Naval ROTC shares leadership, first aid skills with international student group

Kelly Mcgowan

Naval ROTC will train international students from the group U.S. Education without Borders in first aid at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 100 of the Armory.

This is the first event of collaboration between NROTC and the international student group. USEWB gives students leadership experience and builds social and professional connections, while getting them involved in American life.

Nearly 4,000 international students attend Iowa State and 3,496 of them are from Asian countries, according to the Iowa State Fact Book. Most USEWB members at Iowa State are Chinese, a volunteer said.

“It’s going to be a very basic simple first aid class,” said Cmdr. Daniel Buhr, executive officer of Naval ROTC. “But it’s really not about the first aid class. It’s about the collaboration between us and them, and getting to know them better.”

Buhr understands the importance of cross-cultural relationships from his Navy experience and he said understanding and experiencing other cultures creates a community.

“At the higher levels, you realize that this interaction is critically important,” Buhr said.

The course, taught by marine officer instructor Capt. Peter Opalacz and assistant marine officer instructor Staff Sgt. Christopher Harrison, will break down a week-long Red Cross first aid training into one simplified session. All students are welcome to join and participants will receive training completion certificates.

“As we interact, we start to learn to understand each other,” Buhr said. “I think that’s probably the most valuable piece.”

USEWB offers a variety of ways for students to participate in American life and has services worldwide. The organization’s president Swallow Yan graduated from Iowa State in 1995. He started the organization in 2006. It was recognized by former Gov. Chet Culver in 2010 with the International Education Leadership Award.

Yan said it is difficult for international students to get out of their circles, and he hopes the cultural exchange benefits them socially and professionally.

“It’s a lot of leadership,” Yan said. “These programs are important for international students to build up their confidence, credentials, achievements and leadership.”

The program allows students to volunteer and participate in political life. Members have met Bill and Hillary Clinton, Terry Branstad and Chuck Grassley. It is difficult for students to do things like this on their own, Yan said.

Bo Lan, graduate student in apparel, events and hospitality management, has volunteered for USEWB for two semesters.

Lan was intrigued by military leadership when he and Yan met a CEO of an American company in China. The CEO was a West Point U.S. Military Academy graduate who operated helicopters in South Korea, where he said he learned leadership skills that carried into his business career.

“We think people who have experience in military groups could improve [international students’] leadership skills,” Lan said.

Lan said he hopes the first aid training will be the start of a long collaboration and a win-win situation for the two groups.

NROTC will gain as much from teaching the session as the students will gain from attending, Buhr said.

 Breaking barriers and building relationships will lead to new things, he said.

“Being a part of the U.S. military, I’m always amazed how it’s always about being a part of something bigger than yourself,” Buhr said.