By Cheryl RodewigOctober 24, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Oct. 24, 2012) -- When the Maneuver Center of Excellence provides training to soldiers from partner countries, it's not just international students who benefit.
For military on both sides, it's a learning experience, said Maj. Manny Acosta, who has been instructing both foreign and American military for almost two years with the Maneuver Captains Career Course.
"American Soldiers see everything through American eyes," he said. "The international soldiers see things a little differently. When we get their point of view on an operation we planned or a vignette we're discussing, they bring a whole different perspective."
A Special Forces Soldier who also speaks Arabic, Acosta is currently a small group instructor for an Iraqi captain whose name is omitted for security reasons. Acosta said the student has been able to provide insightful feedback during tactical discussions in the classroom.
"(He) will say, 'You were doing that correctly, but this is where you messed up' -- and it's stuff we didn't even realize," Acosta said. "It's exactly what we need. I think we learn more from the internationals than they learn from us."
In MCCC Class 5-12, slated to graduate in February, there are 23 international students divided into 12 small groups called seminars. These soldiers, including the captain from Iraq, are almost halfway through the six-month course, designed to prepare lieutenants and captains for company command.
Already, the Iraqi officer said he has learned much more about "the big picture" of briefing an operations order.
"This is the first time I get this kind of training," he said. "It's completely different. We have (done) op orders before, but since we are in a combat zone, we don't focus on the doctrine and procedures to give the brief. This is a good chance to get the doctrine sequence for the op order from the beginning to the end. It will be helpful back home."
Before starting the MCCC, all international soldiers attended a four-week prep course designed to ready them for what they will need to know to succeed in the longer course.
"They do a really great job," the Iraqi soldier said of the prep course instructors. "They have to give us all the basic things in four weeks. That's really something amazing. They really want international students to understand the … doctrine."
Once the career course started, the captain said it didn't take long to find common ground with the American Soldiers in his seminar, especially since several of them have deployed to Iraq, one even to the same combat unit he was assigned to.
"It's a good time, but I still struggle with cultural things," he said. "There are a few things I have to be aware of; there are a few things I have to ask about; there are a few things I have to realize it's common, it's normal. I'm sure the same problem faced the American Soldiers in Iraq."
When he does have questions, he can always ask his military sponsor, an American student in the course assigned to each international student for that very purpose.
"He always keeps close to me," the Iraqi said, "and he always (tells) me, 'If you got a question, just say it … whatever it is, because it's important to you." He's really helpful. Whatever I ask him, he answers me."
While Acosta has been his small group instructor during the past several weeks of company phase, the class is about to transition to battalion phase, the final step before graduation.
"They do four op orders for four modules prior to going to Battle Forge … the culmination exam for company phase," Acosta said. "He's not going to have a problem with Battle Forge. He understands the planning process. He has a very good briefing style. In my opinion, he's at an outstanding level."
While the Iraqi said he believed his training here is making him a better officer, Acosta said the American Soldiers interaction with him will make them better officers, too.
"I think that's one of the biggest lessons captains take away from the course," he said. "Chances are if we go back to Iraq in a training mission one of these students will remember seeing him walking around in the hallway, and that's common ground. That's going to be huge for rapport building when we continue to work with the Iraqi military."