FORT LEE, Va. – The Army Logistics University quad was alive with soccer, basketball and volleyball contests accented by the spirit of goodwill and a dash of cultural understanding during the International Military Training Sports Extravaganza here March 22.
The occasion – hosted by the International Military Student Office – pitted IMSO athletic teams against others in an effort to drum up support for the agency’s sponsorship program. Around 260 competitors and spectators were on hand, including Scott G. McConnell, deputy to the CASCOM commanding general, and ALU President Sydney A. Smith. Also present were Deputy to the President Richard C. Myers Jr.; ALU Commandant Col. Gregory K. Gibbons; and Command Sgt. Maj. Marissa M. Cisneros, ALU senior enlisted advisor.
Donna Wells, IMSO chief, said the event traditionally takes place in one of the fitness centers here, but the desire to make it bigger, better and broader pushed them toward the outdoor venue sandwiched between the ALU facilities. The setup included a portable grandstand where military members, civilians and their families cheered for their favored teams. Rounding it all out was food, refreshments and partly sunny skies resulting in a festive, rollicking occasion.
Wells was very pleased by the atmosphere and turnout.
“We had participants from ordnance, quartermaster and transportation,” she said. “It seemed like people really enjoyed themselves. The next day, they were talking about how much fun everyone had.”
Refocusing on the purpose of the Sports Extravaganza – an event that “recognizes sponsors and encourages sponsorship for international students” – Wells said her office hosts about 180 foreign students from 42 countries on an annual basis. Some are here up to four months.
The sponsorship function falls under IMSO’s Field Studies Program, which aims to “ensure that international students return to their homelands with an understanding of the responsibilities of governments, militaries and citizens to protect, preserve and respect the rights of every individual,” according to the Combined Arms Center website.
Under FSP, sponsors host culturally immersive activities for students such as family or restaurant dinner outings, visits to local and regional attractions, camping trips or sporting events, theater performances/movies, and so forth.
“The purpose is to provide students opportunities to learn about our culture and vice versa,” she said. “Through these opportunities, we not only bridge cultural divides, but we see we’re all very much alike.”
In addition to bridging the cultural divides, sponsorship activities counter negative assumptions foreign students may have about the United States and its people.
“Some of our students have never been out of their country,” she noted. “Some have never traveled at all. Many times, they have negative impressions, so actually being here and being able to experience people and places firsthand can change attitudes.”
All community members age 18 and older are eligible to be sponsors. There is a screening process associated with the program. Participation is voluntary, and there is no reimbursement of costs associated with sponsorship activities.
For further information, contact Field Studies Program Manager Cyndolia Perry at 804-765-8159.