BROOKVILLE — Hali Olsen, a 2016 Brookville High School graduate, is going to be spending a month of her summer in Lithuania this year. She will be taking this trip through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program, ROTC, at Slippery Rock University. Olsen is a junior safety management major at SRU.
Olsen will be taking this trip through the U.S. Army Cultural Understanding and Leadership Program, CULP, which she applied to be part of with the help of her ROTC cadre. The program offers locations on almost every continent, with 26 possible locations. She applied to be part of the Eucom, which has six possible locations through out Europe.
“I haven’t been outside of the U.S. so its going to be a shock,” Olsen said about going to another country.
There are 900 cadets selected to be part of CULP every year from the ROTC programs at more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. This year SRU had 18 cadets selected, the most ever selected in one year for the university. The whole process took about three months before Olsen found out if she was selected or not.
She is new to the ROTC program even though she is a junior in college. She took a class last year, The American Military Experience, where she learned what the ROTC program was. Olsen had already changed her major a few times since being at college, and when she found ROTC it completely changed her plans again. She joined last year after having the class, and decided to compete for active duty.
“Two years ago I would’ve never pictured myself doing this,” Olsen said of her new plan for the future.
She had joined the National Guard for field artillery a short time before ROTC. Once students join ROTC, they work on a points system to make it to active duty when they graduate. Students have many paths they can take, and do not have to go to active duty.
When Olsen first joined the ROTC, she didn’t think she wanted to go into active duty. Once she got more involved in the program, she realized that it wasn’t all fighting.
“I can’t picture myself not doing it (active duty),” Olsen said.
The order merit list, or OML, is how the students are ranked by points for their physical fitness, academic scores, and involvement in sports and clubs. Being selected for CULP will boost Olsen in the rankings by helping her to develop her leadership skills.
The purpose of CULP is for the students to immerse themselves in another culture, and experience how others around the world view the U.S. Having cultural awareness is quickly becoming a vital component of the ROTC program, and this program does that with full immersion into one of the countries offered.
Olsen will have a full summer ahead of her, as she has other responsibilities as an ROTC member. Once she comes back from Lithuania she will be going to advanced camp in Fort Knox. This is something all ROTC students participate in to evaluate them after their years of being in the program. Since Olsen joined later than most, she will be working hard to score well. Once she is done with that she will be going straight into air assault camp. This is something that most ROTC students would have done already, but again she is working twice as hard to prove herself with the students that have been in since their freshman year.
Olsen will be going into her senior year at SRU with a full summer of new experiences to carry with her. She hopes to be able to make it to active duty when she graduates next year.