sea turtle nests and cared for by local women who value the beauty and economic opportunity provided by the coastal park. July 14, 2017. Photo by Cadet Cleone Abrams.
As their time in Senegal comes to an end, the U.S. Cadets realized just how valuable this experience has been. It’s something unlike anything else – truly amazing.
“My most impactful experience of the Senegal CULP trip was the orphanage humanitarian mission,” said Cadet Garret Pluhar, Tarleton State University, “I realize what we did seemed small but to the orphanage it made a world of difference. That orphanage only receives aid from units like ours and other humanitarian groups. Seeing the children we were helping really made me feel better and made me feel as though I am really making a difference. I will never forget this experience.”
Team One has experienced, adventured, seen, participated, risked, and learned an incredible amount over the past three weeks. It was not all glamorous, as Fort Knox reminded us with every briefing, “This is not a vacation,” but the natural beauty we witnessed, relationships we built, and memories we made will remain with us when we go forward as U.S. Army officers.
Cadet Summer Training will bring 8,200 Cadets through Basic and Advanced Camp this summer on Fort Knox. These camps are designed to help challenge, grow and improve various skills and leadership qualities within the Cadets. If you think you have what it takes to be a Cadet or if you are interested in a job after college click the following link: https://my.goarmy.com/info/rotc1/index.jsp?iom=IP08-AUTO-R1NA-BR-XXX-XX-XXX-MO-XX-X-BRCMAC:IP08