CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
An extravagant, golden chandelier illuminated a spacious dining room. Beneath the chandelier, several traditional Kuwaiti dishes were displayed for its diners on a marble tabletop. Among the diners was a foreign guest. This guest traveled thousands of miles from the U.S. to Kuwait for immersive experiences just like this one.
A U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. cadet interned at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait from June 13 to July 1 as part of a unique, hands-on training opportunity hosted by U.S. Army Central’s Civil Military Operations and Host Nation Affairs, Area Support Group – Kuwait.
Cadet Spenser Copp, a 21-year-old native of Fairfax, Va. with F Company, 2nd Regiment at West Point, is the commander of the Cadet Community on Civil Military Operations at his school. The extracurricular club focuses on developing the Cadets’ understanding of civil affairs to achieve military and national security objectives. Copp was selected out of hundreds of other cadets in the club to embed with USARCENT civil affairs units at Camp Arifjan to experience, firsthand, how civil affairs components work together to accomplish the mission.
"Being a West Point cadet and having the experience to come to Kuwait, I’m not just following someone around like a tour," Copp said. "I am currently working and contributing to
the USARCENT mission. I’m getting hands-on training. I’m getting the opportunity to immerse myself in the active Army and civil affairs."
Copp worked side-by-side with seasoned civil affairs Soldiers and produced a civil affairs project about travel interactions in Sinai, Egypt. Copp used his West Point education in military history and critical thinking skills to develop the project.
"I’m trying to address a gap in current military understanding," he said. "My product won’t just come back to West Point with me and disappear. It’s going to be for record and available here… It’s awesome to actually contribute to the mission."
Academic development wasn’t his only focus during his stay at Camp Arifjan.
Copp said he asked Soldiers about their experiences in the Army to better his understanding of military knowledge.
"This environment is unique because I get to immerse myself with the Noncommissioned Officers I don’t get to see that much at school," he said. "Being about a year away from commission… I’ve been asking what mistakes the people who preceded me have made. That way, I can try and not make them."
One of the NCO’s Copp worked with was Sgt. 1st Class Carl Addie, a Cabot, Arkansas native and the Civil Affairs Liaison Officer for Host Nation Affairs, ASG – Ku.
"He’s going to be a commander someday," Addie said. "If he becomes a civil affairs officer… He’ll be ahead of other officers because he’ll have already seen how it works."
HNA, ASG-Ku concentrates its civil affairs work in Kuwait. They facilitate interactions between the military and civilian counterparts such as the Kuwait Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Embassy Kuwait.
"Host Nation’s mission, essentially, is to maintain a positive relationship with the Kuwaitis," Addie said. "Civil affairs play a big part in that.
Representatives from HNA, ASG – Ku introduced Copp to Servicemembers, local nationals and civilians during his stay. They also coordinated the Iftar he attended. Muslims eat this traditional meal at sunset during the month of Ramadan, signifying the end of the daily fast.
Copp said he fasted the day of the Iftar to cultivate his understanding of the local culture and as a demonstration of respect.
"It’s been unique," Copp said. "The whole atmosphere is an absolute blast. It’s cool to be a part of an atmosphere where everyone is focused on one mission set."
Copp said he plans to branch Infantry when he graduates West Point in 2017. Civil affairs was one military specialty he considered pursuing. Regardless of the path he takes in his career, Copp intends to capitalize on other unique training opportunities that cross his way.
"The military has been really good to me," he said. "I grew up in the military system. I’ve seen how it’s changed people, for the better. I’ve always wanted to be a part of it… I’ve never considered anything else."