International Military Students attending the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence on Fort Bliss Texas, visited the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. from March 12 to 18. The group of over 60 students from 53 countries spent a week touring the city and learning about American government systems and history, as part of the Field Studies Program provided to our international students.
The Itinerary for the trip included the Museum of the U.S. Army, Holocaust Museum, George Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon and Arlington National Cemetery.
These excursions are more than sightseeing tours as the students took part in team building exercises while they visited the Museum of the U.S. Army. While at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum they participated in discussions about the dangers of prejudice.
“The Washington, D.C. Field Trip Program provides the International Military Students (IMS) an opportunity to visit cultural exhibits, national museums, and the three branches of the federal government,” said Quinten Cormier, director of the International Military Student Office.
This particular trip to Washington D.C. is the one of several events the students take part in to better understand U.S. culture and government systems. A few months prior the group traveled to Austin, the Capital of Texas, where they had a chance to learn about history and government at the state level.
“This field trip allows students the opportunity to visit our national memorials, Museums, and Arlington Cemetery. The purposes of the visit were to promote free and open discussion of the American federal governmental structure, of the relationship of the federal branches to local branches of government, and the diversity of American society. A key component of nearly every field trip is a reception hosted by the SMA.”
One of the central events of the trip was the groups meeting with the Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) Michael Grinston. Grinston hosted a dinner which all the international students attended and had a chance to speak with him and other senior enlisted Soldiers from the U.S. Army. Students had a chance to ask questions and build relationships with their American counterparts.
One of the more memorable days of the trip for some students was the trip to Arlington National Cemetery. While at Arlington four students from the group had a chance to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solder. The students joined U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Regiment (The Old Guard) who guard the tomb continuously.
“As a guest in the United States of America, being granted the opportunity to lay the wreath at the tomb of the unknown Soldier in Arlington was more than a privilege and honor” said WO1 Kristen Tanner of Australia, one of the four wreath layers.
Despite the fact the wreath laying only took a few minutes its importance and meaning resonated deeply with Tanner, who later said of the event, “Australia has fought alongside America in World War 1, World War 2, the Korean War, The Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the War on Terror. Laying a wreath felt like I could honor not only all the Soldiers' sacrifices during wartime but also reach out to those still unidentified and say, we will remember them, lest we forget."
The trip was not only a chance for students to see something new and take part in cultural exchange, but for many of these students this trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in one of the Army’s most sacred traditions and engage with the SMA. Upon returning to their home nations the students on the trip will have memorable experiences to draw from as they take on senior roles in their own armies.