CAMP ROBINSON, Ark. - The first International Military Students (IMS) to ever attend classes at PEC arrived just after the Independence Day weekend for a class that's still underway.
Four students from Bulgaria, Poland, and the Slovak Republic arrived to attend a six-week Integrated IT Training course.
"We're excited to finally see this happen," Sgt. 1st Class Craig N. Markley. "After more than a year of preparing, they are finally here." Markley is the NCOIC of the Professional Education Center's International Student Management Office (IMSO).
The program, the first of its kind, has been long in the works and began under the former PEC commandant, Col. Timothy Keasling. The initial concept was to open certain PEC courses up to foreign students from EUCOM countries aligned with U.S. states participating in the State Partnership Program (SPP). The concept was later expanded to accept students from countries participating in the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program - essentially making the program truly "international".
Under the FMS program, allies from countries like Poland and Bulgaria can go to the Military Sales Article List (MASL) and enroll in the Integrated IT Training Course. Four existing PEC Information Technology Training Center courses were grouped under this new name and scheduled one after the other with no break. The international students will complete all four courses, but the 54 states and territories will have the flexibility to send ARNG Soldiers to any number of the individual courses depending on the need and availability of the Soldiers.
During this six-week program, the IMSs will be trained in four basic areas; A+ Essentials, Security+, Network+, and Microsoft Server Administration, giving them a strong Information Technology foundation. Students will then have the opportunity to take the corresponding examination and receive the civilian certification. The 240-hour course trains students to install, upgrade, repair, configure, troubleshoot and perform preventative maintenance on personal computer hardware and operating systems.
"This new International Military Student program provides international military students with technical training they can take back home, as well as a better understanding of our culture here in the U.S. In addition, this is a great opportunity for U.S. National Guard Soldiers to form relationships individually, and for states to strengthen their existing SPPs by sending their Soldiers to train alongside their partnered country," said Maj. Donald Hartshorn, OIC of the PEC IMS program.
Illinois is the first state to take advantage ofthis unique opportunity and sent two of its Guard members to train side-by-side with their Polish state partnership student. As the program expands and word gets out, the PEC IMSO expects that other states will take advantage of this unique opportunity, especially since these four courses are centrally funded for technicians and all on the Mandatory Course List for ARNG Full-Time Unit Support personnel assigned to various IT positions.
The IMSs will also take advantage of the Field Studies Program. A few of the planned trips include visits to the Clinton Presidential Library, downtown Little Rock, and Little Rock Air Force Base. "Most of the foreign students understand they are also here as representatives of their home countryand have already received cultural training prior to arriving here in addition to what is briefed. They are just as eager to make a good impression on us and strengthen relationships as we are," Markley said.