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Foreign officers observe NCOs in action

By The Mercury

First Infantry Division noncommissioned officers got a chance to interact with officers from 88 countries across six continents   when they visited Fort Riley this month.

The 114 foreign officers are attending the International Military Student Division’s Intermediate Level Education at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. The college brought groups of international students to Fort Riley 14 times in the last 15 years, Michael J. Brettmann, field studies program manager with the IMSD, said.

Though the officers are in the United States for a year, the visit to Fort Riley is the only time they will get to see an active-duty Army post and see live training, Brettmann said.

A majority of the group’s time was spent at a tank gunnery at Douthit Range Complex with the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, and a platoon situational training exercise with the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd ABCT.

The visiting officers were particularly interested in the role of sergeants as many of their armies do not have a noncommissioned officer corps and the 2nd ABCT’s upcoming role as the first brigade combat team to be regionally aligned with U.S. Africa Command.

“There is no substitute for seeing NCOS and soldiers in person,” Brettman said. “They saw the responsibilities that our NCOS carry out and the quality of our young soldiers using the latest equipment in a training environment.”

Some of the foreign officers commented on Fort Riley’s size and the extensive duties of the NCOs they encountered.

Sgt. Gregory Cotter, a combat medic in the 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt., briefed groups of foreign officers during their visit to Douthit Range Complex. They were most curious about his and his Soldiers’ jobs and how they related to them as commanders on the battlefield. They wanted to know details about the medics’ communication with their higher commands and how they tracked casualty movements, Cotter said.

Cotter liked showing the international officers how much American NCOs could be relied upon because it could give them more trust and confidence in their own enlisted forces, he said. For the international officers, it was a powerful experience interacting with “Big Red One” NCOs, Maj. Chang Ho Lee, an infantry officer in the Republic of Korea army, said.

Lee and his fellow students spend a lot of time learning about doctrine, and it was good to see it in action in real combat units, he added.

This exposure to the 1st Inf. Div. will remain embedded in the visiting officers’ minds for many years to come, Command Sgt. Maj. Wendell Franklin, the division’s operations senior noncommissioned officer, said.

“This program is the first that I have seen that allows foreign country officers to see what both the Army and 1ID provides to close that educational gap between both officers and NCOs,” Franklin said. “One of the division’s goals by providing this training is that these officers will adopt and support similar programs within their armies.”

Feedback from the ILE staff and students said their intent of seeing NCOs “doing what they do on a daily basis” was met, Franklin said. That included training Soldiers and flawlessly executing orders from their superiors.

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