IMSO guides, cares for international students

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Every year hundreds of students graduate from Columbus Air Force Base and earn their silver wings. While most head off to another part of the country to continue training, some return to their homes - to countries ranging from Japan, to Iraq.

These international students spend over a year working alongside and learning with U.S. students, all the while being guided and cared for by the International Military Student Officer.

"The IMSO is a liaison for the international students," said Capt. Marc Miedziak, 14th Flying Training Wing IMSO. "We take care of them from when they arrive here to when they arrive back home (after training)."

It's the IMSO's duty to coordinate the various international student programs, assist students with paperwork, track the student's progress and generally help out the student when they need, he said. While most of these things are similar to what a U.S. student would encounter, international students that are in-processing sometimes face additional hurdles.

"Some of these students don't have I.D. cards or social security numbers," he said. "We help them with those issues."

All of the students the IMSO encounters are in one of two programs, the Aviation Leadership Program, or the Foreign Military Sales Program.

As part of the Foreign Military Sales Program, the U.S. sells training and aircraft to various allies across the globe, Captain Miedziak said.

Currently, Japan, Portugal, Singapore and Saudi Arabia all have students undergoing training at Columbus AFB as part of a foreign military sale. In addition, Italy is approved to purchase available training slots but currently has no students at CAFB.

The Air Force Security Assistance Training Squadron at Randolph AFB, Texas, approves all requests by allied members who wish to purchase a training slot, the captain said.

"The training they undergo is exactly the same as U.S. training," he said. "They progress along the same syllabus and meet all the same requirements."

The Aviation Leadership Program, on the other hand, is a Secretary of the Air Force sponsored program which invites students from around 45 allied countries to come train with, and learn about, the U.S. Air Force, he said.

Each year the SAF selects 20 countries to participate in that year's program. From there, the various countries select a student to send to ALP.

"We're building good will with the future leaders of these countries," Captain Miedziak said. "They learn about each other and they learn what we (the U.S. Air Force) do and why we do it."

While students that are part of the Foreign Military Sales Program experience the same program as U.S. students, those in the ALS get a slightly different syllabus.

The entirety of their training takes place in the T-6 Texan, he said. After completing training alongside one class of T-6 students, the ALP students are then placed in a second T-6 class. Also, the student's syllabus throughout the program differs slightly from their U.S. counterparts.

To help student's better experience the culture and government of the U.S., the IMSO also offers other programs, like the Field Studies Program.

The Field Studies Program allows both FMS and ALP students the chance to become better acquainted with the U.S. government and how we deal with things like human and workers rights, the captain said. Students visit various government facilities, including a trip to Washington, D.C.

"The program teaches the students about the United Nations Human Rights Tenants, and how the U.S. follows," he said. "It helps show them how the U.S. governs our country so when/if we do something (in a joint operation) they understand why and can better assist us as allies."

Columbus Air Force Base isn't the only Air Force installation helping train our allies. According to the AFSAT fact sheet (located at www.aetc.af.mil), each year Air Education and Training Command members train or facilitate training for more than 4,400 students, from more than 130 countries attending flying, technical, medical and professional education and training.