Mary Baldwin College alum Capt. Eva Bratschi, officer in charge of the U.S. Army ROTC unit at the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) and Texas Southmost College, recently returned from a three-week mission to the Togolese Republic
in West Africa.
“Our mission was twofold: to assist the Togolese military cadets in their English studies and to build relationships between the future leaders of our two countries,” Bratschi said.
As the mission team leader, Bratschi led 10 ROTC cadets from various American universities in the summer Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency
program that began July 4 with training and medical processing at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“This was an opportunity of a lifetime, enabling our cadets to work on their skills to become dynamic leaders while being evaluated in an international environment,” Bratschi said. “Programs such as this cultivate teamwork, diplomacy, and peace.”
Bratschi received her B.A. in political science in 2003 from Mary Baldwin. Currently working on her master’s degree at UTB in bilingual and bicultural education, she is scheduled to graduate in December 2013. In January 2010, Bratschi was appointed ranking officer of the campus Army ROTC unit.
Bratschi and the cadets arrived in the seaside capital city of Lomé, where they met their security team that included two drivers and a medical doctor. They received a briefing from U.S. Embassy Liaison Officer Arthur Bell, and the next day boarded a van for the drive north to Kara.
“For the entire five-and-a-half-hour drive, we followed our motorbike escort with its siren blowing,” Bratschi said. “Thankfully, the road was dry, because, as we experienced later, the drive can take up to eight hours on muddy roads. Everyone was relieved to finally reach our hotel in Pya, just outside Kara. It was small and simple, yet comfortable.”
In Pya, the U.S. cadets spent a large part of each day working with the Togolese cadets studying English at the military training compound. Aside from language study, both groups of cadets participated in team building activities that included daily physical training exercises. One particularly memorable activity, Bratschi said, was accompanying the Togolese cadets in their climb up a nearby mountain, a traditional endeavor that takes place before the Togolese cadets receive their commissions.
“I think the informal time our cadets spent together outside the classroom was especially helpful for the Togolese to experience casual, conversational English,” Bratschi said. “Over the three weeks, the students became more comfortable with one another, sharing stories and photos of their families.”
Each of the ROTC cadets was assigned a specific role — chaplain, public affairs officer, finance officer, academic liaison officer, supply officer, administrative officer, evaluation officer, health officer, and event coordinator — that they maintained throughout the mission. The role of squad leader was reassigned every day on a rotating basis. In the evenings after dinner, Bratschi wrote her cadet evaluations while the cadets worked on their research papers, taking turns using the intermittent Internet connection.
At the end of their mission, the ROTC cadets and their Togolese counterparts participated in a military awards ceremony when the language students received their certificates and tokens of appreciation from both sides were exchanged.
“We returned to the U.S. on August 9 after a successful mission,” Bratschi said. “Our cadets received first-hand exposure to another culture, and I feel the Togolese cadets benefited with not only increased language skills but also by broadening their understanding of Americans.”
– Story courtesy of the University of Texas Brownsville.