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NEWS | Feb. 14, 2013

AETC program builds bridges between U.S., foreign allies

By Robert Goetz Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

One of the best examples of global cooperation can be found at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph and other Air Force installations, where an Air Education and Training Command squadron's mission is to "build and strengthen enduring international partnerships by building partner capability."

AETC's Air Force Security Assistance Training Squadron pursues this mission by providing technical, flight and other types of training for students representing the armed forces of more than 140 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Canada, Poland and India.

Dwyer Stringer, AETC International Training and Education Directorate executive officer, said the international students come to the United States at their countries' expense "because they're getting the best training possible."

It's also a mutually beneficial exchange.

"When these students learn at schools in the United States, they learn using our procedures and they work with our instructors," Stringer said."We can join with them and work together because we've all learned in the same manner."

Air Force installations' point of contact for the students is the International Military Student Office, which strives to meet their needs and ensure their stay in the United States is a positive one.

"Our goal is to treat them like a family member," Roy Lozano, Randolph IMSO chief, said.

Examples of the assistance the office provides are helping the students with pay issues and medical care; making sure they receive the proper training; and attending to their spouses' needs, he said.

Although nearly 60 percent of foreign students come to Air Force installations for technical training, students who train at Randolph are here for flight training, taking courses such as introduction to fighter fundamentals, pilot instructor training and aerospace physiology alongside American pilots. Some of them first require English language instruction at the Defense Language Institute at JBSA-Lackland.

First Lt. Ahmad Getso, an officer in the Nigerian Air Force, said training at Randolph with different instructors and different platforms affords students an "exceptional experience."

"It is a very high standard in terms of knowledge and professionalism, and you can only find it in a few places in the world," he said.

Lozano said some foreign students come to the U.S. with negative preconceptions but often leave with an entirely different attitude toward Americans.

"What's rewarding for me is when you hear students talk favorably about their experiences," he said.

Lozano recalled the changes in a foreign officer who came "with an attitude" but was soon overcome with emotion because he and his wife were treated like family members by instructors and classmates.

"Those are things that make it important," he said. "That's our goal - to bring us together."

Getso, who completed the T-6 PIT course at the 559th Flying Training Squadron, called his stay at Randolph "an experience of a lifetime."

"It's an unforgettable memory of the people at Randolph in terms of respect, courtesy and professionalism," he said.

Getso said Lozano was particularly helpful as he made his way from Columbus, Miss., to San Antonio with the approach of Hurricane Isaac last summer.

"With a hurricane coming in, he had to do everything, including in-processing, over the phone," he said. "I will not forget how caring he was about my well-being. He checked on me frequently on my trip from Columbus to San Antonio."

Stringer said the international students' experience here gives them a "better understanding of America.

"They see how we are rather than how we are perceived," he said.