Tour of the world: Festival celebrates international culture
International officers and their families attending the Air Force's Air Command and Staff College annual culture day event had the opportunity to sample cuisine from 68 different countries under one roof.
by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs
3/20/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The Air Force's Air Command and Staff College held its annual building partnership event, International Culture Day, here, March 17.
The "capstone" event featured 75 international officers from 68 countries sharing their culture with more than 1,500 attendees.
"The ACSC International Officer "Culture Day" is a capstone event that is unique to our in-residence (professional military education) students, and in this case in particular, their families as well," said Lt. Col. Dane Christensen, the commander of the 21st Student Squadron at ACSC. "To see, hear and taste the truly wonderful cultural diversity of 68 countries in less than two hours is simply an event that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world." Booths hosted by international officers featured food, traditional dress and decorations from the officers' home country.
The event allows attendees to take a broader view of the world around them, said Lt. Col. Pierre "Drago" de Goumoens, a member of the Swiss air force and the international officers' class president.
"Attendees can, within a couple of hours, do a tour of the world and discover the variety and the palette of colors of the 68 countries represented this year at ACSC," de Goumoens said. "Hopping from one culture to another, from one region of the world to another, helps people understand the differences between cultures. To go from one culture to another would normally take hours, but here you do it within seconds."
The event is part of ACSC's larger mission to continue to build partnerships between U.S. and international students, said Brig. Gen. Stephen Denker, the commandant of Air Command and Staff College.
"One of the AF's core missions is building partnership capacity. The AF invites more than 65 partners to attend Spaatz Center for Officer Education programs annually," he said. "The international partners send their best and brightest officers to ACSC, and in turn, the Air Force officers expand their knowledge of the diverse cultures, languages and military forces from around the world. These partnerships pay dividends by adding to the long-term security of our nation and our allies."
Christensen echoed those thoughts, saying events like the culture day can impact the global mission significantly.
"The vast majority of our students will travel overseas to a deployment or assignment within 3-4 months, and a great many more will end up on major command staffs, in the Pentagon and throughout the joint environment," he said. "After 10 months of daily interaction with our international partners, our students build bonds that are invaluable to getting the global mission done. The cultural day is one of the favored curriculum events ACSC uses to continue building first-person relationships with international officers and their families."
While the partnerships built are invaluable, attendees also get an important perspective of the world around them. Maj. Mary King, an ACSC student who attended the event, said the event impressed her.
"It's awesome. I love taking part in each culture and seeing each person in their traditional dress," she said. "Each one of these international officers represents their country so well. It's great to see ACSC represented so well and have our international officers share their culture with us."
The international officers worked very hard to put on an event that simultaneously opened up a new world to attendees and yet made them feel at home. It could not have gone better, said de Goumoens.
"It is a great honor and a significant challenge at the same time. I am very happy with the commitment, as it helped me develop a fantastic network with all the international and U.S. students," he said. "It is why I wish everybody 'tout de bon' for the day, which is a local idiom in my part of Switzerland, meaning, 'I wish you a successful and enjoyable day.'"