Dragon Corner: international students trained by the best

  • Published
  • By Second Lt. Ryan Gardner
  • 81st Training Support Squadron
The 81st Training Wing not only trains the world's best Airmen, it also trains military members from around the globe. Hosting an average of more than 350 international students from 30 countries annually, the 81st Training Support Squadron provides the wing with cultural immersion that many do not get to see elsewhere. These hand-selected internationals are at Keesler to learn from the best instructors in the most powerful military in the world.

The support for our welcomed guests is led through the International Military Student Office, where we do our best to help them adjust to our culture and military. The IMSO handles all needs, records, liaison duties, culture immersion, and discipline of the international students. However, it is the interaction with other students, instructors, and our permanent party personnel that determines if their experience is a positive one.

You can see our international students everywhere. They are very easy to spot in their unique uniforms. You can see them walking to their classrooms all around the base as they attend nearly every training program offered by Keesler's training squadrons. Before they attend the course, they are required to pass an exam to make sure they understand the English language. Do not hesitate to talk to them; they would enjoy talking to and learning about you.

Since international students attend such a wide range of courses, there are a wide range of ranks that our personnel need to recognize so they are able to deliver the proper customs and courtesies. While identifying an officer or enlisted may be difficult just by looking at the very different shoulder boards of some foreign trainees, we require them to wear the equivalent U.S. Air Force rank on their shirt or blouse.. So when you walk by them, be sure to greet them properly, salute officers, and make them feel welcome. On the flip side, military personnel should keep international students accountable in their military bearing and standards; if corrections are needed, address them.

While our international students do behave similarly in military standards, their personal customs can be tremendously different, and we ask that you respect their cultures. They are making new adjustments to different schedules, people, food, meal times and customs, and some may be away from their family for long periods of time. To some, being at Keesler may be considered a "culture shock." This is when being a great wingman can make our international students feel welcome and motivated to learn. They will be going through the same courses as our students, without any leniency, and must deal with a language barrier on top of that. Be patient and expect great results as they share their cultures and experiences.

If any issues occur where professional expectations are not being met from an international student, call 377-2921 or 3643.

The IMSO office is always looking for help in making our international students feel at home. If you would like to be a friend to the international community or be a sponsor to one of our students, please join our American Member of International Goodwill to Others program. You can make a difference in direct country relations by being the cornerstone our international students need. If interested, call 377-2921 or 3643.

We ask our military community to take this opportunity to embrace our international representatives. This is an opportunity to not only provide professional instruction to armed services members from other countries, but to gain from them an understanding of numerous cultures.