Security Assistance and Training Field Authority

Background/Description || Participants ||Participating Countries/ Training Locations|| Resources / Links

Background/ Description:

The U.S. military departments (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) and the U.S. Coast Guard offer more than 2000 courses at over 150 military schools throughout the U.S. and abroad. International military students (IMS) generally receive professional military training in the same courses with U.S. soldiers. Technical training, usually associated with a particular weapon system, is sometimes conducted in all­international classes. Most classes are conducted in English, the major exception being Spanish language classes at the U.S. Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Over 7000 IMS were trained in U.S. Army schools alone in fiscal year 1998. Students participated in several types of formal training including officer and non­commissioned officer professional military education, flight training and technical training. IMS also participated in orientation tours, on­the­job/qualification training, and observer training.

IMS sit side by side in regular Army classes and also in classes conducted by the National Guard. Distance learning will be a reality for international and U.S. students alike. New courses are being developed to meet the needs of military personnel who are now expected to be peacekeepers and negotiators as well as warriors. The U.S. Army School of the Americas fosters hemispheric understanding and cooperation through courses like peace operations and humanitarian demining. International students will soon join U.S. personnel at the Center for Environmental Initiatives and Hands-On Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.


Foreign country officials select the students for training in the U.S. The U.S. government, however, determines which countries are eligible to send students to various kinds of training and also determines the level of aid for IMET students. Congress, the State Department, and the Department of Defense all have roles in security assistance training. The State Department, in accordance with the national security policies developed by the President, determines whether IMET/EIMET programs would further U.S. political and national security interests in particular foreign countries and recommends to Congress how much should be spent. Congress reviews these proposals and provides funds for approved IMET/EIMET programs. The State Department, in consultation with Congress, also determines which countries will be allowed to purchase particular equipment and training under FMS.

U.S. officials from the Department of State work with foreign governments, and representatives from the Department of Defense work with foreign military personnel to develop training programs that are consistent with U.S. foreign policy objectives and useful to the country concerned. Programs must be within the funding levels set by Congress if U.S. money is involved. The Security Assistance Organization in each country, under the direction and supervision of the U.S. ambassador, works with representatives from each of the military services to ensure that training programs are consistent with Department of Defense regulations.

Students selected for training in the U.S. must have the same qualifications as their U.S. peers. Students must understand and speak English to participate in most Security Assistance Training. Friendships that develop between IMS and their classmates often endure for years and contribute to the understanding and rapport between our Army and those of other countries.

Former students such as David D. Tevzadze, the Georgian Minister of Defense and a 1997 graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, are restructuring their countries' armed forces and working closely with U.S. military personnel in a variety of ways. Two 1987 graduates of the National Defense University, Admiral Christopher A. Barrie from Australia and General Carlos Zabala from Argentina now serve as their countries' equivalents to our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. U.S. Army War College graduates include LTG Louis M. Fisher, Commander, Botswana Defense Forces; MG Hans-Peter Von Kirchbach, Chairman, German Joint Chiefs of Staff; Colonel Juris Eihmanis, Secretary of Defense equivalent in Latvia; Navy Captain Gaidis Zeibots, Latvian Chief of Naval Operations; and LTG Adan Abdullahi, Commander of the Kenyan Army. Junior officers trained in U.S. Army schools will have influence far into the future. Recently several countries have begun to reorganize their non­commissioned officer (NCO) corps, assisted by the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Participating Countries

Students from 155 different countries participated in Army training in fiscal year 1998.

Training Locations

During fiscal year 1998, 7306 IMS participated in training at U.S. Army installations. Some students attended more than one course, resulting in 9398 training opportunities for IMS in fiscal 1998. The top 10 Army schools/units in terms of number of students trained were:

Air Defense Artillery School, Ft Bliss, TX

School of the Americas, Ft Benning, GA

Aviation School, Ft Rucker, AL

9th Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, WA

Infantry School, Ft Benning, GA

Armor School, Ft Knox, KY

Logistics Management College, Ft Lee, VA

United States Army European Command

Field Artillery School, Ft Sill, OK

United States Army Pacific Command

Command and General Staff College, Ft Leavenworth, KS

Additional training was conducted at virtually every Army training installation in the U.S. Students engaged in medical training at fort Sam Houston, Texas and a variety of Army hospitals across the country. International students participated in on the job training at additional Army installations such as Fort Hood, Texas. Like U.S. Army students, IMS receive training from the U.S. Army Reserve Component as well as from the active Army.

Orientation Programs

Multiple agencies within the U.S. government work to ensure that IMS are well prepared for their stay in this country. The Security Assistance Officer in each country briefs students on what to expect of American people and culture, as well as the U.S. military and the particular training for which they have been selected. Each Army installation sends a packet of information for each student: the packet contains information on the installation and surrounding area, lists of Army terms and abbreviations students will need to know for their courses, and booklets on American slang and other helpful information. Some schools send videotapes, and a great deal of information is transmitted over the internet.

At each installation there is an International Military Student Officer (IMSO) who has administrative and support responsibilities for IMS. The IMSO meets the IMS at the airport, escorts them to living quarters, and briefs them on military and civilian policies and regulations, on their training program, and on all the things people temporarily residing in a foreign country need to know. The IMSO helps the IMS with personal, family, or training­related problems they may have and arranges opportunities for students to meet typical Americans and learn first­hand about the American way of life. The IMSO also assists family members who sometimes accompany the IMS, and frequently becomes good friends with both the student and his or her family members.

"Understanding America"

Military training is only one of the reasons IMS are invited to the U.S. A key objective of security assistance training is to assist participants in getting a balanced view of American society, institutions and goals along with military training. Although students learn something about America in their military training, they must participate in American life to really understand it. Department of Defense has established an Informational Program (IP) to help the IMSO involve IMS in activities focusing on internationally recognized human rights, and the functioning of our democratic society.

The IP gets students into the local community and beyond. It includes visits to private homes, local industries, historic and cultural exhibits, farms, schools, civic activities, and so forth. IMSOs conduct the program focusing on: U.S. government judicial system, political processes, media, American family and community life, ethnic and other minorities, industry, environmental protection, agriculture, economy, labor and management relations, education and public and social welfare.

A carefully planned IP demonstrates how each of these topic areas reflects the commitment of the American people to the basic principles of internationally recognized human rights. Some IMS come from countries in which democracy is quite new, and respect for some human rights does not have a long history. IMS come to understand that our democratic society works, although it is far from perfect.

The key to a successful IP is people: people within both the military and civilian communities spending time with IMS and their families. A local judge may take a few minutes to explain to IMS how the court deals with people accused of crimes, after which students observe a court in session and tour a jail. A newspaper editor may describe how news is gathered and decisions made about how news is gathered and decisions made about what to print while students observe a news room and talk with reporters. A local business person may take students on a tour of a factory, explaining how workers are hired, and what they are paid, as well as letting students see how a product is made. A student from Turkmenistan said after an IP tour, "The briefing at Webster University was good, especially the Supreme Court judge and university professor speaking and discussing with us. I was surprised to see this. I have never seen anything like this before"

Understanding U.S. Government

All IMS are expected to learn about the U.S. government during their stay in this country. IMSOs take students to city council and country commission meetings, arrange for them to meet and talk with mayors, city councilors, and other elected and appointed officials. Students learn about state government by visiting the capitol of the state in which their training installation is located. They meet with state officials, sometimes including the governor, and observe the state legislature in session.

Students attending selected professional military courses visit Washington, DC, to learn about the functions of the federal government. They may meet with officials at the Pentagon and State Department, and usually visit the office of the member of Congress representing the district in which the training installation is located. The high point of the tour is democracy in action: students observe debate on the floor of the House or Senate, attend a committee meeting, and have a question and answer session with a U.S. Representative or Senator. Students also visit the White House, Arlington Cemetery, monuments, museums, and other attractions.


IMSOs set up sponsorship programs to give local communities the chance to become involved with IMS. Sponsors volunteer to spend some time with the IMS and help them feel welcome in this country. They invite the students into their homes and take them to family picnics, PTA meetings, on sight­seeing and shopping trips, and other ordinary activities. The students learn about life in America as it really is, while sponsors gain rare insights into other, quite different cultures and have a chance to act as informal U.S. ambassadors.

Security Assistance Training is conducted in both the U.S. and overseas. International Military Students (IMS) from 155 countries train alongside American soldiers at military installations across the U.S. In addition, U.S. training teams teach foreign military personnel overseas




FAS Home | ASMP Home | Search | About ASMP
Publications | Sales Data | Issues | Resources