Cultural Experiences and Field Study in Macedonia

Cultural Experiences and Field Study in Macedonia

By Dryden Phelps ’19

This past summer, the Norwich University Peace and War Center selected Cadet Hannah Malone ’19 and me to travel to the Republic of Macedonia for summer training and to conduct a battlefield study. We prepared for going to Macedonia by educating ourselves on the culture of the Balkans and the conflicts fueled by individual national identities of the Balkan countries.

When we arrived in Macedonia, despite the amount of research we had done we were not prepared for the heat. Macedonia is one of the hottest places I have ever been to—and I am from south Texas. Upon landing, we were welcomed by the Commandant of Cadets of the Macedonian Military Academy and then ushered to the opening ceremony.

Cadet Malone and I began working on the battlefield study. A battlefield study has two parts: the first is the academic and the second is field work. For the academic portion, we were given reading material on the Battle of Dojran. We also reviewed WWI in a classroom setting; it was intriguing to study the war from a non-U.S. perspective. We then moved on to the field. Under the instruction of a British Lt. Colonel from NATO we hiked up Petit Couronne to gain a better understanding of the Battle of Dojran. By visiting the terrain and crawling into bunkers, it was easier to gain an understanding as to why and how the British (Offense) lost to the Bulgarians. 

Our trip also involved trips to various cities around Macedonia—cities such as Shtip, Ochrid, and Skopje, the capital. During these trips, we were able to gain a better understanding of the country’s history and culture. Yet, out of all the places we went, people we met, and things we learned, one small girl impacted me in a way I never expected. We visited a refugee camp, and when we walked in a young Iraqi girl ran up to me, cried in my arms, and thanked the United States for saving her and her family. Seeing a country is one thing, understanding its struggles is a unique experience. Only through programs like the ones provided through the Peace and War Center can we get these experiences and be better prepared for the future.