FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 29, 2014) -- Since his arrival at Fort Rucker, the French liaison officer has embraced its Soldiers, Families, civilians and surrounding communities with enthusiasm. Now, this distinguished officer has arranged to conduct a free French language and culture class at the post.

Beginning Sept. 2, French Lt. Col. Eric Merck will introduce adult students to a free, 12-week French refresher curriculum targeting those who have either high school- or college-level familiarity with the language.

"Merck has not only planned some French language refresher training, but also instruction in culture, customs, courtesies, travel considerations, French cuisine and wine selections," said Henry "Chick" Eagle III, supervisory education services specialist at Fort Rucker's Army Education Center.

Merck is an active world citizen, and while completing his two years here, he takes every opportunity to visit various parts of the United States in an effort to get to know the American people.

"Sharing friendship is key to learning about people. Reaching out to introduce yourself and making an effort to find common ground is what ties us together," Merck said.

If there is one thing he would like students to take away from his French refresher class, Merck hopes it is the way to properly introduce themselves in French.

"My father encouraged me to introduce myself to foreigners passing by when I was growing up. He would hand me a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine and some cheese, and tell me to take it to 'them' and introduce myself, so they would feel welcome," Merck said.

Dec. 23, the last class date and, coincidentally, Merck's birthday, he plans to celebrate with sharing his Family tradition of bread, wine and cheese with his students.

"It will be a kind of reward for completing the 12-week course," he said.

"The class is free to anyone over the age of 18, with the only admission requirement being some high school or college French language experience, or other French language background," Eagle said.

With a class size limit of 30, and half that number already enrolled, those interested are encouraged to sign up soon.

"The success of this first French class may open up opportunities for other Fort Rucker language training events," Eagle said. "Merck and I are putting the French class in motion with a sincere hope that it will be a valuable and culturally enlightening event."

Eligible adults should contact the education center to register for the class, which will begin Sept. 2 in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 282, at 5 p.m. Call Eagle at 255-9288.