The Bayonet

Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012

‘Train as we fight’ — Internationals in MCCC learn US tactics, culture

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According to a TRADOC article released in October, more than 3,000 international soldiers from 130 plus countries participate in a U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command course each year. Of these, an average 1,200 train at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, said Capt. Ndiashea Ngante, commander of the International Military Student Office, P Troop, 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment.

It’s an opportunity with “geopolitical ramifications,” Ngante said.

“This is the future of conflict resolution,” he said. “You have people with different beliefs, ideologies and national backgrounds sitting together in the same classroom for the same purpose. ‘Train as we fight.’ That’s how we fight and this is the way we train — together.”

A case in point is the Maneuver Captains Career Course, the longest of the more than two dozen MCoE courses open to foreign soldiers. The six-month career course trains the most senior students in IMSO, including first lieutenants, captains and majors.

The most recent class of international students in the MCCC arrived on Fort Benning last month. Slated to graduate in May, the 22 officers represent 16 different countries, from Saudi Arabia and Senegal to Sweden and Singapore.

Capt. Hong Rae Cho, an infantry officer from South Korea, said he wanted to attend this course to help his country and learn more about the U.S.

“My last duty station was Joint Security Area,” he said. “This is the only combined operations forces in my country. When I was platoon leader there, I had a couple U.S. Soldiers in my platoon, and I thought, if I study in America, I can perform U.S. combined operations better, and through this experience, I can contribute to my country. So I applied for this course.”

Already, Cho said he has learned much about U.S. culture and military procedures.

“I think it’s very meaningful for Fort Benning … to educate foreign officers here,” he said. “These days we can’t fight alone anymore. Understanding other countries’ tactics, weapon systems and military culture is very important for officers who will lead the future battlefield.”

It’s particularly important for South Korea, Cho said, since the country is slated to transition its operational control from the U.S. Army in 2015.

“In that situation, we need more officers who can speak English and who have experience in the U.S. Army,” he said. “I will be very happy if I can be a small part of a bridge between (my unit) and the U.S. Army.”

In the first phase of the career course, officers learn to plan and execute missions as a commander at the company or troop level. In the second, they learn about operations of a primary staff officer for a battalion or brigade. Most soldiers will serve in one of these roles when they return to their units, Ngante said.

Capt. Louis Richard, an armor soldier from France, said he believes the training will benefit him when he returns to his home country to become an executive officer and eventually a company commander.

“This course is good for me to ‘think bigger,’” he said, referring to both combined arms and multinational operations. “We have to learn about the other branches in order to combine them. As we come from varied units, we have some different personal observances. We can share a lot. I think it’s important for me to train with Americans and the other countries as well. (We’re) training together to be ready to fight together — because we will.”

Richard and his fellow soldiers, both armor and infantry, completed a four-week MCCC prep course Nov. 30 that helps them become familiar with U.S. Army terms, procedures and doctrine. International soldiers selected for the course are typically handpicked by their commanders. Consistently, they are among the best officers in their armies, Ngante said.

“It’s certainly an honor to be here,” said Capt. Jose Ferreira, a light infantryman from Guyana. “I wanted to come. This opportunity presents itself to me to foster relationships with more friends from different parts of the world.”

The South American captain said his briefing techniques have already improved “drastically,” and he also hopes to cherish the friendships he’s made for a long time to come. And that’s the whole goal of the partnership, Ngante said.

“It breaks that barrier between countries,” he said. “While in that close proximity with each other, they are interacting and they’re learning from each other — the U.S. Soldier and the foreign student. Both Americans and the international military students learn from these experiences. And there’s no better place to do combined arms training than on Fort Benning.”

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