LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
When Michael Sheridan relocated to the Austin area in 2006, it began a chain of events that led him to a remarkable experience.
A Defense Language Institute English Language Center senior instructor, instructor development branch, Mr. Sheridan spent six months training and improving the English language skills of 17 Cambodian instructors at the National Defense University in Phnom Penh.
His temporary deployed mission the last six months of 2009 was the first extended in-country training for the DLIELC nonresident program in Cambodia. He provided language and technical assistance to the Cambodian instructors, and also helped them in teaching the American Language Course.
"We didn't have (DLI) instructors staying there any appreciable amount of time until they invited me," said Mr. Sheridan. "My presence there was welcomed by the Cambodians. It was an exuberant experience to work with such wonderful people and to influence the development of a fledging language program.
"Through cooperation agreements and our presence, we are helping the Cambodian military meet their language needs so they can have a degree of interoperability with the rest of the English-speaking world, in particular the U.S. military."
Prior DLIELC short-term needs analysis visits over several years set the stage for Mr. Sheridan's assignment. The cumulative result is an in-country presence expected to continue beyond 2010's mobile training teams that followed Mr. Sheridan. It also created the opportunity for three Cambodian instructors to attend the resident program at Lackland this year for more specialized training.
DLIELC is a Department of Defense agency established in 1954 and is now under the operational control of the Air Force. It builds U.S. relations internationally through its English language resident and nonresident programs.
The nonresident program offers services for countries seeking English language training assistance. Those services include assessments, needs analysis and student or teacher training provided by onsite mobile training teams for temporary (six months) or permanent durations.
"Whatever engagement we do in-country is important in building partnerships," said Col. Howard Jones III, DLIELC commander. "Our primary focus is teaching English language proficiency, but the idea is we're building international relationships in the United States and other countries all over the world, one student at a time."
The nonresident program, which can train students to a certain level of English language proficiency, averages 60 instructors in the field that includes assignments at other continental U.S. locations and overseas.
Dawn Moore, chief, Nonresident Programs Division, said all resident campus instructors sign a mobility agreement to serve 90 consecutive days at a nonresident location. Volunteer resident instructors fill the majority of in country program requests.
"Our nonresident program has increased the past couple of years," Ms. Moore said. "When I go back 10 years, the majority of assignments were permanent change of station (one person managerial-advisory roles of three to five years). We don't have as many language training detachment assignments as we used to; we have more requests for teacher training or more specialty training of 179 days (six-month TDYs)."
DLIELC officials expect the upward growth trend to continue in both the resident and nonresident programs.
It was relocating to Austin nearly four years ago that started Mr. Sheridan on a journey to what he described as an adventure and a remarkable experience.
An expanded job search and continued teacher training led him to his DLIELC position after his return to Texas.
"When I discovered I could do teacher training at DLI, the same kind I did in Korea, that was the clincher," said Mr. Sheridan, who had spent the previous 12 years teaching at a Korean university. "It was a perfect match."
He said not all mobile training teams on six-month TDYs emphasize the teacher training that was required for the Cambodians, adding that emphasis made it appealing and attractive with his background.
Mr. Sheridan felt fortunate about the opportunity and humbled by the courtesy, fundamental decency and politeness extended to him by the Cambodians.
"It was the perfect TDY," he said.