First Combined International Programs Office (IPO)-ELD Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture (LREC) Trip to Vietnam
In July and August, Col Maria “MJ” Pallotta and Capt Marko Stawnyczyj took eight midshipmen to Vietnam for 16 days of cultural immersion and battlefield study. Two days of culture and history classes at USNA preceded the trip, and everyone was required to read three books and watch the 2017 Burns-Novick ten-part documentary, Vietnam. As the first combined IPO–ELD LREC trip, the immersive experience provided select midshipmen an opportunity to interact with Vietnamese culture and the history of U.S. diplomatic and military involvement before, during, and after the Vietnam War in order to instill broadened understanding of cross-cultural dynamics within a conflict setting.
The group visited multiple important historical sites from the war, from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south, through the central DMZ area, to Hanoi in the north. Battle sites included Hue, Khe Sanh, the Cu Chi tunnels, a portion of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Da Nang, and the Hoa Lo Prison (the “Hanoi Hilton”). Discussions included the cultural leadership aspects of hybrid and irregular combat environments and placing them in a proper historical context. Cultural immersion in the daily life of the Vietnamese at each location further exposed the mids to cross-cultural experiences within Asian sub-cultures, emphasizing the importance of honing and using these skills during their military careers.