The United States has a vested interest in having the most capable allies possible, not only for U.S. national security but for global stability as well. To that end, the State Department and the Department of Defense are engaged in several initiatives aimed at improving the capabilities of the security forces of our allies and partners. In addition to providing overseas support and training to partner nations around the world, the United States also invites foreign military personnel to participate in U.S. based courses under the International Military Education & Training (IMET) program. While the Department of Defense conducts the actual training and education, the Department of State oversees the program, which is an important diplomatic tool for fostering international partnerships and building people-to-people contacts with future military leaders that participate in the IMET program.
The IMET program has trained thousands of foreign military personnel at military training institutions and bases across the United States in a multitude of specialties, including medical training, disaster assistance, and peacekeeping operations. Through professional and technical courses, and specialized instruction, IMET provides students from partner nations valuable training and education on U.S. military practices and standards, including exposure to democratic values and respect for internationally recognized standards of human rights. The program facilitates the development of important professional and personal relationships with the defense leaders who often play a pivotal role in a country’s transition to a democratic government. It also helps develop a common understanding of shared international challenges, and fosters the relationships necessary to meet shared security challenges today and for many years to come.
Countries in the Western Hemisphere face a number of security dilemmas, from violent insurgencies to narcotics trafficking, and the United States has a great wealth of experience confronting these problems that makes it an invaluable source of training to partner nations. Through IMET, we have built especially strong partnerships with countries across South and Central America, with many nations’ participation going back to the very start of the program. Students of the program often go on to hold senior positions in their home countries, further deepening the long-term relationships between the United States and participating nations.
One such former student who went on to become a leader is Brigadier General Timo Hernández Duarte, general commander of the Guatemalan Air Force. General Duarte attended the Inter-American Air Forces Academy (IAAFA) in 1997 and recently returned to the San Antonio, Texas based school to celebrate the Academy’s 75th anniversary. Speaking at the celebration, General Duarte praised the program, saying, “Today, I represent the voice of all airmen and officers from the Guatemalan Air Force who attended this academy, and, from that perspective, I appreciate IAAFA much more. I wish every member of my air force could have this academic and camaraderie-building experience.”
Peru has also worked closely with the United States for decades in growing the capabilities of its security services, an example of which is the training that helicopter pilots of the Peruvian Air Force have received through the IMET program. The training that Peruvian pilots have received has led to increased operations against narco-terrorism and narco-trafficking that have a direct impact on U.S. national security. In February 2018, the most recent group of Peruvian pilots graduated from the Initial Entry Rotary Wing Training course in Fort Rucker, Alabama and the knowledge imparted to them by experienced U.S. instructors was praised at the highest levels of the Peruvian military. “Through this training, Fort Rucker helps us raise our service members’ skill and readiness levels,” Lieutenant General Raúl Hoyos de Vinatea, the Peruvian Air Force Chief of Operations told reporters in a recent interview, “Training with one of the most prestigious and recognized forces in the world updates our doctrine. This adds to our personnel's morale for combat and operations, as they feel better trained with new skills.”
Though just a few examples of how IMET has benefited both the United States and its partners, the enduring relationships that are made through the program ensure that not only military skills are spread to our partners, but American values and ideals as well. As more foreign students participate in IMET funded military education, the opportunity to shape a future friendly to U.S. interests continues to be a main priority for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and the State Department at large.
About the Author: Matt Marquis serves in the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.