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Home : News : News
NEWS | March 29, 2013

International Military Student Office a passport to medical training

By Esther Garcia AMEDDC&S Public Affairs

A first-time visitor to the International Military Student Office, located on the first floor of the Army Medical Department Center and School, might think they have walked into a small museum, as the office is decorated with artifacts from more than 80 countries.

Students from countries such as Algeria, Armenia, Germany, Egypt, Mongolia, Denmark, Italy, Korea, Lebanon, Norway, Slovenia, Singapore, Sweden, the Philippines, Canada, Georgia and Hungary - just to name a few - pass through these doors to attend a variety of medical courses at the AMEDDC&S.

The artifacts are small gifts from the students presented to the office as thanks for the hospitability they receive while attending medical training.

Officials from the State Department decide which countries participate in the training under the DOS/Department of Defense Security Assistance Training Program. The daily population is 30 to 60 students attending multiple courses, with the longest being the captains career course.

"We currently have more than 70 courses that are made available to the international community. These range from initial entry training such as the health care specialist and combat medic courses, to post-graduate courses or short courses," said Oscar Ramos-Rivera, director of the International Military Student Office. "We recently opened the Baylor Health Administration program which is a master's degree program."

Students, whether officers or enlisted, attend courses such as the health care specialist course, basic officer leader course, the medical logistics course, or the biomedical equipment maintenance technician course, just to name a few.

"If the candidate meets the affiliation requirements, then we can accept them in the program," Ramos-Rivera said.

"We have veterinary doctors attend the enlisted course for food inspectors," Rivera said, adding that veterinary courses are very popular with foreign countries, particularly those with large armies that have their own farms for animals and produce.

In addition to AMEDDC&S, students attend formal and observer training at a variety of locations, including the Noncommissioned Officer Academy; the Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute and at the Medical Education and Training Campus at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston and the U.S. Army School of Aviation Medicine at Fort Rucker, Ala.

Non-English speaking students also attend the Defense Language School at JBSA-Lackland. The State Department requires a certain score in the English language, with enlisted personnel scoring 70 percent and officers 80 percent.

"For the most part, we use simulation training and limit some things to observation, but the student must meet all the same requirements as their American counterpart in order to graduate," Ramos-Rivera said. "We have a policy letter from the office of the Army surgeon general that regulates the scope of practice that international students and exchange officers can engage in while here."

Most foreign students wear more than one hat in their respective armies, so after attending medical training at AMEDDC&S, they might move to Fort Benning, Ga., for airborne training or to Fort Bragg, N.C., to spend one year with Special Forces, or head to other schools to attend non-medical training.

Ramos-Rivera said the program is a long-term investment for the United States.

"Many of the young officers I met in the 1970s or 1980s are now senior officers and or civilians working in support of the American coalition," he said. "It is a way for us to promote a great way of life."

Working with foreign students came naturally for Ramos-Rivera. During his military career, Rivera was a military advisor in Latin America, spent a year in Saudi Arabia, worked with NATO and was also in the Middle East during the first Gulf War.

In 1972, he was involved with humanitarian efforts and deployed with teams to other countries which led to his position as security assistance training officer. Ramos-Rivera speaks Spanish, Portuguese and some German, so he sometimes acts as an unofficial interpreter for the students.

A key program in the International Student Office is the Field Studies Program. The director of the Field Studies Program is a position mandated by Congress and each international student office must have this position.

"We have the students see our democratic system, to include our penal, judicial and political systems," said Ervin Talley, program manager for the field studies program and deputy to the director.

"Students in the Captains Career Course have a chance to visit Washington, D.C. Students also visit the Texas capitol in Austin, as well as Dallas and Houston," Talley said.

"It is almost like Congress is saying we want you to bring them over and teach them about our democracy. We want them to go back to their country with an emphasis in human rights. Hopefully, we taught them something right."