Georgian general, soldiers visit NCO Academy at Grafenwöhr
The following correction to this story was posted Oct. 26: An Oct. 25 story incorrectly stated that Georgian troops were attending the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy this week. A Georgian general and two junior soldiers were visiting the academy.
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — A few soldiers from Georgia — the country, not the state — are attending the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy this week.
Foreign troops are nothing new to the campus, said the academy’s commandant, Command Sgt. Maj. Erik Frey.
The Warrior Leaders Course includes soldiers from Bulgaria, Albania and Croatia and a Croatian assistant instructor. The course, which has admitted foreign students since 2004, also has been taught to Poles, Slovenians and Russians.
“In the future, we hope to have Azerbaijani … Italian, South African, German, Georgian and Romanian students,” he told Georgian army Gen. Samson Kutateladce, who, along with two junior soldiers, inspected the academy on Monday.
Under pro-Western President Mikhail Saakashvili, Georgia is hoping to join NATO by 2008, and Kutateladce asked if the academy’s trainers could come to his country to train NCOs.
“We are looking at doing that not just for Georgia but for a number of European countries,” Frey said.
The U.S. soldier said he served alongside two well-trained Georgian battalions in Baqouba, Iraq, in 2004. “We deployed to Iraq with Georgian soldiers, and we lived and fought together so I think it is important that we train together as well,” he said.
Two Georgian NCOs who accompanied Kutateladce were eager to study at the academy.
Senior Sgt. Besarion Dididze, 30, of Georgia’s National Training Center, said he served alongside U.S. 3rd Infantry Division soldiers in Baqouba in 2004 and was looking forward to training with U.S. soldiers.
Junior Sgt. Koba Merkuiladze, 27, said his nation needs a strong army. The Georgian army includes four light-infantry brigades and a Special Forces brigade, he said.
Frey said the Warrior Leaders Course is for soldiers of all military occupational specialties, most with less than two years in the Army. It includes daily physical training, plenty of marching and ceremony, weapons immersion and teamwork exercises and it teaches NCOs to lead a squad in a tactical environment, he said.
“We teach our sergeants how to think, not what to think,” he said.