Coming to America: International officers at Maxwell



by Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Stoltz
Air University Public Affairs


10/8/2010 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- While traversing the grounds of Maxwell Air Force Base, some interesting uniforms might be spotted. New ribbons, service caps and even new dress-blues could appear. However, these are not new Airman Battle Uniforms, or an exciting new revision of AFI 36-2903--they are most likely an international officer here for school.

With more than 200 international officers from more than 80 countries attending Air War College, Air Command and Staff College and the Squadron Officer College every year, it is not too surprising to find a Captain from Slovenia purchasing clothes at the Base Exchange, or a Major from Gabon buying groceries at the commissary.

Maj. Jeremy Johnson, director, ACSC Preparatory Course said during their time here, the students at the International Officer School are learning about more than the U.S. and each other's respective armed forces. They are learning about each other as people.

During a recent rotary club-sponsored dinner in downtown Montgomery Sept. 30, the international officers had a chance to have a taste of what America is like by interacting with local citizens and representatives.

"Unfortunately, there are many media outlets in the world which paints America as such a terrible place," said Maj. Johnson. "Luckily, when the officers come together here for classes at Maxwell, they discover America isn't so terrible after all. It is great they can leave here with a positive impression they can share with their peers."

Maj. Alfredo Diaz, a Mi-17 helicopter pilot from Nicaragua, couldn't agree more and said he is honored to have a chance to visit the United States and attend the International Officer School.

"Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised to receive such a warm welcome," he said. "We hear so much negativity about the United States, and yet when I come here, the people here could not have been more accommodating."

Maj. Diaz said he was selected by his superior to attend IOS and is here to learn about conflicts and conflict resolution.

However, the International Officer School is not simply fun and games. The standards remain high and the students must remain vigilant, even in a unique environment.
Maj. Clifftone K. Moono of Gabon said not just any officer is allowed to attend the International Officer School, because there are strict requirements to be selected.

"There is some element of merit involved," he said. "Each officer is hand-picked by their superiors to attend IOS. This is because the courses here are not easy at all. Our schedule is hectic and being here is a great learning experience, but the officers here know they were selected to better themselves and represent their country."

Maj. Johnson said the best thing the international officers learn while they are here is how we are all alike in some way. He said although the uniforms and ribbons might be a different style or color and our traditions may differ, we are all still human--and we can all learn from each other.