Studying abroad is not the only way to visit another country through Drake University. The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. (ROTC) program immerses its students into different cultures around the world.
Drake senior Ian Weller first had exposure to the ROTC program during Welcome Weekend of his first year, signing up as a non-contracted cadet for Army ROTC. After Weller had to write a paper for class and visited the U.S. Navy website, he decided to switch programs.
While in high school, Weller went on two “stints” for the State Department in Jordan during the summers of 2007 and 2008, each for two months. Weller also took advantage of Drake’s first Cradle of Civilization trip to Egypt in 2010, and again for his semester abroad in the spring of 2011 during the revolution, where he was relocated to Oman. During that time, Weller visited Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
“Hopefully this (going abroad) will help me prepare for going into the theater of the military,” Weller said.
This summer Weller will be in OCS as a Surface Warfare Officer for the U.S. Navy in either Bahrain or Japan and will find out in August which port he is assigned.
“As an officer, I will be overseeing 30 or 40 guys or gals,” Weller said. “Having that experience means I will be able to somehow identify with what they’re going through, plus all the stresses that come with Navy life.”
ROTC students are being deployed all around the world for experience. Going straight into a foreign country with no background of cultural exposure would be a potentially dangerous thing. Junior Jeremy Hild, an ROTC student being deployed in Tallinn, Estonia, said that there are programs that prepare ROTC students who will travel to these countries.
Hild is staying in Estonia for 30 days. Prior to leaving, he had to go through some cultural awareness programs.
The learning program he went through is a cultural awareness and language proficiency program. There are three parts to the program: humanitarian aid, cultural teachings and military-to-military, which is what Hild is involved with. Hild said that he is very well prepared for his deployment this summer thanks to his lieutenant.
Lt. Patrick Hendrickson is the military science instructor and head of the ROTC program on campus. Hendrickson, a Drake grad, has had plenty of experience abroad after being deployed to Afghanistan for seven months.
In Afghanistan, Hendrickson’s job as platoon leader was to speak with village elders about the area’s security and to keep the Taliban out.
Hendrickson hopes to instill the knowledge he gathered overseas in the cadets he trains at Drake.
“I’m in the perfect position to prepare them for success,” Hendrickson said. “Their job is really important once they leave here. They’ll be in charge of 40 husbands, sons, uncles, dads, everything.”
Hendrickson said even though his feet are firmly planted in Des Moines, in some ways he has never left Afghanistan.
“There will be times, sitting in this building, where the heat will kick on, and all those vents expand and the metal booms, and you just have to realize, ‘OK, I’m in the Drake office.’ You’re just on that constant state of alert,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson said that the most difficult thing about deployment was leaving his wife and two children, daughter Ava and son Jacob, behind in America. He said life in Afghanistan was definitely an adjustment, and that when he is home, he does not take it for granted.
“You take advantage of it,” Hendrickson said. “Grabbing a nice hot cup of coffee, going home to a warm bed and kids that love you, sitting there and watching TV, taking leisurely walks on the streets without there being explosions or anything like that going on. It really hits home when you’re away.”