Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Today the Ukrainian cadets taught us about their military leaders.
Today was a great day to be in L'viv! In class we the American cadets and the Ukrainian cadets both shared national war heroes with each other. I learned that many of their war heroes here at the academy are soldiers who were decorated with the 'Hero of the Soviet Union', the most prestigious medal the Soviet Union awarded military personnel. After class all the cadets went to driver simulation training. There we were able to use the Ukrainian made driving and firing simulators for the Zil truck, T-80, and BTR. These simulators are giant metal structures that modeled the interior of their respective vehicles. Basically they are giant video games that were awesome! We are so fortunate to have had the opportunity to test them. After the simulators we met a few of the Ukrainian cadets on the training field for a game of soccer. Unfortunately many of the cadets had work and were unable to meet up with us, so instead we were able to relax and talk with the few cadets who did come. The remainder of the day we took a stroll downtown in L'viv, and had ice cream with CPT Cox while we enjoyed the cool breezes that soothed the city after a another toasty day in Ukraine.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tonight we enjoyed some Ukrainian music while sharing some American songs at a karaoke place.
Today was a very long day! It started with a healthy dose of cultural immersion with the fellow Ukrainian cadets.  Today's class was a fun and friendly time.  Class was  focused on learning about different cultures and the values that make nations different.  American values were compared to those of Ukraine and vice versa.  I learned about how certain things that may be appropriate in one nation, may not be appropriate in another.  For instance in Ukraine if one sticks their thumb between their middle and index finger in a fist, (the simple "I got your nose" trick in the US) is seen as extremely offensive (the equivalent of the middle finger).   The day finished with karaoke at a local restaurant where we sang songs from home.  It was a fantastic day halfway across the world. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

During class we talked about the American and Ukrainian flags and their significance.  Then cadets designed their own flags and shared with the class how they represented their values.

After lunch we, with the Ukrainian cadets, were able to do some more simulated shooting.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Beautiful panorama of the city of Lviv from an old castle.
The day began with an interesting lunch at a Harry Potter Restaurant called Three Brooms. We all enjoyed our delicious Harry Potter themed meals before heading to High Castle, the ruins of an old castle made into a monument that provides a beautiful overview of the city of Lviv. After the long trek to the top, we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenary. Later, We walked back into the city and bought coffee at a local shop. A couple of the Ukrainian cadets joined us on our adventure to High Castle as well as the coffee shop, and as always we enjoyed their company and appreciated their knowledge of the city. For dinner we tried a Burger Buffet which we plan on visiting again. Afterwards, we enjoyed the evening in Lviv while we listened to music on the street.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Today we spent a large chunk of time walking around the city with the cadets that attend our English lessons.  It was a great feat to keep so many people together, but a great opportunity to learn about everyday culture.

Friday, July 26, 2013

These were the judges for the skits.  The first group earned eights across the board, the second group earned 8.5 and the third group earned a 2.
During today's discussion we covered what global warming is and some possible solutions to the issues at hand. We discussed some of the main reasons why global warming exists in our environment and we performed a few skits to show how we can combat these issues. We had lots of small group interactions with the Ukrainian cadets which we have seen to work the best. In these situations we can really get a more one on one discussion and exchange ideas more effectively. We got to know where some of the cadets stand on the issue of global warming and how they propose to fix the issue. Many spoke of reducing pollution by biking or carpooling. In addition to global warming, we discussed some of the endangered animals and what we can do as a global society to help save these animals. In groups of three or less we aided the Ukrainian cadets in writing paragraphs about endagered animals which helped their writing skills as well as their speaking skills when they shared with the class. After class we traveled to see some of the training facilities that our Ukrainian counterparts use during their training exercises. These facilities are also used for multinational training operations.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

During one of the breaks, the American cadet above gave the Ukrainians a taste of the Carlton.
The  video above shows one of the skits on decomposing that was performed in class.
In today's discussion we talked about the environment of Ukraine, the United States, and the world. We covered some of the main issues that we are trying to deal with as a society in the US as well as Ukraine. Things like air pollution, water pollution, and waste disposal encompassed our main discussions. When we were in our small groups discussing some of the possible solutions to these problems, the Ukrainian cadets identified some great solutions such as creating strict laws and punishments for people or organizations who contribute to these issues. It was very interesting to see them discuss these issues because they too, even though they are on another part of the plantet, share very similar beliefs when it comes to saving our environment. We created skits during the class period to go over what decomposing is. This was a great activity because it got all of the minds flowing, US and Ukrainian, and it ended up being very humorous. It was a great way to get everyone involved and excited about the topic.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Here the Ukrainian and United States cadets play soccer together at the academy.

In today's lessons we discussed how to deal with unexpected situations such as natural disasters and injuries.  The main natural disaster that the Ukrainian cadets identified in their country was a blizzard  When we asked if they got snow days they shared with us that school must go on, come rain, come shine, come snow, come sleet! We viewed this as quite unfortunate since those are always the best days for snowball fights and hot chocolate.  Some of the injuries we discussed included hypothermia, frostbite and insect bites.  In particular we talked about ticks and how to properly pull them out with a tweezer.  After lunch we were able to play soccer with six of the cadets. This low key and jovial atmosphere was the best place to interact. At the end of the day we didn't know who won, but we did know we had a great time since everyone in our group played and no one got seriously injured. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cadets from the United States and Ukraine took
 part in popular dances such as the Cupid Shuffle.

Throughout our class period today we discussed entertainment and the wild west.  During our converstations about entertainment we found that we both watched similiar movies and tv shows such as Star Wars and Friends. In talking about the wild west we touched on the gold rush and the Oregon trail.We also presented two state presentations. One covered South Carolina while the other spoke of California.  One of the best parts of state presentations is when the cadets break out into accents from their particular location.  After dinner we all headed to one of Lviv's best resteraunts where we ate the most delicious chocolate ever tasted.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mission Commander recognizing the Ukraine ODC
(Office of Defense Cooperation) support of CULP 2013.
This morning, MAJ Repp and Galyna on behalf of U.S. Army Cadet Command, 8th BDE Army ROTC, MSG Stewart, CPT Cox (Air Force), Team 1 and Team 2 Cadets, recognized the outstanding support of the ODC who have been a critical asset for the success of the Ukraine CULP 2013 mission with individual plaques to two ODC employees. MAJ Olson was recognized for the incredible hard work he put into facilitating this mission from the initial planning 7 months ago to the current execution, answering all RFI’s with in-depth detail and analysis, and coordinating all information exchanges between the Mission Commander and the Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF) which ensured this CULP trip could actually occur for the two teams of cadets. Mr. Dmytro Moskalenko was acknowledged for his non-stop support of this mission as the behind the scenes “go to guy” who provided seamless logistical support, additional liaison with the UAF and readily resolved any other miscellaneous issue that needed to be resolved for mission success.

Ms. Natasha Varenik was recognized by Galyna and MAJ Repp with a box of the famous Veronica's Chocolates and a box of their pastries, for her assistance in dealing with the Embassy disbursement office and their administrative requirements

The above video depicts the Ukrainian cadets demonstrating part of their drill and ceremony.  Throughout the week cadets spend multiple hours a day drilling.
After shaking off the tiredness of the weekend we approached our first day of teaching for the week with enthusiasm. We focused our attentions on basic military training. It was rewarding to see the Ukrainian cadets learn a new way of doing things from our instructions. We showed them American cadences and they in turn showed us theirs. We demonstrated the commitment that we all make upon joining the army by reciting the soldiers creed. Reinforcing how important dedication to country, mission, and fellow solider are to us. They seemed to like these concepts and wanted to now more about the army values. We also had the opportunity to meet with an American contractor working at the academy who is a retired sergeant major. He was able to put perspective on the situation and culture norms going on here and to reinforce the importance of our mission.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The above monument is located in the central square in Kyiv.  The statue is a native Ukrainian and symbolizes the independence of Ukraine.

Today we took a six hour train ride to Kyiv, Ukraine to experience the capitol of this country and the rich history that surrounds the culture.  Our trip helped us observe what influenced this country and made it what it is today.  As we traveled around the shops and city streets we noticed the large influence that the former Soviet Union had upon the people of Ukraine.  Everywhere we went different trinkets were labeled with the CCCP logo or the hammer and sickle. There was a clear difference in the languages spoken between Lviv and Kyiv in that Lviv speaks primarily Ukrainian while Kyiv uses mainly Russian.  This language transition came into play when one of our very own cadets who was well read in Russian was able to use his skills with many of the locals and barter in the street shops and help the team order lunch.  Kyiv is much larger than Lviv and has a much more diverse range of people living a faster city life. 

It has been rewarding to help teach the Ukrainian Cadets English and as we have grown closer over this first week it has also been a privilege to learn about their culture and history.

On top of the World War II museum in Kiev stands mother Russia.  This picture could never communicate the full impact of this towering structure as it reaches up into the endless sky.

Today we had the opportunity of a life time in Kiev to explore the World War Two museum. We were able to look at artifacts from every year of the war all the way to the last day of fighting. We saw old weapons, flags, uniforms, and maps detailing the major battles and how they were waged. We are lucky that we have a member on our team who is a Russian major and was able to describe it all to us in detail. We also were able to view the massive statue of the "mother Russia" who holds a shield and sword to protect her people. After that we headed back to Livi on a five hour train ride in which hilarity ensued as all the cadets started singing songs together. Everyone fell straight to sleep once we arrived back. It was a long but rewarding day.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The above picture depicts a classroom discussion on football and soccer and
how they are different in the United States and Ukraine.

Today was a very motivating day for the CULP cadets! After first light the American Cadets marched to the classroom as the rhythmic sound of the Army spirit filled the air throughout the Academy as cadence was called. Many Officers and cadets alike received a glimpse of the U.S. Army discipline and more as they moved throughout the grounds. Once at the classroom the professionalism of the American cadets came into play when teaching about the differences between American Football and Soccer (Futbol) and as the lessons progressed the sense of eagerness to talk about favorite players, favorite teams, and rules of the game became overwhelming. Many American cadets were intrigued to learn was that before the lessons of today, it had been believed that Rugby and American Football were the same in the eyes of the Ukrainian Cadets. After some discussion both sides were eager to play each other in the sports of their respected country. Up to this point both Volleyball and Soccer have made their debut between Americans and Ukrainians but American Football will have to wait until a ball can be found this side of the Atlantic.

Cadet receives training on pistol marksmanship and fundamentals of shooting from a Ukrainian trainer at the academy.

Practicing proper body position, trigger squeeze, breathing, and sight picture
Participation in a simulated pistol shooting exercise occurred where despite language barriers involving careful instruction was combined with the motivation at the range. For some this was a first time experience behind a pistol while for others it was an opportunity to test adaptability on new and different ways to accomplish the fundamental task of shooting.
As well our relationship with Ukrainian cadets is growing to an invaluable degree. As both first and last names are being recalled with greater ease the bonds we share in sport and in lifestyle aid our mutual ties as soldiers. A deep respect can be felt growing between both sides of this team and anticipation for a rewarding experience continues to develop. This is truly one of the greatest opportunities allotted in todays military.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Today is the first day we played volleyball with a couple of Ukrainians at the academy.  We all had a lot of fun and were glad they went easy on us.

American Cadet takes a picture with his new found Ukrainian Cadet friend.

It is always interesting to hear why people decide to serve their country. It is one of the most honorable, selfless services one can be apart of. Today, for our lesson with the Ukrainian cadets, we went around and shared why we decided to serve our country. The common theme was family, patriotism and personal development. Almost two-thirds of the cadets, both Ukrainian and Americans said that they decided to join because one of their family members served their respected country. Both sides also said that they wanted to serve because they love their country. Every cadet that stood up and stated this beamed with pride and the inflection of their voice was at its loudest. It made everyone in the room proud of the country that they represented and cemented their desire to serve.

Teaching the Ukrainian cadets has been a remarkable experience. Even though we have only been teaching for only a couple of days, their is a great chance that many long lasting friendships will develop. Not only has it been gratifying helping them improve their English, but also learning from them about their culture and their military. Today, the cadets were eager to teach us about their rank structure and the service branches they have chosen. They were also anxious to learn about how our army operates and what branches we would consider choosing. Todays lesson definitely strengthened our relations with the cadets and we look further to improving it even more with each coming day.
Above depicts our lunch from today.  The watermelon was utterly delicious and I love the fact that they put sour cream in their soups.  Interestingly Ukrainians eat their biggest meal at noon and have much smaller meals for breakfast and dinner.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Above is picuted Major Repp, our mission commander, CPT Cox, our Cadre leader, and all of us cadets with the children of the village.  We taught them the sign for hang loose.
Above is a plaque in honor of the United States donating funds to renovate a Ukrainian pre-school outside of L'viv.

Wow. That was what described today's experience. Our team went to a remote Ukrainian town to visit the renovation of a local pre-school. We expected to meet with some children and take a few pictures and then be on our way home. Never did we expect what happened next.....

When we arrived on site we were met by a swarm of local townspeople along with a band playing outside of the school. As soon as our team stepped off the bus, a sense of pride contagiously swept over us. Witnessing the wide eyes of the townspeople looking at us, we knew we were not there as individuals but representatives of the United States of America. For many of these Ukrainians, these were the first and only Americans they might ever see. After visiting with the locals for a few minutes, we were informed that the United States Ambassador to the Ukraine, John F. Tefft, was going to make an appearance at the event. 

Ambassador Tefft said a few words to the townspeople and encouraged the local youth to take advantage of the updated pre-school. He urged them to exercise not only their minds but their bodies because both are of equal importance. At the conclusion of his speech he made the young children in attendance promise that they would study hard. 

Our team was able to take a tour of the new pre-school. It looked like something out of a fairy tale. The outside was painted in bright pastel colors and that theme continued inside. The classrooms were big and there were big nap rooms, with beds that the children could sleep in. It seemed like a great place for children to learn and excel. 

Lastly, we were told that our group could get a picture with the Ambassador at the conclusion of his visit. While we waited, our team continued to mingle with the people of the village, especially the children.  Some went off to play soccer, others played a card game though they knew none of the rules and still others used their Russian/Ukrainian to speak to the locals.  The people we met were some of the nicest people. They were so gracious to have us in their town and we felt honored to brighten their day. As Ambassador Tefft was taking a photo with us he told us to cherish this moment because it does not get much better than this. How true of statement that was today.
Pictures from this event taken by the Embassey photographer can found at:

Our Cadre Leader, CPT Cox with CPT Andrew, an Ukrainian officer who coordinates everything for us cadets inside the academy.
Today was our first day with the Ukrainian cadets. They were a little hesitant about approaching us but after we exchanged names they quickly opened up and we couldn't stop talking. Dr. Tony gave us a great exercise to learn more about our leadership style and how we can use it to work as a cohesive team. Though the exercise was geared towards learning about our leadership style, the most important thing I realized didn't have to do with leadership at all; it was that even though we are from different countries, we had many similarities. We all laughed at the same jokes, had similar interests, similar future goals, and we all just wanted to have fun. I thought it would be hard to develop a relationship with the cadets from Ukraine but even though we have only known them for a day, I can tell that we will remember the connections we build with them for the rest of our lives. I know that I will never forget when CDT Katherine Joyce from Creighton University danced to the song "Gangnam Style" with Marina, one of the Ukrainian cadets during one of our breaks. No one can forget something as funny as that.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Our first day with the Ukrainian cadets. We discussed holidays and important dates. 

We all posed with our awesome and very knowledgable tour guide in front of the Ukrainian opera house.

Today, at the academy, we had the best tea ever created. It was black tea with the perfect amount of sugar; there was no better way to start off the day. After breakfast we began our incredible tour of L'viv. We already knew that the city was culturally rich but we never could have guessed how much architectural detail was put into the buildings. We saw many great churches and towers but I think the best part was realizing how much history the city captures within the design. In the United States we have a lot of beautiful architecture but it is mostly modern and it doesn't tell a story, but in Ukraine, the buildings tell a story. There are medieval, soviet, polish, armenian, and many more influences on the city of L'viv and it paints a picture of what the country of Ukraine has gone through. Not only was the history of the city interesting but it also tied into the history of the US. The most surprising was that a Ukrainian was part of the establishment of West Point. It was nice to see how they influenced us because we always hear about how we influence other countries and not the other way around.

Monday, July 15, 2013


In order to better inform us on different aspects of Ukraine before our experience began, we presented to each other. CDT Alex Anguiera above presents Economy to eager listeners.

The Ukrainian airport gave us our first taste of the language both written and spoken.

We landed on a dreary day, the skies were dark, and it was pouring down rain.  After dismebarking the plane, we were shuttled to the terminal where we had to clear through customs.  While waiting in line, so many conversations were happening around me, and I had not idea what was being said.  It has been a long time since I have been in a country where I do not understand the conversations of those around me, and I can honestly say I was not enjoying it.  If I was feeling frustrated, I can only imagine how my teammates were feeling.  We were the last from our flight to go through customs, which was an experience in itself.  Some of the team was questioned heavily about our stay in the Ukraine, while others were cleared right away.  I think I speak for the whole group when I say this, the stamps in our passports were well worth the trip.  After gathering all of our bags, we were put through what my family would call, the kabooky dance.  There were two gates we could walk through in order to enter the reception area, we all made it through one gate only to be told we had to turn around and go through the other, we we were once again told, no the other gate.  After finally making it to the reception area, we were met by our mission commander, his interpretor, and a commander from the Ukrainian Army.  We had a brief introduction and then loaded a bus to our hotel for the night. 

The bus ride was short yet also an eye-opening ride.  While the bus driver turned sharped corners, raced to stop signs, and tailgated other drivers, we were all staring out the windows.  The streets were small, the buildings old and dilapidated, some with elaborate stone work, others with graffiti on the walls.  I do not know what we were expecting but what I do know is that what we saw was not what we had expected.  Although I was exhausted and ready to plop down onto a bed, I was sad for the end of the bus ride, I was enjoying seeing the city.  The hotel we pulled up to was adorned with many flags from around the world, exuding an international-welcome to its guests.  Once we received our room keys, we made our way up to our rooms, where we dropped our stuff down and left a few minutes later to get a snack downtown.  One of our interpretors walked us downtown through a park that reminded me much of Central Park, except that the paths were brick.  While I was anxious to try some Ukrainian food, we were led to a New York-styled pizza place.  It was good and very filling.  We walked back to the hotel, enjoying the park once more.  Finally, we had time to sleep, but only for a little bit before we met up again to get dessert.  While I knew I would regret taking a nap at six in the evening local time, it felt good not to be sleeping while sitting.  Dessert was good, but by the end of it, I was about ready to go to sleep at the table.  The day had been one of my longest, being up for more than thirty hours straight, travelling over 6,000 miles, and I was ready to close my eyes for a night's rest.  The day on which so many new experiences had been had was over

Friday, July 12, 2013

Two cadets who have never been outside of the United States are excited to experience a new culture.

Our journey to the Ukraine was a long one, full of excitement, head counts, food, and sleepiness.  To start off our trip across the Atlantic and Europe, we signed our passports, a first time for some cadets, checked our bags, and bought snacks for the long trip ahead of us.   

Upon arriving at the first of two layovers, we had dinner and found the gate for our next flight.  Being an Army Brat who has grown up mostly in Europe, the long trans-Atlantic flights are not new to me, however I was still excited for the adventures ahead of us.  I am glad I was able to witness the shock and excitement on the faces of my team members who had never traveled outside of the U.S. as they were boarding our Germany-bound plane.  Some expressed excitement over the individual TVs we had in front of our seats, while others expressed surprise about the size of the aircraft.  The eight-hour flight went by quickly, or at least it did for me, with movies, games, TV shows, and listening to music.  As the flight came to a close, I think it is safe to say that we were all excited to be getting off that flight, however the sleepless night was catching up with us, and we were fading fast.  The heavy eyes seemed to fade away as were walked off the flight, and into a new country.  Arriving in Germany was a very familiar experience for me, and a new one for most people on the team.  Once we located our next gate, we were free to roam the airport, in buddy teams of course.  My group ventured around, settling at a souvenir shop.  Once we met back up at the gate for our third and final flight, we waited shortly to check in and board a bus that would take us to the plane.  We boarded the smaller plane, waited a few extra minutes than expected to take off, and slowly one-by-one we were zonked out in some of the most uncomfortable-looking sleeping positions.  I know for me personally, I woke up in the middle of the flight just in time to eat the yogurt they were serving, only to fall right back to sleep after eating only a few bites.  The time I woke up, we were seconds from touching ground in the Ukraine.