University of Vermont

Green Mountain Battalion Cadet works at U.S. Embassy in Paris

At the Marine Corps Ball, Cadet Alexander Nishida with Emma-Louise Richards

PARIS, France - During the past four years as an ROTC Cadet, I had the pleasure of taking advantage of numerous opportunities. From a Combat Life Saver Course, to intense field training at the Leadership Development Assessment Course (LDAC), all have contributed to my development as an officer. However, one of the most interesting experiences that I have had as an ROTC Cadet occurred in one of the most unlikely places, Paris. While I was studying abroad this past semester, I had the pleasure of interning at the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France. It was truly an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

The Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) is subordinate to the Headquarters European Command and is an integral piece in the military cooperation between the United States and its NATO ally France. ODC France is responsible for representing U.S. defense interests in France. ODC France achieves this by facilitating assistance and cooperative armament programs between the two countries. With France’s involvement in Afghanistan, ODC France’s mission is more important than ever, and includes increasing standardization and interoperability of weapons and munitions. Whilst interning, I was able to be a part of this office while it was working on one of their other main functions, facilitating U.S. government and industry participation in international trade shows. I had the great opportunity to work the Euro Naval Military tradeshow last October. This real world experience in the defense industry was truly an incredible experience and I know that it will speak volumes on my resume.

It was not all work at the Embassy. I was able to participate in a time honored military tradition whilst I was there, the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. The Marine Corps Birthday Ball is held every year on the 10th of November, to celebrate the Birthday of the United States Marine Corps over 200 years ago in 1775. The Birthday Ball has become a tradition within its self at American Embassies around the world. The U.S.M.C. is tasked with the security of all American Embassies and the Marines stationed at these Embassies work long shifts and primarily interact with civilians and government employees. The Birthday Ball is a way in which the staff of the Embassy can pay tribute to their vigilant Marine guards and show their appreciation. I was invited to attend the ODC and I was able to take my girlfriend Emma-Louise Richards, a student at Nottingham University in the United Kingdom.

The actual birthday ball itself was extravagant, held at the Hilton Hotel in Paris and attended by various American, French and other NATO ally military personnel. In attendance were some highly honored guests such as the Ambassador to France, Charles H. Rivkin and Brigadier General Paul W. Brier, Commander, U.S.M.C. Forces, Africa; and Deputy Commander, U.S.M.C. Forces, Europe. They delivered some moving speeches honoring the Marines and were well received by those in attendance. I sat next to a French Ordnance General, which as you can imagine, was quite an honor, especially since I was able to practice my French in a military context. Overall Emma and I had a wonderful time and I know that it would not have been possible for me to experience such an event, had it not been for the Green Mountain Battalion ensuring that I was supported even while I was temporarily away. I would highly recommend to all Cadets, to take advantage of every opportunity to study abroad. ROTC provides some excellent opportunities through their CULP Program; scholarships are also available for Cadets on study abroad with their home universities. When I left France I not only departed an amazing semester in a wonderful country, I also felt as if I was leaving a family behind at the Embassy of which I still stay in contact with today.