Friday, January 23, 2015

TOP STORY >> International students: LRAFB home away from home

By Senior Airman Kaylee Clark
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Visiting a foreign country can be an exciting yet an intimidating experience. Imagine traveling to an unfamiliar country to learn to fly or maintain an aircraft in a second or third language.

Master Sgt. Larry Holland, a C-130 aircraft mechanic and the 714th Training Squadron noncommissioned officer-in-charge of international students, helps foreign students learn the ways of the C-130. 

Holland became the 714th TRS International Military Student Office NCOIC in March of this year.

His job is a two-fold position, comparable to a liaison; he takes care of the students’ needs as soon as he is notified a student will be attending training here, and similar to a first sergeant, he provides guidance to each student when needed.

“The students in process just like any other Airman,” said Holland. “Since some of the students have never been to America we give them an orientation briefing to inform them about the local area such as the weather and even the native animals.”

Poland, Kuwait, Botswana, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Belgium and Singapore are all currently represented at the “Center of Excellence.” Instructors train these students for various careers such as a C-130H or C-130J pilot, loadmaster or navigator and also maintainers. 

Most of the students go through Defense Language Institute English Language Comprehension in San Antonio, Texas, prior to coming here.

“A lot of them do have thick accents, but the students must score an 85 percent on an English comprehension test,” said Holland. “The standards are higher here because of safety issues since they are flying aircraft.”

Training can range from two weeks for refresher training or up to six months for initial training. 

During these weeks or months, the students participate in a Field Studies Program. Foreign countries pay into the Field Studies Program when they purchase the training, so while Air Force Security Assistance Training manages the finances, the actual money comes from the countries of origin so the students can experience American culture and history. 

Foreign students come here for training, but when they leave they take with them not only a wealth of knowledge but also a taste of local culture and a small experience of American living. The Field Studies program is designed to help students better understand different aspects of American culture, such as the democratic political process, free market system, western education, media, and health and human services

“We will take them to Memphis, Tennessee, to visit the Civil Rights Museum and to Graceland to further learn about an icon in American culture, because everyone knows Elvis,” Holland said, laughing. 

Holland explained that being able to take care of the students and making sure they have what they need and seeing them happy makes him love what he does. 

“Other nations send us the best of the best to train, so the quality of foreign student is incredibly high. The C-130 world is a close knit family and forging friendships here at Little Rock AFB pays dividends on the battlefield,” said Capt. Jason Spaulding, 714 TRS International Military Student Officer. “Working closely with our international partners in the training environment translates directly to operational success as we fly combat airlift missions around the world. Odds are, that when we say goodbye after course completion, we will work with each other again.” 

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