The Southern Cone; a Class Act Story by MIDN 1/C Steve Larison

On Thursday, May 31, 2018, MIDN 1/C Michaela White, MIDN 1/C Mark Hanson, MIDN 1/C Mikaela Garrott, MIDN 1/C Stephen Larison, MIDN 1/C Kendal Good, and MIDN 2/C Simona Babb departed the United States Naval Academy, led by CDR Wagener, the Chair of the Languages and Cultures Department, for Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil, the Southern Cone of Latin America.

The next 11 days were filled with a cultural and language experience that tested the Midshipmen in an unfamiliar environment. Everything from ordering a taxi and checking into a hotel to asking for directions and interacting with the locals challenged the Midshipmen’s language abilities. CDR Wagener offered his regional expertise and guidance to the Midshipmen in order to enhance their experience, and allow them to better appreciate the three countries.

Photos by MIDN 1/C Mikaela Garrott

The first third of the trip was spent in Argentina. The Midshipmen were welcomed to the country by the US Embassy in Buenos Aires, where they were briefed on the political and diplomatic relationships between the US and Argentina, as well as given a closer look into the Argentinian Navy and their history. The Midshipmen then toured the city on electronic bike, learning about the history and geography of the city. In the evening, the Mids enjoyed a traditional “Tango Show” that displayed all the different styles of the dance. The next day they were even given a chance to visit the building where the dance is supposed to have been born. The last day in the city included a day trip to the Argentinian Naval Academy, where the Midshipmen were able to interact and befriend cadets, while also developing an understanding of how the Argentinian Navy operates, and what the pipeline is like for newly commissioned Argentinian officers.

USNA Mids make friends with Cadets from the Argentinian Naval Academy. From Left: Argentinian Cadet Cristian Battaglia, 1/C Mikaela Garrott, 1/C Steve Larison, 2/C Simona Babb, Argentinian Cadet Juan Schauvinhold, Argentinian Cadet Joaquin Mendizabal, 1/C Michaela White, 1/C Kendal Good, 1/C Mark Hanson. (Photo by MIDN 1/C Mikaela Garrott)

Leaving the bustling city in rush hour for the Iguazu National Park provided a sharp contrast between an urban setting and a wild and untamed rainforest, in which lies the largest waterfall system in the world. After enduring a life-threatening (and rather wet) boat tour to the falls through rough waters, the Midshipmen took a tour through the park on bus and train, learning about the efforts that go into preserving such a vibrant park.

The next third of the trip was spent in Paraguay. In order to experience another method used to transport goods and people between countries, the Mids took a ferry from Argentina to Paraguay, crossing through the “Tres Fronteras,” or the region where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay share a border. Midshipman 1/C Mikaela Garrott commented on the way the immigration officers dealt with border crossings, “It seems like anything could cross the border.” The highlight of the stay in Paraguay was a trip to the Itaipu Dam, the largest energy-producing dam in the world, and one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The Midshipmen were able to experience a VIP tour, and travelled deep into the heart of the dam that is responsible for producing 75% of Paraguay’s energy, and 15% of Brazil’s.

Leaving Paraguay for Brazil across the International Friendship Bridge started the final third of the trip. In Foz do Iguacu, Brazil, the Mids were anxious to attend a traditional Churrascaria Show. Showcased dances from eight different Latin American nations were enjoyed at the same time as a buffet filled with Latin American foods and drinks. The next day was filled with another trip to the Falls, but this time from the safety of land. The sun was shining, and the Brazilians were very anxious to show just how much more beautiful their side of the park was from the Argentinian side.

The last destination on the LREC was the infamous city of Rio de Janeiro. The Mids learned about the constant efforts of the elite military police, or Bope, in fighting violence and drug trafficking in the Favelas. They also took a trip up Corcovado Mountain to the Cristo Redentor. Armed with miniature icons and plenty of pictures of both the statue and the view of the city, the Mids retired to Ipanema beach, where they relaxed and recuperated from a long trip. The final day of the trip took place at the Brazilian Naval Academy, where former exchange officer LCDR Alexander Ferreira gave the Midshipmen a tour, and Brazilian Admiral Claudio Mello de Almeida shared his experience working with the United Nations in leading the first Naval Component of a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

A long day ended with a classic Brazilian Steakhouse dinner and a plane ride home in upgraded first-class seats. This trip offered invaluable experiences for the Midshipmen, and helped them better prepare for their future careers, where they will inevitably work with foreign nations and their navies.


Photos by MIDN 1/C Mikaela Garrott

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