Moroccan officer
Following in past footsteps, Capt. Saihi, an officer in the Royal Moroccan Air Force, is attending IOS and then Squadron Officer School at Maxwell, just as his father, Ahmed Saihi, did three decades earlier. (Courtesy photo)
Moroccan officer following in his father's footsteps

by Rebecca Burylo
42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

10/11/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. - -- Walking the halls of International Officer School, Capt. Nabil Saihi appears to have stepped back in time, as he scans the walls for a photograph of his father.

Following in past footsteps, Saihi, an officer in the Royal Moroccan Air Force, is attending IOS and then Squadron Officer School at Maxwell, just as his father, Ahmed Saihi, did three decades earlier.

Gregory Baker, an IOS instructor since 1969, helps international students like Saihi and his father become familiar with American culture and the English language. Baker was able to find records of Ahmed, a captain at the time, when he attended Maxwell in 1982.

"I saw Nabil in the hallway one day with a camera taking pictures. He said, 'I'm looking for my father,'" Baker said. "So we went back and looked up his class and found his dad. This just shows IOS is really a multigenerational school."

At the time his father attended Maxwell, Saihi was only 2 years old and accompanied his parents to Montgomery while his father attended the seven-week courses at IOS and SOS.

That was Saihi's first visit to a foreign country. Today, he appreciates the opportunity to return to Montgomery and further his own education.

"I actually love your country, I appreciate your culture and of course human rights," Saihi said. "I appreciate your country and being here. Mr. Baker, the instructors, the staff and everyone here are really nice people."

Saihi, a transport pilot for the Royal Moroccan Air Force, joined the Moroccan military in 1996 as a cadet in the Royal Moroccan Air Force Academy, where his father, a major general, is currently commander.

Like many American Airmen, Saihi joined the air force to serve his country.

"Of course, my father was a part of my decision to join, but he didn't force it on me," Saihi said. "It was my own decision serving my country. Being a part of the royal Moroccan Air Force is an honor for everyone."

His adept skills in English communication earned Saihi the opportunity to attend IOS, where he hopes to further improve in the language.

"English is our second foreign language in Morocco. We speak Arabic, French and English. It's a big challenge for us, so I'm here to improve on my communication skills," Saihi said. "It is actually going well so far."

While Saihi currently attends IOS, a few things have changed since Saihi's father attended years ago, according to Baker.

"We had no computers back then, so he (Nabil) is here in the 21st century and his dad was here in the 20th century. Now the courses are a lot more technologically advanced," Baker explained.

In the classroom, students of IOS are taught American history and government. They then apply what they have learned through the field studies program.

The program allows students to visit Washington, D.C., and experience government proceedings first hand, according to Baker.

"We call this the field studies program, where they learn the theory here and then they go out into the field to see things like the Supreme Court in action, the Changing of the Guard, the Arlington National Cemetery and various dignitaries," Baker explained.

Saihi is confident his educational experience at Maxwell will prepare him to be a military leader in Morocco and achieve the same success as his father.

"This experience will definitely be a spring board for my military career. I know it will be a rewarding experience and I hope my wife, daughter and my father will be proud," Saihi said. "I hope when I return that I will have more responsibility to prove my capabilities."

Each year, the IOS graduates more than 230 international officers from 73 countries, providing them with professional military continuing education upon their return home. Such partnerships help build positive international relations.