INTER-AMERICAN DEFENSE COLLEGE, Washington, DC – USMA cadets are not usually privy to the inner workings of a foreign defense sector. But on Feb. 14-15 at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, DC, 42 cadets engaged in the capstone linguistic project listened intently as Latin American colonels and captains shared their insider perspectives on problems plaguing their countries.
The officers, all advisors at the Inter-American Defense College, were pleased to support the cadets linguistic and research goals for the third year in a row.
“It’s a reciprocal relationship,” explained IADC Chief of Studies Capt. Luis Orozco of Mexico. “We have the opportunity to show the cadets who we are and what we do here. They in turn have the chance to practice their languages and gain a better perspective of realities that exist in our countries.”
The cadets, whose research focused on transnational crime, were divided into six groups covering different regions of the Western Hemisphere. Cadet Scott Yang explained that his group, which focused on Colombia, had arrived in DC armed with preconceived ideas and pre-packaged solutions.
“We thought we would come here with our thesis already worked out and basically just ask them our questions,” Yang, an Environmental Science and Spanish major said. “We kind of went in thinking this is what we’re going to do, and this is how we’re going to help the country. But with the perspective they were able to offer us, we saw how our original thesis wasn’t exactly spot on.”
“The things that we see as a problem may not be a priority in the eyes of the Colombians,” agreed Cadet Katherine Pelesky, a Foreign Area Studies major. “They give us a perspective we don’t normally get at our school because they’re natives.”
At the end of the two-day brainstorming session, the cadets compiled all their new information and presented it to their officer counterparts at the IADC. The cadets also look forward to presenting their final theses in May to the IADC advisors when the officers travel to West Point.
The IADC, located on Fort Lesley J. McNair, is one of the foremost institutes of learning for senior-level military, police, and diplomatic officials with an interest in security and defense issues facing Latin America today. An entity of the Organization of American States, the IADC is able to offer approximately 60 students a year from member states of the OAS an unparalleled educational and research experience. Former IADC students include two presidents, 31 ministers, 539 generals and admirals and many other high-ranking officials.
“The eye-opening thing about working with foreign officers is that we get out of the mentality of students thinking in theoretical terms,” concluded Yang. “Being here really helped us narrow down our thesis into something that’s workable and realistic.”
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