Thursday, February 17, 2011

COMMENTARY>>International training increases at Little Rock

Little Rock Air Force Base is the home of C-130 combat airlift, and the mission of the 314th Airlift Wing is to train the world’s best C-130 and C-21 combat airlifters to fly, fight and win. This mission is achieved by our experienced maintainers, operators and aided by a strong partnership with our contractors and host wing. In fact, the rest of the world is aware of our excellence in building C-130 combat airlifters that they too, want to be trained at Little Rock. You may have noticed more international students at the dining facility, BX, commissary, turning wrenches on the flightline, or getting strapped into an aircraft for a training sortie.

International training has continued to dramatically increase throughout the last five years. In 2007, we trained 48 international students, and this year, there are 275 operators and maintainers programmed for training, and the projections for 2012 will continue to increase. In fact, Little Rock Air Force Base has been the temporary home for some 42 different partner nations as they train to maintain and operate the most versatile aircraft in the inventory, the C-130 Hercules. We have and will continue to see increased training requirements as more countries purchase the newly produced C-130J aircraft.

But operator and maintainer training is not all that our international students are exposed to while at Little Rock. Our International Military Student Office leads our benchmarked Field Studies Program, which provides a balanced introduction to the U.S. government, society, culture, democratic institutions and respect for common human rights principles. This Field Studies Program concentrates on 11 objectives that are set forth in Department of Defense policy and is carried out in numerous ways. To highlight our local community, the first trip students take are planned to downtown Little Rock to see the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, Central High School, and the USS Razorback. Other trips extend to Hot Springs to provide international students the opportunity to visit the National Park, Bathhouse Row and the Mountain Tower. We’ve also partnered with International Friendship Outreach, a local Little Rock organization to foster community relations with our international students.

On longer weekends, our International Military Student officer schedules overnight bus trips to Memphis to see Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum, the National Sciences Museum and a tour of the Gibson Guitar Factory, all in an effort to provide a solid introduction to our society and our institutions.

Lastly, international student career officers are afforded the opportunity to take a four-day trip to Washington, D.C., where they tour Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, the National Archives and the Capitol building. The purpose of this tour is to give the student a deeper understanding and appreciation of the United States and to acquaint them with some of the functions of our national government and the salient aspects of governmental activities that exist in Washington, D.C.

As you can see, international students at Little Rock are given ample opportunity to develop an understanding of the United States’ society and culture as well as being trained in C-130 operations and maintenance. And what better place to get their training than at Little Rock Air Force Base, the foundation of America’s combat airlift capability, where we train the world’s best C-130 combat airlifters.

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