Foreign military officers visit Fort Bragg to look and learn
By HENRY CUNINGHAM | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: January 12, 2013
Former foes were making friendly visits to Fort Bragg during the past week.
On Friday, Vietnamese Brig. Gen. Pham Thuan listened to Fort Bragg paratroopers explain how a sniper team works and show how they launch a model-airplane-size drone to gather information on a battlefield.
"We have a smaller army," he said after the demonstrations. "We are doing the same exercises." Thuan said he is making his first visit to the United States and has been warmly received.
Less than 50 years ago, soldiers were training on Fort Bragg to fight in Vietnam. Nowadays the most senior generals on Fort Bragg went on active duty after the war was over.
He was among six foreign officers who have been visiting Fort Bragg since Thursday. They are on international fellowships at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. Each foreign officer was paired with a Fort Bragg soldier during the visit.
"They are partnered coalition allied forces commanding officers -- colonels and generals -- from all around the world," said Mike Scaramouche, operations officer for the international fellow program. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, wants to expose select international fellows to U.S. operational units in the field to supplement what they hear in the classroom, he said.
"We have a very good developmental relationship that we are working on with Vietnam," Scaramouche said. "Obviously because we have a general from Vietnam, we are working on furthering our relations with Vietnam. ... The more we communicate, the more we can work together."
The officers represented a nation from each of the U.S. military's six areas of operations -- North America, Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East, South America, Europe and Africa.
During the demonstration, Lt. Col. Arlan Hilaj of Albania volunteered to hold a piece of paper showing a letter to be spotted by a hidden sniper team about 400 yards away on the edge of the woods. For more than four decades after World War II, Albania was an isolated socialist country with little contact with the outside world, especially the United States.
After demonstrations, the Vietnamese general observed quietly as representatives of Mexico, Oman, Botswana and Chile talked with troops and quizzed them about their equipment.
The foreign officers were trucked to the middle of Sicily Drop Zone to observe paratroopers falling out of the sky, but the weather prevented the parachute jump. Then the visitors boarded buses for briefings at U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Gen. Col. Saken A. Zhasuzakov laid a wreath at a memorial monument for fallen 82nd Airborne Division soldiers on Fort Bragg. More than 30 years ago, he served in combat in Afghanistan during the Cold War when the U.S. was supporting the other side. He is now Kazakhstan's first deputy minister of defense and the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee.
He led a military delegation from the Republic of Kazakhstan that got a firsthand look at the latest in combat medical and tactical communications training and technology at Fort Bragg. They also visited Forces Command headquarters, U.S. Army Special Operations Command and Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg.