FORT LEE, Va. (Aug. 30, 2012) -- Foreign military officers from eight countries in Southwest Asia paid a visit to Fort Lee Monday and Tuesday to learn more about the Combined Arms Support Command and the training mission of the Sustainment Center of Excellence.

The 27 participants of the Third Army Regional Logistics Symposium included representatives from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Turkmenistan and Yemen. They are among the 20 countries within the Central Command area of responsibility.

"Third Army (USARCENT) hosts informational events like this every year at varying locations," said Maj. Albert Davis, the G-4 Multi-National Logistics Branch chief who accompanied the entourage from the headquarters at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. "The overall goal is to establish interoperability with our coalition partners by sharing information and providing a better understanding of our sustainment functions, doctrine and capabilities. It also builds the spirit of cooperation and strengthens the partnerships we're nurturing with these nations."

The Fort Lee visit was a first for the symposium series, Davis also noted. USARCENT opted for an "up-close, hands-on and functional" look at Army operations versus bringing subject matter experts and various audiovisual aids to a conference facility to brief the delegates.

"What better choice could we make for a logistics symposium site visit than the Sustainment Center of Excellence?" Davis posed. "It's also a big plus for some of the delegates because they will have an opportunity to visit with service members from their countries who are attending the Army Logistic University International Military Student program here."

During the first stop of the Fort Lee visit, the international delegation was greeted by Col. M.C. Stephen Cherry IV, CASCOM chief of staff. He discussed the scope of the sustainment center's mission and the demographics of its training facilities -- the U.S. Army Transportation, Ordnance and Quartermaster schools and the Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, the Soldier Support Institute at Fort Jackson, S.C., the School of Music at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach, and a variety of specialty courses at places like Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; Redstone Arsenal, Ala.; Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; and Fort Sill, Okla., among others.

The foreign officers seemed particularly interested in personnel functions that are unfamiliar to their armies back home like the warrant officer program and government civilians teaching military courses. "I think it makes us very fortunate because a lot of those civilians are retired military who bring years of experience to the classroom," Cherry noted.

The second presentation featured Lt. Col. Alexander Greenwich, the course director for the Theater Logistics Planners Program at ALU. Using simple props like string that served as the boundaries for continents and overseas countries, and place cards with location and military organization names, he delivered an intuitive overview of the Army's current mobilization and resupply strategy for overseas deployments.

"One (of the types of) support that the Army provides to combat brigades is a very specialized group of technicians whose assignment is based on the embedded weapons systems," Greenwich explained. "We have specialists for armored tanks, specialists for Strykers, specialists for communications equipment, specialists for artillery and specialists for missile systems. From that pool, we form Brigade Logistics Support Teams, or BLAST teams for short. There will be one team for every brigade, and it will operate with the forward support battalion."

Captivated by the presentation, the delegates asked an increasing number of probing questions that ranged from the availability of replacement parts to what sources the U.S. uses for fuel resupply. It was exactly the type of exchange the Third Army anticipated.

"Major General (Kurt) Stein, the Deputy Commanding General for Support (USARCENT) and 1st Theater Sustainment commander, hosted a teleconference for the delegates on Tuesday morning," Davis said. "He emphasized the vital role that these exchanges hold in enhancing relationships with partner nations. He also discussed the significant role that sustainment holds in the Army as well as the roles and responsibilities of logisticians. He focused on the importance of forecasting requirements and executing sustainment operations simultaneously. It was the perfect complement to everything the delegates were experiencing."

The Fort Lee visit concluded with a series of tours, starting with ALU and the Transportation School on Monday afternoon and followed by visits to the instructional facilities at the newly constructed Ordnance Campus and the Quartermaster School on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the group traveled to Joint Base Langley-Eustis for a tour of the Transportation Museum and one of the high-tech training simulation centers there. The symposium concludes today with a U.S. Army Medical Command presentation followed by a tour of a medical logistic warehouse near Ashland.