By Airman 1st Class Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The mission of the Air Force expands throughout the globe. There are Airmen in many different countries fighting for the same purpose – prosperity of the future. Though there may be a language barrier or diverse cultures, though the uniforms may be slightly different, one thing remains true. “United we stand; divided we fall.”
In order to fight as one and speak as one, international allies train together to increase understanding and open the door for coalitions. At Little Rock Air Force Base, international air force military students from all over the world come here for training.
When international air force military personnel train with Team Little Rock Airmen, these students receive the same training that a U.S. student gets, said Maj. Brian Wester, 714th training squadron international military student office flight commander.
One of the training objectives is to expose the students to the local and U.S. culture as much as possible while they are here, Wester said. “That’s why we have the students come here and train, rather than send a mobile training team there. We really encourage that they send their students here. It’s part of building that partnership with other countries,” he said.
While here, the students are trained in areas such as maintenance personnel, air crew, all positions with the C-130 air crew and other familiarization courses.
“We do not pick the students and we have no control over who comes to train, so rank does not matter,” said Wester. “There can be an E-1 here training as well as an O-10.”
“This training program has been going on for years. We have records dating back to 2000, but the program has really grown in the last three years,” said Wester. “If you look back in 2000, we averaged about 15 students per year, and now we average about 250 students or more per year. It has really grown due to the J model program because a lot of countries are procuring those right now and they want to send their students here to train.”
Depending on what area the students are being trained in, they could be here from as little as two weeks, up to six months.
Regardless of the length of time that the students are here, they are always eager to learn and take as much as they can from us, said Wester.
During those weeks or months, the students go through a field studies program. The field studies program is funded quarterly by Air Force Security Assistance Training. This program aides in the culture awareness aspect of training.
“We take them out on local trips to places like the Clinton Library and other cultural icons around Little Rock. We also do an extended trip to Memphis for a weekend, and we try to get every student to go. We go to several museums including the Civil Rights Museum,” said Wester. “That’s the benefit of having the students come here. They can experience our culture for themselves.”
Working and training together helps countries that are different operate the same, said Tech Sgt. Timothy Geiger, 714th TRS international military student officer NCO-in-charge.
“We work as a coalition, so we can train in the same way, and everyone can speak the same language,” said Geiger.
While the students are here it’s good that they see how this base operates, and hopefully they take their observations back home with them, said Geiger.
“We are building partnerships. We’ve just seen India come through for the first time ever, so there’s a new partner,” Wester said.
Along with India, countries such as Poland and Nigeria are among the 42 that’s been trained here at Little Rock throughout the lifespan of this program. Out of the 42, 14 of those countries have trained here since July 2010.
“Not only do the students learn from us, but they leave bits and pieces of their culture with us and their instructors as well, and we learn from them too,” said Geiger.