Col. Jeffrey Cooper, DLIELC commandant, and senior students from Egypt, Mongolia, and Indonesia lead the 102 member international student flag formation flight past the Alamo Plaza grandstand and crowds during the San Antonio Fiesta Flambeau parade on April 23.
Photo By Spencer Berry
From DLIELC |
by Harlan Bender |
25 May 2016
By Col Jeff Cooper, USAF
Commandant, Defense Language Institute English Language Center
In what is growing into a San Antonio tradition, 102 military service members representing 58 countries around the world, from Nigeria to Afghanistan to Ukraine, marched with their national flags in Fiesta Flambeau, the largest illuminated night parade in the nation, during Fiesta San Antonio, 2016. The 2.6 mile twilight tromp through downtown San Antonio is a voluntary cultural enrichment event for the students, who are on temporary duty in San Antonio by invitation of the US Department of Defense. They participate to experience Fiesta and to feel the warm embrace of the people of Military City first-hand.
The Fiesta Flambeau Parade never disappoints. The international parade-marchers had many wonderful impressions to relay to their fellow students and countrymen about Fiesta Flambeau, San Antonians, and the USA in general. One student, Captain Tangara from Mali, said, “I really appreciated when thousands of people told me, ‘thank you for your service.” Lieutenant Hong from Cambodia remarked, “Everyone in the crowd was cheering for us while we marched and I found it an inspiration; even though we were tired, the cheers and the warm welcome made us energetic. I hope to be a part of this again.” Another student, Major Gautam from Nepal, observed, “I am really amazed with the sense of respect and gratitude of US citizens toward the military men and women. I thought it was an outstanding event and I thoroughly enjoyed the parade.” Sergeant Ucan from Turkey added, “It was amazing to participate, I felt like a pop star. It was unbelievable to see people thanking us for our service.”
These military professionals, in training under Air Education & Training Command and the 37th Training Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, are in the United States to master a new language—English. Once they are trained to proficiency in English at Defense Language Institute English Language Center, they advance to technical training or developmental education with the United States military. Other students study advanced English, then return to their homeland as instructors to train members of their military in English using the center’s curriculum, the American Language Course.
The Defense Language Institute English Language Center, known by foreign militaries worldwide as “DLI”, has been executing its mission training global security partners English for 62 years and counting in San Antonio. The organization is composed of 520 people, mostly Department of the Air Force civilians, and mostly English language teachers, led by active duty military officers and with a military support cadre of 30.
Many DLI graduates from around the world progress to high rank and influence in their military careers. For example, DLI boasts 2 presidents as distinguished alumni, the current President El-Sisi of Egypt, and former President Bambang, the sixth president of Indonesia. Also, scores of DLI graduates have advanced to the general and flag officer ranks in their respective militaries. San Antonio is a common thread for all of them. Nearly 3,000 international students graduate from DLI each year and proceed to training with the US military. Thus the English language training enables enduring relationships between US and international leaders and strengthens Security Cooperation between the US and its many partner nations.
This ongoing Defense Security Cooperation activity happens continually Deep in the Heart of South Texas at the DLI campus. On this lush, quiet corner of JBSA-Lackland, new students arrive every week via the San Antonio International Airport to replace those who are graduating. In the course of a year, military professionals from over 100 partner nations around the world call Texas their home for a few months, and the people of Texas and Military City leave a lasting impression of the goodness of America on each of them.