Flag ceremony marks start of new ILE class
February 17, 2012
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Feb. 16, 2012) -- For the first time, the Republic of Tajikistan joined the 46 international military students attending the U.S. Army Command and General College in the February 2012-start class.
Capt. Mehriddin Odinaev, CGSC's first student from Tajikistan, posted his flag alongside other military students at the international flag ceremony Feb. 13.
Col. Michael Johnson, acting deputy commandant, welcomed the international military students in the 2012-02 class.
"For decades, the international students of the Command and General Staff College have proudly presented the flags of their nation alongside our stars and stripes, in representation of our shared commitment to the principles of freedom and human rights," Johnson said.
There have been 7,400 international students from 160 countries who have attended CGSC, beginning more than 100 years ago. Half of those international graduates became general officers, one out of 10 became chiefs of their nation's defense departments and 28 CGSC graduates have become heads of state in their home nations. CGSC honors international graduates twice each year with the International Hall of Fame ceremony, set for April this year, which brings back a CGSC graduate who has gone on to success either in the military or government. The former students' pictures hang in the hallway of the fourth floor of the Lewis and Clark Center.
Johnson said he encouraged all international and U.S. students to engage in rigorous discussion about military topics. CGSC classes are arranged in staff groups of 16 students, with one international student in each group to give U.S. students maximum exposure to new ideas and cultures.
For Odinaev, it also gives him an opportunity to learn. His country is part of the former Soviet Union and is on the northern border of Afghanistan.
"This is a good opportunity to be here in this great school, and I'm very proud that I'm the first," he said.
Odinaev said he hopes to learn about the U.S. Army doctrine process. His own country is still using old Soviet doctrine.
Odinaev's wife and three children are back home in Tajikistan. He's served his nation's army since 2000, beginning with two years as an enlisted soldier. He attended military school in the Ukraine and in his nation's capital, Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Although Odinaev is here without his family, many students arrive with family members who speak little or no English and have little exposure to American customs. Because of this, sponsors from around the area help the students adjust and find what they need to live in the United States for a year.
Randy and Marquita Pace, from Kansas City, are sponsoring their 16th student this year through People to People.
Pace, a retired chief warrant officer 4, said he's returning the favor.
"When I was a young Soldier in Germany 49 years ago, a German family welcomed me," he said. "What I'm doing is an opportunity to give back the thoughtfulness and care they gave to me."