FAEP promotes international fellowship
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (May 16, 2013) —The U.S. Military Academy recently welcomed 24 international cadets from 12 countries who participated in the Foreign Academy Exchange Program.
For several decades now, this exchange has allowed cadets to strengthen language proficiencies and cultural awareness abroad for two weeks during spring leave.
Class of 2014 Cadet Spence Morton visited the Ahmed bin Mohammed Military College in Qatar and said the culture there was very welcoming.
“They’re going to take good care of you, even if you’re a stranger,” Morton, a psychology major, said. “Whether you’re hungry or not, they were always offering food and drink.”
For his first overseas trip, Morton had the chance to practice his Arabic skills in either Jordan or Qatar. He chose the latter because he knew less about that country. In class, he studies Modern Standard Arabic, so visiting places where local dialects are primarily spoken was a learning experience.
“I got to learn some of their dialect which is a little less formal than what we learn,” Morton said. “One of my after action reviews for the foreign language department suggested more lessons on what is spoken on the streets.”
In the second phase of FAEP, USMA cadets return the hospitality they received while visiting those foreign military academies when they host their counterparts.
From April 23-May 1, the international cadets got to sample everything that life has to offer for a West Point cadet here. This included tours of the academy, experiencing classroom activities, athletics and sharing meals with their sponsors. They also got a taste of modern-day Americana during a trip to New York City. Upon their return, they observed the Corps during a pass in review on The Plain.
The guests and their hosts soaked in the ambience at the Thayer Award Room April 24 for an icebreaker where everyone gathered for plenty of photo opportunities and introduced one another. USMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., and Corps of Cadets Commandant Brig. Gen. Richard Clarke were also in attendance to speak with the cadets.
Class of 2015 Cadet Kaiwen Lin makes introductions during an icebreaker April 24 at the Thayer Award Room for those participating in the Foreign Academy Exchange Program.
The Thayer Award Room provided ample opportunities for photography and fellowship among the U.S. Military Academy and foreign academy cadets.
“We hope that you will learn from our experiences as we have learned from you,” Huntoon said. “Take advantage of these days and share what you have learned here. When you become officers, this is how you will lead—as one team. We never fight alone, but together as international coalitions.”
In addition to FAEP, for more than 100 years the U.S. Military Academy has accepted international cadets into the Corps for the entire four-year program. Currently, 56 international cadets from 36 countries are studying at West Point.
Class of 2014 Cadet Jeffrey Perez represented West Point with Class of 2013 Cadet Stuart Caudill during their visit to the Mu’tah University in Jordan.
“It was a very strict academy and the cadets there are very close-knit,” Perez said. “They are actually separated by majors rather than by classes like we are.”
Perez, a political science and Arabic major, experienced the unique military culture there from his time with Jordanian officers, and dined with them at the Officer’s Club. A foreign special operations officer served as their tour guide. Class of 2015 Cadet Nicolas Rodriguez attended the Academia Militar Marechal Samora Mache in Mozambique and said his Portuguese improved tenfold in his time there.
“It’s pretty hard to describe because it was a completely new experience, beyond anything I could have imagined,” he said. “It was a completely different culture, lifestyle and environment. But being around the other military academy cadets there made me feel at home. We all share the same ideology, if not cultures, and, despite the different backgrounds, we share the same goals as military officers. We’re still one team.”