Norwich junior joins with professor to advance cross-cultural learning for ROTC

Junior Cameron Myette, left, is working with Prof. Travis Morris to expand the understanding of foreign cultures in the ROTC program.

Junior Cameron Myette, left, is working with Prof. Travis Morris to expand the understanding of foreign cultures in the ROTC program.    Photo by Evan Bowley

Cameron Myette is a junior who will be graduating this spring, unlike most of his peers in his class. Over the last few months, with the help from faculty, he has set out to accomplish a rather large goal that would not only help the school, but other students, as a way of giving back to Norwich.

As an Army ROTC cadet, with the 100-year celebration of ROTC’s birthday just around the corner, he wondered where the future lies for the program. Myette wanted to know where ROTC has been and where it is going.

In collaboration with Prof. Travis Morris, they have set out to not only change ROTC for the better, but to help junior officers have a better understanding of cross-cultural competencies as well.

With the United States military now becoming a global force, it is important for junior officers to have empathy to better understand the people you will meet around the globe, according to Myette, a 21-year-old studies of war and peace major from Duxbury, Mass.

“It was a consensus that ROTC cadet command has done a good job with implementing cross-cultural competencies, they’ve learned a lot of lessons in the Middle East and have taught junior officers to think more globally.”

Cross-cultural competencies are the ability to be dropped in an environment and be able to work with people of other cultures and not get hung up on the cultural differences, according to professor Morris. “You may not be able to speak Pashtun or Arabic but you know how to still do your job.”

“The reason why I say this is because the majority of men and women who commission here will be serving overseas working in towns and villages that are quite different from their upbringing. If you are not prepared for that environment, you are going to make a lot of mistakes,” said Morris.

Little things such as extending a hand for a handshake can be seen to some cultures as extremely offensive. For the junior officers that will be commissioning, this is important information to know when they are being deployed said Morris.

Both Myette and Morris agree on the fact that all ROTC cadets should study abroad to help begin the process of developing these cross-cultural competencies. “The cadets would go over and study specific things to their discipline, they need to go over there and do leadership things and we are trying to work that out.”

Myette’s main point of interest though, was getting in touch with the other senior military colleges and also have them all be able to join in to discuss ideas at the same time. With a few visits to Norwich’s IT department, he was able to come up with the idea of a teleconference.

All faculty members have a subscription to a program called WebEx, which gives the capability of setting up a teleconference by email, inviting other parties who would join in, said Myette. “This was a total experiment for the university and I think it would be great as renovations are done to Dewey and Ainsworth to dedicate a classroom to teleconferencing.”

“All of the (ROTC) colonels were in agreeance with what we had to say to, it was uniform across the board that we don’t need expanded curriculums but expanded opportunities for the cadets,” said Morris.

Since curriculums do not need to be changed all they need is refinement in certain areas, said Myette. “Another great point we raised was having foreign cadets expand their contracts so they are able to participate in PT and Mil Lab.”

Not only were the leaders of other Senior Military Colleges interviewed but so was Brig. Gen Peggy Combs, who is in charge of the US Army Cadet Command. “There is a greater emphasis now in cross-cultural competencies, and language is one piece of that and we do now in ROTC recommend our cadets to take a language to better prepare them to go other places in the world,” she said.

“We have soldiers globally who are engaging in humanity missions building schools, engaging in military operations with other military combatants so we incentivize our cadets to take a language to prepare them for this,” said Brig. Gen. Combs.

The next step according to Prof. Morris is to draft a white paper (informational document) and send it to all the colonels at the SMCs and to Brig. Gen. Combs. “Not all ideas will be used but some hopefully will be considered for eventual use in teaching the new junior officers,” said Morris.

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