Activities included experience exchanges, tours of the facility, and reunions among friends.
A delegation of the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) visited the Chilean Navy’s Arturo Prat Naval Academy in mid-March, as part of the Midshipmen and Cadets Exchange Program between both institutions. The U.S. delegation comprised eight midshipmen and three USNA officers who toured the Naval Academy facilities, located on a hill in the port city of Valparaíso.
The objective of the visit was to get to know the Chilean Navy’s learning process, learn about the history of the naval institution, and exchange experiences. The visit also helped strengthen bonds of cooperation between both academies and renew friendships.
“All eight of the midshipmen that were with me immensely enjoyed the visit, and some got to see their Chilean friends who had been on [an academic] exchange in Annapolis [headquarters of USNA],” U.S. Navy Commander Josh E. Dittmar, professor in the Aerospace Engineering Department at USNA, and who led the trip to Chile, told Diálogo. “I think it was very productive for my team to experience another naval academy’s culture.”
Among the activities, the U.S. delegation visited the Academy’s Naval Museum, which displays relics of Chilean naval hero Commander Arturo Prat Chacón, as well as models of airplanes once part of the Chilean Navy fleet—the institution marked its 200th anniversary in 2018. The U.S. delegation also operated ship simulators their Chilean counterparts use.
“We did an activity in the navigation simulator, which was undoubtedly foreign cadets’ favorite, because we conducted a competition between different teams, which objective was to navigate in Valparaíso Bay, with constant changing weather conditions and many dangers,” Chilean Navy First Lieutenant Rodrigo García-Huidobro Núñez, officer in the Naval Academy’s 6th Division, told Diálogo. “These activities had the same objective: to enable Annapolis cadets to experience life in general at the Naval Academy.”
During their stay, U.S. midshipmen also learned about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in Chile in humanitarian assistance situations and defense capabilities through an exchange with a local school of technology. USNA midshipmen also discovered Chilean cuisine and the different landscapes of the Pacific coast.
“I liked the focus on naval heroes from other countries, as an acknowledgement of honor and appreciation of naval skills regardless of origin,” Cmdr. Dittmar said. “The requirement to take a [daily] cold shower for three years is extremely unique.”
The exchange program between partner naval institutions started in 2007. It represents a strategic educational and professional partnership with a focus on the academic areas of engineering, science, and humanities.
The goal of the program is to strengthen students’ knowledge, develop a positive international relationship, and bolster their linguistic capabilities. According to Chilean Navy Commander Hans Fritz Kelly, head of the Education Department at the Naval Academy, more than 35 Chilean cadets have studied at USNA, and 27 U.S. midshipmen have studied at Chile’s Naval Academy since the program began.
“These exchange programs are very important, as they give us a mutual benefit in terms of the naval ethos, in training processes, as well as the national culture of institutions,” Cmdr. Fritz told Diálogo. “They enable continuous improvement, as they learn about different forms of operations from other navies,” he added.
“Continued contact will help increase the level of camaraderie. It will help prepare for future visits of Chilean cadets to USNA in the fall [of] 2020 and USNA midshipmen to Chile in the future,” Cmdr. Dittmar concluded. “Many future officers that are in our classrooms today will be active participants in the future,” Cmdr. Fritz added.