‘Support starts here’ for international military student sponsorship
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Hungarian Army 1st Lt. Zsolt Kölcze (right), a logistics officer for the Hungarian Army’s 1st Special Operations Forces Brigade, stands with one of his International Military Student Office sponsors, Georgian Army 1st Lt. Teimuraz Khorbaladze, August 16, 2023, as part of a Social Picnic and Sponsorship Recognition event at White Bank Park in Colonial Heights, Va. Kölcze and Khorbaladze are enrolled in the Logistics Captains Career Course at the Army Sustainment University here at Fort Gregg-Adams, Va. (U.S. Army photo by Chad Menegay) (Photo Credit: Chad Menegay) VIEW ORIGINAL
‘Support starts here’ for international military student sponsorship
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Mr. G. Scott McConnell (left), Deputy to the Commanding General of the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Gregg-Adams, and Mr. Richard C. Myers Jr. (right), Deputy to the President, Army Sustainment University, stand with Georgian Army 1st Lt. Teimuraz Khorbaladze, a Logistics Captains Career Course student at ASU and an International Military Student Office sponsor, Aug. 16, 2023, as part of an IMSO Social Picnic and Sponsorship Recognition event at White Bank Park in Colonial Heights, Va. The IMSO and ASU presented Khorbaladze and a few other sponsors with Goodwill Ambassador awards for their “outstanding dedication and participation in fostering international understanding and world peace.” (U.S. Army photo by Chad Menegay) (Photo Credit: Chad Menegay) VIEW ORIGINAL
‘Support starts here’ for international military student sponsorship
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – International military students play cornhole Aug. 16, 2023, as part of an International Military Student Office Social Picnic and Sponsorship Recognition event at White Bank Park in Colonial Heights, Va. The event highlighted the IMSO sponsorship program, which functions to help the international military student better understand the American lifestyle and culture. (U.S. Army photo by Chad Menegay) (Photo Credit: Chad Menegay) VIEW ORIGINAL
‘Support starts here’ for international military student sponsorship
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – International military students play volleyball Aug. 16, 2023, as part of an International Military Student Office Social Picnic and Sponsorship Recognition event at White Bank Park in Colonial Heights, Va. The event highlighted the IMSO sponsorship program, which functions to help the international military student better understand the American lifestyle and culture. (U.S. Army photo by Chad Menegay) (Photo Credit: Chad Menegay) VIEW ORIGINAL
‘Support starts here’ for international military student sponsorship
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – International military students play soccer Aug. 16, 2023, as part of an International Military Student Office Social Picnic and Sponsorship Recognition event at White Bank Park in Colonial Heights, Va. The event highlighted the IMSO sponsorship program, which functions to help the international military student better understand the American lifestyle and culture. (U.S. Army photo by Chad Menegay) (Photo Credit: Chad Menegay) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT GREGG-ADAMS, Va. — Military leaders often talk about the importance of cohesive allies and partners to national security here in the United States. Cohesion builds interoperability in far-off lands like Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

This cohesion, however, frequently starts here.

Here military personnel and other U.S. citizens can engage cooperatively with allies and help shape international order, that is, at least on a micro-level.

Here at Fort Gregg-Adams—and at many other U.S. bases—they can sponsor an international military student.

Over 20,000 foreign military students train in the U.S. annually, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The International Military Student Office here at Army Sustainment University is typically responsible for over 100 foreign students at any given time, with numbers fluctuating depending on course schedules.

Since the IMSO works to have three sponsor roles assigned to every student, one can imagine how great the need is for volunteers. So, the IMSO actively recruits sponsors both within the installation and without from neighboring communities at events such as the Pecan Festival at Richard Bland College of William & Mary in Petersburg, raising awareness for this unique opportunity.

“If you know somebody who wants to participate in a sponsorship program, the rewards are infinite, and the relationships are incredibly durable and enduring,” said Mr. G. Scott McConnell, Deputy to the Commanding General of the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Gregg-Adams.

McConnell knows firsthand the impact sponsorship can have on an international military student because he has been a sponsor.

“We still swap Christmas cards and visits with a former German Army officer I went to flight school with,” McConnell said. “We sponsored him, and the general officer that took care of COVID response for Uganda was a gentleman I sponsored at the Army War College in a similar program, and we still remain in contact.”

The IMSO offers three types of sponsorship for its international military students: social, academic and international.

As a social sponsor, a U.S. citizen assists students in becoming familiar with the American way of life.

“I look at the social sponsor as a prime sponsor,” said Cyndolia Perry, the IMSO Field Studies Program (FSP) Manager who assigns sponsors. “That is someone that the international student can hang out with.”

The IMSO asks its social sponsors to spend time with the international student at least once a month or more, depending on availability and what both parties want.

“We have a number of social sponsors who will do fun activities with them all the time,” Perry said. “It could be anything. Maybe someone's a fitness guru, and the sponsor could have the same thing in mind as far as hanging out. Maybe they like to cook. So, it's just whatever their interests are.”

IMSO does its best to match a social sponsor with a student appropriately. Potential sponsors fill out paperwork, in which they can voice their interests and preferences, and IMSO meets in-person with potential sponsors to best understand the sponsor and find a good match.

“If we have an international student here that has dependents with them, their family, then I try to match sponsors to a student that has a family,” Perry said.

Every sponsor and international student relationship will differ, as people differ, but the goal is the same—to help the international student better understand the American lifestyle and culture.

Hungarian Army 1st Lt. Zsolt Kölcze, a logistics officer for the Hungarian Army’s 1st Special Operations Forces Brigade, is enrolled in the Logistics Captains Career Course at ASU.

“My sponsor invited me to his hometown in Missouri for a long weekend,” Kölcze said. “So, I had the opportunity to look into American culture directly in the middle of the United States. I met good people. We had a barbecue and went to a whiskey distillery.”

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Ian Molina, who recently graduated the Logistics Basic Officer Leadership Course at ASU, served as both an academic and social sponsor. Molina said he volunteered as a sponsor out of empathy, mainly because he recalled his father’s story as a 17-year old music student, new to America and without a support network.

“That Gregg-Adams here has an IMSO office is so great,” Molina said. “When you come here, you’re not alone. You have a support program, and you get assigned an American to actually assist you socially and throughout the course.”

Molina said that he has taken a lot of trips with the international military students he has sponsored.

“We’ve gone to Virginia Beach,” Molina said. “We went to a baseball game. We go out to eat, just go to the mall and walk around, go to the beach and play sports. They want to go see sporting events, so it’s just giving them those experiences that they don't have from whichever country they come from.”

In BOLC as an academic sponsor, Molina said he helped international students study for tests and exams. He coached them through weapons training, land navigation and field tactics.

“They might have done these things in their countries, but we definitely have a different way of doing things,” Molina said. “So, that’s part of what they’re here to do, to learn and experience how the U.S. does things.”

International military students also sponsor one another here at Fort Gregg-Adams under IMSO guidance, so, with about 40 countries represented, the learning and sharing of experiences is almost omnidirectional and never one-way.

IMSO, then in this way, is a most unique melting pot.

“You can meet people from all around the world,” Kölcze said, “but, for me, what is more interesting is the military background. So, you have similarities, differences, but how do you approach and deal with the same problem?”

Kölcze explained that sharing ideas and experiences with military leaders from other countries is especially valuable and broadening for him because as a logistician for a special operations unit, he often has to find uncommon and non-doctrinal solutions.

“I established a close relationship [here at Fort Gregg-Adams] with a captain from Pakistan,” said Kölcze, who had deployed to neighboring Afghanistan. “I can call him a friend of mine, and we share military experiences and knowledge. So, even I got surprised, but I'm grateful because he's a really good person.”

Kölcze gave special thanks to his international student sponsor, Georgian Army 1st Lt. Teimuraz Khorbaladze, for being so helpful and credited the IMSO with having developed a near-perfect sponsorship program.

The IMSO and ASU presented Khorbaladze, Molina and a few other sponsors with Goodwill Ambassador awards for their “outstanding dedication and participation in fostering international understanding and world peace” Aug. 16, 2023, as part of a Social Picnic and Sponsorship Recognition event at White Bank Park in Colonial Heights, Virginia.

Other than international understanding and world peace, the IMSO is responsible for students administratively, plus they plan and execute field trips that help educate students on American history, democratic values and a respect for human rights.

The field trips are relatively extensive and include: Jamestown, Yorktown, Baltimore, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.

The IMSO falls under ASU, CASCOM and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, which executes the Army Security Assistance Training Program through the Security Assistance Training Field Activity (SATFA), working to ensure that international military students receive training consistent with U.S. foreign policy objectives.

It’s a structure of mutual interests and reciprocation.

“The international allies and partners in the IMSO make their own Armies great,” McConnell said. “But they probably have no idea to what level they contribute to the U.S. Army’s understanding of how we can best operate together.”

It is a special opportunity for foreign military students to learn from their U.S. counterparts, and, in the case of IMSO social sponsorship, an opportunity for qualified U.S. citizens to share their culture with and learn from an international military student.

So, for international military student sponsorship—as the CASCOM and Fort Gregg-Adams motto goes—’support starts here.’

Here you can contribute to fulfilling the National Security Strategy—to “build the strongest possible coalition of nations to enhance our collective influence to shape the global strategic environment and to solve shared challenges” as the 2022 NSS states.

Here you can positively impact the world.

Here you can sponsor an international military student.

To learn more about the IMSO sponsorship program or to volunteer as a social sponsor, call the ASU IMSO at 804-765-8159.