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JBSA News
NEWS | Sept. 23, 2010

Center helps DOD build international bonds

By Kathryn Gustafson Air Force Language, Region and Culture Program Office

A graduation ceremony at the Defense Language Institute English Language Center is not what one would consider typical. As the students' names are read, they approach the stage wearing the uniforms of their respective countries. From privates through generals, across all the services, these men and women have traveled from around the world to attend classes for English proficiency, specialized English training or instructor development.

Every Thursday, an average of 60 students graduate and return to their countries of origin or continue to follow-on training at U.S. military training sites, equipped with the English language proficiency necessary to adapt to the American and U.S. military cultures. In addition, DLIELC supports nonresident English language programs through the deployment of teams on managerial, advisory and instructional missions. In 2009 alone, 166 personnel were deployed to 33 different locations worldwide.

"The English language mission is important, and it's hard. You are students who have the discipline, fortitude and perseverance for a bright future," said Col. Howard Jones, DLIELC commandant, during a recent graduation ceremony.

The English Language Center has trained up to 3,300 students a year from 116 different countries - sometimes reaching as many as 1,150 students at any given time. Since 1954, DLIELC, a Department of Defense agency, has been training international students and DoD, non-native English speakers with the language and cross-cultural skills to build partnerships and aid in security cooperation across the globe.

As the executive agent, the Air Force remains dedicated to building partnership capacity and improving relations with partner nations through DLIELC's resident and nonresident English language training programs.

Jer Donald Get, the Air Force Senior Language Authority, said the Air Force places high importance on DLIELC's impact in today's global society. "The Air Force is thoroughly committed to the English Language Center program and understands its vital importance to building partnerships and security cooperation," he said.

Many students at DLIELC feel privileged to participate in a globally-recognized program of such high caliber and are testaments to the Air Force's ability to improve foreign relations and build partnerships. During a recent graduation speech, a proud student said, "I am able to give a big gift from DLI to my country, which is being able to learn the English language. Multilateral cooperation of each and every one at DLI will be remembered for all time, [and] with this common language we can exchange views among countries and support each other."

It is through DLIELC's direct influence abroad that the U.S. can build friendships and shape attitudes about Americans. "English language training needs to be recognized as an American foreign policy tool," said Lt. Col. J.W. DeLoach, International Operations Squadron Commander at DLIELC.

"Broadening partnerships is a new U.S. Air Force core function; however, DLIELC, through its English language training programs for international military around the world, has been building friendships and international relationships for over 50 years. English is the international language of the sky and of the sea and as such is a tool of soft diplomacy that will give DoD sustainable partnerships," said Peggy Halliburton, a Policy, Plans and Programs staff member at DLIELC.

The center is recognized internationally. With the high demand for English language training support for Afghanistan and Iraq, the increase in U.S. Foreign Military Sales purchases and the growing importance of the U.S. International Military Education and Training grant program, the demand for English language training continues to grow.

In today's global economy, DLIELC remains one of the DoD's premier diplomatic tools in international relations and security cooperation. "In an era of building partnerships, the demand for building partnerships overwhelms the resources to achieve the associated initiatives, but we need to understand the critical enablers that must survive budget constraints," said Gerald Hust, Air Force Director of Policy, International Affairs.

"DLIELC enables most of our engagements to build partnership capacity, and it augments our own military capability. The return on investment is immeasurable and a 'win-win' for the U.S. and our partners interested in global security."