FORT SILL, Okla.-- The Fires Center of Excellence International Student Division recognized its host sponsor families during a ceremony Sept. 12 at the Patriot Club. More than 30 families and individuals were honored for opening their hearts and homes to international military students attending training at Fort Sill.

"The sponsor is the family home away from home for all the international military students," said Dr. Frank Baker, FCoE Foreign Military Training director. "They are the mom and dad, and brother and sister."

The role of the sponsor is to assist enlisted and officer students to settle into the community, and expose them to American culture, Baker said. They help them find housing, buy a car and spend time with them in activities ranging from sporting events to cultural affairs to sightseeing.

Between 130 and 150 international students from 36 countries attend training at Fort Sill each year, Baker said. Many of them also bring their families.

During the dining portion of the ceremony, a slide show of images of hosts and students taken throughout the year flashed across a projection screen. Later each sponsor received a certificate of appreciation from the host Col. Brian Dunn, FCoE and Fort Sill chief of staff; an ISD coin and pin from Baker; and each woman host was also given a flower from Connie McDonald, Fort Sill first lady.

It was because of his experiences during four tours as an infantry Soldier in the Vietnam War that retired Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Patrick became a sponsor.

"It was time to turn around and help people," Patrick said, explaining why he served as a host.

He started hosting students in 2001. This year he hosted 10 students, one of his charges was Turkish Army Capt. Aydin Bayer, who is in the Field Artillery Captains' Career Course.

"Jerry helped us so much finding a car, helping find stuff for our house," said Bayer, who is here with his wife, Hasret, and their daughter, Melek, 4. "He is a very kind and helpful man."

The ISD with the DoD Field Study Program also hosts trips for the students.

"It's designed to introduce international military students to American cultural, the American way of life, the government system and the most important thing human rights," Baker said.

Royal Netherlands Air Force Lt. Col. Terry Snoek, Netherlands liaison officer here, said six Dutch students attended Patriot missile training this year. Using the sponsor program is optional for them, but about 90 percent of the students take advantage of it.

Being far away from home, the sponsor family becomes a student's surrogate mom and dad, Snoek said. One of the comments Snoek said that he regularly hears from the Dutch students is, "They are like a real family to me because whatever the issue, they will try to help."