Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. --
If the second lieutenants of Echo Company at The Basic School thought they had it rough, they may have changed their minds after learning about the Filipino Marine Corps’ Basic School.
There, Marines train from 3 a.m. until 10 p.m. and never leave the school, Filipino 2nd Lt. John Rubia told them. “It’s in an isolated area, it’s far away from civilization, so you can’t escape,” he laughed, adding that both the officers and enlisted of the Philippians’ 30,000-person Marine Corps attend the school, and training lasts eight months or more.
For many years, just about every company that has gone through The Basic School has included between one and six foreign officers, but it wasn’t until recently that the school started hosting an International Officers Dinner for each company. Jan. 14 was the fourth such event, where the foreign officers introduce themselves and their countries to their classmates.
It came toward the end of the company’s program of instruction, and Maj. Rob Warfield, the company commanding officer, said it was a chance to recognize the effort they had made, training alongside the second lieutenants throughout the rigorous program, in a language that is not their own, despite the fact that many of them had already gone through officer training in their own countries.
The international officers are generally ranked between second lieutenant and captain, and they are carefully selected and thoroughly screened before being sent to the school.
“They’re the best of the best that our allied and partner nations could send,” Warfield said. “They typically have a
deer-in-the-headlights look when they get here, but they’re so sharp they’re very quickly able to assimilate to us and the way we do things.”
He said the officers make an “invaluable” contribution to the company and the training. “They bring professional and life experiences that none of our students or even staff have had before,” Warfield said, adding that some have been conducting military operations for years.
Rubia said most of the Filipino Marine Corps is stationed in the country’s south, fighting insurgencies by communist and Islamic groups, some of which have ties to al Qaeda. “I know we’ve been working hand-in-hand to eliminate terrorism throughout the world,” he said.
He also noted that one U.S. dollar is worth 43 Filipino pesos, adding, “If you’re one of the guys here earning your money in dollars, you would be one of the richest guys in the Philippians. So spend your money in the Philippians.”
Second Lt. Eric Dueheney, of the Belize Defense Force, said the primary duties of his country’s military are border patrol, paramilitary operations and offering jungle warfare training to other countries’ militaries, especially the British.
The Central American nation has had an ongoing territorial dispute with neighboring Guatemala since 1940, and Dueheney said the case is now before the International Court of Justice.
The biggest issue facing the Mexican military is law enforcement at home, said Lt. j.g. Gustavo Cuevas, of the Mexican Navy infantry. “We deal with a lot of problems inside Mexico,” he said, noting that these include narcotics trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking, immigration enforcement, firearms smuggling, kidnapping and illegal armed groups.
“We have to deal with the violence without interfering with human rights and without interfering with Mexican law,” Cuevas said. “These people are criminals, we know that. But these people are humans.”
He said the Mexican Navy infantry has just 18,773 troops, adding, “We are so small compared to the Army, and we are so small compared to the population of Mexico.”
His colleague, 1st Lt. Rodolfo Valencia-Gonzalez, said that population is 118 million, making Mexico the world’s 11th most populous country. It is also home to 67 native languages, he said.
First Lt. Mohammed Alsubaie reported that temperatures in his home country of Saudi Arabia — population 29 million — can range from 113 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to below freezing in winter.
His compatriot, Capt. Mohammed Mushawwah, noted that the growth rate for the country’s gross domestic product rose from 0.1 percent in 2009 to 6 percent in 2012.
But it was a video of Saudi Arabian forces in training that drew the biggest reaction, particularly a scene in which a fighter crashed feet-first through a car windshield to hold the vehicle’s occupants at gunpoint while other troops surrounded the car.
Maj. Gen. Thomas Murray, commanding general of Training and Education Command, who sat in on the evening’s proceedings, called the event invigorating and educational. “I learned where Belize is, I never knew that,” he told the crowd. “And I learned how to jump through a car windshield.”
Murray emphasized the importance of gaining international perspectives. “As Americans, we grow up rooted in our culture very deeply,” he said. “We have a very difficult time looking outside and understanding the way other people see us.”
Maj. Jeffrey Pelt, TBS protocol officer, said the school’s commanding officer, Col. Todd Desgrosseilliers, initiated the International Officers Dinners as a way to highlight the foreign officers in each company at TBS, noting that the colonel remains friends with an international officer who was in his company when he attended the school.
Usually, the dinners are held toward the beginning of the program of instruction, and the new Fox Company will hold its International Officers Dinner in the next week or so.
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