The Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Defense Exports and Cooperation toured Fort Leonard Wood Jan. 20 to observe training that plays a role in building relationships with allies and partners.

Ann Cataldo, a former Army staff judge advocate, said Fort Leonard Wood plays an important, but often overlooked, role on a global scale for the Army.

"What Fort Leonard Wood does is play an enormous role in training our internationals," she said. "You also play a critical and truly understated role at NATO in continuing to build interoperability with our allies in standardization."

Cataldo said building interoperability starts with the training Fort Leonard Wood conducts with the international students.

Fort Leonard Wood trains, on average, 450 international students annually, from about 100 nations, including Afghanistan, Germany, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Trinidad and Tobago, in engineer, military police and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense.

"What you do here strategically for security cooperation is you build it one piece at a time with the training," she said. "(The international students) leave here with your school stamp. The relationships they build here with the U.S. and with their other international colleagues will follow them throughout their lives. They will be my door opener when I go in and want to work with them, because this is where the alliance started."

From a cooperation standpoint, Cataldo said foreign military sales are about a total package approach.

"The U.S. could just sell stuff, but what makes us different is we are trying to provide capacity," she said. "If they don't have the training, they don't know how to care for something, maintain it, use it, set up a supply line for it, and it ends up being junk in the back yard."

Having that capacity means they are less dependent on the U.S., she added.

"We are trying to teach our allies and partners how to be independent," Cataldo said. "What you do is you enable us to provide them capacity, so they can stand on their own feet, and they can stand next to us, and we can feel very confident that they are there."

Cataldo's position makes her responsible for the Army's Security Cooperation programs that include all matters involving security assistance, export policies and oversight, direct commercial sales of Army defense articles, and international cooperative research, development and acquisition.

Although her visit was short, Cataldo said Fort Leonard Wood exceeded her expectations.

"It was extraordinary," she said. "I'm almost ready to move here."