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NEWS | Sept. 17, 2013

Multinational military members offered opportunities

By Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Whether digging trenches with the French in World War I, providing aid to Berlin in WWII or working with Iraqi officials to improve security measures, helping allies has always been on the forefront of the American military's priorities.

At Fort Eustis, Jorge Marrero, International Military Student Office director, and Agustin Rodriguez, Field Studies Program coordinator, work with international students undergoing technical training, showing them aspects of American culture while helping cultivate a friendly relationship between nations.

"We want our foreign students to feel comfortable at Fort Eustis," said Rodriguez. "We give them opportunities to learn how we define home, and we let them learn about America first-hand through guided tours, volunteer helpers, guest speakers and so on. It is about giving them the most positive American experience possible"

A lot of these experiences show American ideals through practical avenues. Although the public waterworks may be common service in America, its rarity throughout the world landed it as one of the tours presented to the students, said Marrero.

"A lot of these students come from countries that don't always have a modern sewage system, or internet access in every building," said Marrero. "Showing them how America operates behind-the-scenes gives them a different outlook."

Other guided tours include visits to Colonial Williamsburg and Washington D.C. where students learn about American history, or how the government works on a national level.

For subjects not covered by a tour, the Field Studies Program hosts guest speakers who discuss a range of topics from education to politics.

"A simple question-and-answer seminar really gives them insight into the more complex aspects of American life," said Rodriguez. "While a tour gives them an idea of a subject, these lectures let them formulate their own ideas."

If they are not taking a tour, listening to a guest speaker or attending class, most foreign students visit a volunteer from the Fort Eustis community.

"The volunteers are vital to making the students feel welcome in the country," said Marrero. "They usually speak the students' native tongues, which makes students more comfortable in the American culture."

The FSP provides real-world training, as lessons learned can benefit relations between the students' host countries and the United States. Therefore, the students are chosen by their host nations for their skills, and since those same nations pay for them to attend the training, Marrero believes most of his students will be placed in high-ranking positions.

"I know past students who are now Colonel equivalents in their home country," said Marrero. "Just the other day, a [current] student passed on regards from one such former student. To me, that means our guests remember what we have done for them fondly, and that is the whole point."