FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 17, 2013) -- Representatives from the Council on Foreign Relations made a visit to Fort Benning Thursday and Friday, during which time they got a closer look at the numerous training initiatives conducted here.

The representatives were mostly members of CFR's Stephen M. Kellen Term Member Program, which encourages promising young leaders in government, media, nongovernmental organizations, law, business, finance and academia to engage in a sustained conversation on international affairs and U.S. foreign policy.

The program allows these younger members to interact with seasoned foreign-policy experts and participate in a wide variety of events designed especially for them.

Each year a new class of term members, between the ages of 30 and 36, is elected to a five-year membership term. Committees of term members in New York and Washington, D.C., advise the Council leadership and help create programs of particular interest to younger members.

CFR is an independent, nonpartisan organization, think tank and publisher.

Col. John Kolasheski, currently the Army's assigned representative to CFR, said the trip was simply intended to expose these council fellows to the military way of life.

"This trip is … to expose term members to the military and the military mission and give them an opportunity to see how Fort Benning and the Maneuver Center of Excellence are training Soldiers and training leaders for the current fight, as well as preparing them for the future fight," Kolasheski said.

Christian Cooper, one of the Kellen term members, said the experiences so far has helped them to gain a greater understanding of the policy-making process

"It's both policy and policy in action is how I would describe it," Cooper said. "We're meeting both leaders who have spent a lot of time at the state department or other institutions in Washington and who are in the military. So, we kind of look at what is the intersection of policy and projection of force around the world to see how those decisions are made, and how we could make even better decisions."

During its trip to Fort Benning, the CFR group attended several events, including a reception at the home of commanding general Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, a working breakfast with both a MCoE command and Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation brief, a one station unit training graduation and a lunch with Maneuver Captains Career Course students.

The group also got hands-on experience during an Airborne tower training session, an obstacle course session at the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center and time with an Abrams tank simulator at Clarke Simulation Center.

The group also toured Olive and Mabry halls at the Maneuver Battle Lab and the National Infantry Museum.
Kolasheski said the graduation ceremony left an emotional impact on the CFR group.

"Going to the graduation, where you see these Soldiers, who have just completed their training and are getting ready to go into the operating force and potentially be deployed into harm's way, step onto that field and graduate in front of all their Families, was a very moving experience, and I think that left a positive imprint on the folks we brought down," Kolasheski said.

In addition to the emotional impact the graduation made, some of the hands-on experiences left a physical impact.

"We came off of the obstacle course, and it certainly gave us an appreciation for the physical fitness of our Army," Beth Cartier, a CFR fellow, said.

But perhaps most important was the understanding that foreign policy decisions that are made impact not just nations as a whole, but individual Soldiers and Families.

"I think this visit helps us take away an understanding that war and conflict is not point and click," Cooper said. "These are highly trained, highly educated men and women on the field who are executing foreign policy decisions that have real-world consequences, and it's not something to take lightly, especially when you're putting Soldiers in the field."