By Brandon OConnorMay 2, 2019
WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The U.S. Military Academy is the pre-eminent leader development institution in the world and through a 47-month experience men and women are taught how to be the future leaders of the Army.
In less than a month, nearly 1,000 cadets will graduate from West Point and be commissioned into the Army as second lieutenants. Also graduating with the Class of 2019 will be 12 international cadets who have spent the last four years studying at West Point and then will go home to serve in their country's Army.
The Class of 2019 includes cadets from countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
"I am a civil engineering major and I think the skills I've acquired in my academy major will first of all give me the ability to build structures and the things that help people in their daily lives," Class of 2019 Cadet John Mugabe, who is from Rwanda, said of what he has gained from his four years at West Point. "The military education is going to be of extreme importance to the military back home. There are a lot of things the U.S. Army does and teaches to cadets that I think I will be able to bring back home, share and build our Army."
The four-year immersion is one of multiple programs West Point participates in to develop and build relations with allies and partners throughout the world.
During the year, West Point cadets also participate in a Foreign Academy Exchange Program where they study at a foreign academy for one semester and cadets from those countries come to West Point the next semester.
Cadets also visited foreign academies during spring break and their foreign counterparts recently made the return visit to West Point to see the academy.
"I saw West Point as one of the biggest opportunities that I could have in my life to become that person I wanted to become. It opens many doors in the future to see places and to strengthen that relationship between my country and other countries," Class of 2021 Cadet Anujin Gankhuyag, who is from Mongolia, said. "I think it will help me in the way that through here I have been able to see and experience a lot of different people, different leadership styles and different lifestyles and viewpoints in general. I think that's very important as I go back to my country and form relations with other countries."
The international cadets studying at West Point for four years participate in the full range of activities, including Cadet Basic Training before their plebe year, summer training and Cadet Troop Leader Training where they spend the summer with an Army unit gaining real-world experience.
"I've learned and developed myself academically, militarily and physically," Class of 2020 Cadet Zviad Jolokhava, who is from the Republic of Georgia, said. "I saw it as an opportunity to improve my leadership skills and grow as a person not just in my academics, but by being exposed to a different environment compared to where I live. It is a lot different and gave me the opportunity to interact with people I had not interacted with before."
West Point also participates in a faculty exchange program. International service members from foreign academies come to West Point as exchange officers and teach in academic programs throughout the academy. Soldiers from West Point's faculty in turn spend time teaching and training future leaders at academies throughout the world.
"I think the thing I help cadets to understand is not just the Mexican, but the Latino culture. Every country and culture has different meanings. It will help with cultural awareness and their leadership skills," Lt. Col. Ivan Ramos-Ortiz, West Point Mexican Exchange Officer who teaches Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages, said. "I think these kinds of relations are important because they are not only personal, but between the institutions. It proves that our countries and militaries can work together in different aspects."
The goal of the cadet and faculty exchange programs are to build strategic partnerships with foreign armies by bringing together current and future military leaders from throughout the world.
Currently, there are 54 cadets from 32 countries participating in the four-year program.