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Mohamed Salim Gallala from Tunisia is one of twenty international students participating in Basic Cadet Training. International students must be proficient in English and meet all other requirements for Academy admissions. When they graduate they receive a Bachelor of Science Degree, but are not commissioned officers in the U. S. Air Force.
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International programs show Academy diversity

Posted 7/12/2012   Updated 7/13/2012 Email story   Print story


by Amber Baillie
Air Force Academy Public Affairs

7/12/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Twin brothers Amer Nasri Ahmad Obeidat and Omar Nasri Ahmad Obeidat flew thousands of miles from Jordan to study aeronautical engineering here.

Amer, who hopes to be an engineer, and Omar, who hopes to be a pilot, started their journeys last month in basic cadet training along with 18 other international students in the Class of 2016.

The new class introduced 20 new international cadets to the Academy, four of whom -- from South Africa, Gabon, Kazakhstan, and Moldova -- were the first to represent their country.

"Currently we have 56 international cadets representing 30 different countries," said Liz Orie, the Academy's International Programs coordinator. "We can have up to 60 international cadets between the four classes."

Orie said on average the Academy brings in 15-17 international students each year to add to the diversity experience for U.S. cadets and to build partnerships with allies.
Academy Admissions Education Services Specialist Bill Preston agreed.

"It is an investment in future foreign relations, to have an officer corps with relationships formed with officers from other countries through their early educational experience," Preston said.

Preston said Lt. Col. Jaak Tarien, the chief of staff of the Estonian air force and a 1998 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy highlighted that importance.

"When Tarien was asked in an interview with Tech. Sgt. Daniel Heaton, from the 127th Wing Public Affairs (Office) on June 22, 2012, what he learned at the Academy that has been most helpful to him in his military career, Tarien said, 'I learned that we have good allies.'"

International appointees arrive at the Academy ten days before U.S. appointees to take care of administrative requirements such as setting up bank accounts and getting social security numbers.

"We let them get familiar with campus," Orie said. "For some, it's their first time in the United States."

Preston said the main difference with international appointees in the admission process is how they are nominated.

"International students apply for an appointment through the defense ministry in their home country, which in turn makes a recommendation to the U.S. Defense Attaché Office at our embassy," Preston said. "International applicants may not apply directly to the Academy for an appointment. The USDAO may nominate that student with the approval of the U.S. Ambassador for an appointment."

He said the Academy received more than 100 international nominations this year.
"We do a holistic review of their admissions file in the same manner as we do for U.S. applicants," Preston said. "Our goal is for them to successfully complete our curriculum."
Preston said international students are selected for the Academy the same way U.S. applicants are chosen.

"They must meet all the same eligibility criteria, with the exception of the U.S. citizenship requirement, and must meet the same academic standards as U.S. applicants," Preston said.

International appointees must be able to read, write and speak English proficiently to attend the Academy. Upon graduation they may receive a Bachelor of Science Degree, but do not receive a commission in the U.S. Air Force.

"Some international students transfer from other military academies and return to their military once they finish here," Orie said. "Omar wants to be a pilot when he goes back to serve as an officer for his military."

The Academy strives to include a diversity of students and exposure to various cultures to allow students to learn from one another as it states in the Academy Admissions Diversity Focus statement:

"The goal is for cadets to live amongst many others with dissimilar backgrounds, which will then 'compel them to examine their personal assumptions and philosophies in contrast to those of others.'"

International cadets enroll in the same courses as other cadets and participate in the same physical activities. The twenty international cadets will start classes on Aug. 9 with the rest of the Class of 2016.

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