IMSO: Nurturing partnerships through training

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Trenten Walters
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

Technical training has challenging moments for every service member, but navigating a foreign country, overcoming language barriers and adjusting to new cultures only increases the difficulty.

These are only a few challenges Keesler’s international students face, but guiding them through it all is the International Military Student Office (IMSO).

“We are the most important people when it comes to the international students, especially when we greet them at the airport,” said James Cooks, 81st Training Support Squadron chief international student officer. “They are flying from thousands of miles away and a lot of them have never traveled before. We’re the first people to make an impression.”

The IMSO acts as the guide for over 300 international students from approximately 30-45 allied countries per year, assisting with their needs during their time at Keesler.

“On top of managing the training for all the international students, we handle their travel, their pay and, on the weekends, we take them on field study program tours to let them experience different aspects of the U.S.,” said Cooks.

Keesler is unique in merging international military students, sister service students and Airmen in the same courses. This joint training environment gives all students the same quality of training and supports our allies and partners.

“Some of the students who graduate courses at Keesler hold high-ranking leadership positions,” said Cooks. “The IMSO plays a crucial role in fostering partnerships that strengthen our global presence.”

The bulk of international students come to receive training in air traffic control and weather, with increasing numbers in finance courses. The students then take their new skills and experiences home to incorporate into the operational force.  

“The training experience from the Weather and Environment Science Officer course is truly amazing,” said Capt. Lin, international weather officer student. “Having the opportunity to better understand how the weather force operates in the U.S. Air Force and working together with ROTC officers on group projects is an unforgettable memory for me.”