FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson is helping to lead the way in an international program that brings military members from other countries to learn how to be more effective leaders and learn valuable skills. But the biggest reward may be the friendships formed and cultures shared.

The cultures came together March 17 at the Soldier Support's Institute's annual reception to honor the organization's international students.

The International Military Student Office, which is located at the U.S. Army Soldier Support Institute, helps coordinate training for about 80 students each year from counties in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South America, Africa and Asia.

"All of the Soldiers we have now are officers, but at times we do get enlisted soldiers who attend the NCO Academy, the Chaplain School and even the Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic School," said Kathy Richards, deputy IMSO. "Basically they come and train anywhere on Fort Jackson."

International military students who are chosen to attend U.S. training are hand selected as high performers in their nation's militaries and must go through an intense vetting process to enter the program. The IMSO staff greets all incoming students on their arrival to Fort Jackson and are responsible for their sustainment needs and any personal issues.

"The Fort Jackson International Military Student Office is a unique organization designed to establish valuable friendships and channels of communication with foreign governments and military forces," said Brenda Mims, Field Studies Program training coordinator. "International military students enjoy the opportunity to share their cultures and customs with their fellow students, local community sponsors and new friends they meet through the IMSO Field Studies Program. Many students present their classmates with country briefs, describing their countries, any political challenges, language and customs."

First Lt. Mohamed Bahzad, a finance officer in the Bahrain Defense Force, is slated to graduate from the Adjutant General School's Captain's Career Course in June.

"It is a great opportunity to be here and learn. I hope to take back the experience from the program and become a great leader in the future," Bahzad said.

But it is the friendships and cultures shared that Bahzad said he will most treasure. Last week's event, which included a Tae Kwon Do demonstration from a local martial arts school, gave the students a chance to share traditions and cuisines from their homelands.

"I have met some many people and learned about so many different nationalities," Bahzad said. "I have formed friendships that will last a lifetime."

Fellow student and Bahraini 1st Lt. Hamed Aljawder, said he enjoyed sharing with fellow students the history and culture of Bahrain.

"Not a lot of people have heard about Bahrain in South Carolina because it is just a small island," Aljawder said. "But in the course, everyone was very interested to learn about my country. People in the course really care about each other and perform as a real team."

While at Fort Jackson, students in the program conduct PT like any other Soldier. During the weekends, they had the opportunity to visit nearby attractions and cities such as Charleston and Gatlinburg, Tenn.

"The inclusion of allied international military officers in U.S. training enhances U.S. student learning and leader development by introducing information on foreign militaries and strengthening their ability to work with allied nations and coalition forces," Mims said. "Knowledge is power, and power distributed among a diverse team is a strong force yielding high-end results.