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Cadets participate in international falconry exhibition
From right: Dr. Margit Muller shows Cadet 2nd Class Michael O'Kelley and Cadet 3rd Class Paul McArthur a falcon undergoing a surgical procedure at a falcon hospital in the United Arab Emirates Sept. 23, 2010. Cadets with the Falconry Club visited the UAE to learn about differences between Air Force Academy and Middle Eastern falconry. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Cadets participate in international falconry exhibition

Posted 10/13/2010   Updated 10/13/2010 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. Christopher DeWitt
Air Force Academy Public Affairs

10/13/2010 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Two cadets represented the Air Force Academy at the eighth annual Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition Sept. 22-25 in the United Arab Emirates.

Cadet 2nd Class Michael O'Kelley and Cadet 3rd Class Paul McArthur visited the Middle East after receiving a cultural exchange invite from the U.S. Embassy to strengthen bonds with the UAE.

During their visit, the pair got a firsthand look at the local culture while sharing experiences and different falcon raising methods with Emirati falconers.

"We had the opportunity to share American falconry with them and discuss the differences in how we interact with our birds," Cadet O'Kelley said. "Over there, it's all about hunting, so they were surprised to hear that we use our falcons for demonstrations."

Echoing O'Kelly's comments, Cadet McArthur explained that "(Emiratis) were surprised we didn't hunt with our birds and very interested in how we were able to get the falcons to perform in front of thousands of people."

Not only was this trip the first visit to the Middle East for the cadets, it was also the first time there has been a U.S. booth at ADIHEX.

"We worked with the state department to not only share American falconry with locals but also to share ecological policies as well," Cadet O'Kelley said. "It was great how the state department used falconry to strengthen relations with native Emiratis."

Cadets also got to take in some local culture after participating in a demonstration hosted at the crown prince of Abu Dhabi's ranch.

"We had a traditional Emirati feast where we ate naan bread, rice, camel, and other foods with our bare hands. It was kind of fun," Cadet McArthur said. "I was surprised what I could learn culturally in four days."

Making the journey with the cadets was Lt. Col. Donald Rhymer, Falconry Club officer in charge, who hailed the trip as "successful by facilitating the discussion of falconry history and techniques as related to both the Emirati and American cultures," adding that it provides a starting point for future interactions.

"(Both cadets) gained an appreciation for how deep the falconry traditions are part of the Emirati culture," Lt. Col. Rhymer said.

Both cadets expressed their appreciation to be part of such a unique opportunity and look forward to the possibility for future trips.

"It was absolutely awesome. I would do it again," Cadet O'Kelley said.

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